Sunday, October 23, 2016

The search for nacho nirvana leads to Atwater and Highland Park

Nachos from Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater (left) and Tacos Savannah in Highland Park/Valentina Silva

By Valentina Silva

Nachos are one of life’s little luxuries and maybe the guiltiest of food pleasures since some people won’t even admit to liking them. But these people are liars because tortilla chips and melted cheese are an undeniably delicious union—though not a perfect one. Bad nachos do exist (just go to the movies if you don’t believe me), yet the beauty of nacho nirvana is that there’s no exact formula to reach it. Some work with guacamole, some don’t; sour cream is essential for some but terrible on others. This food truth is  proven by two recent nacho experiences, different as night and day, but both so so so good.

Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater Village (pictured left) 
Hugo’s Nachos Grandes don’t go overboard with any one ingredient, allowing the warm, crispy chips to stand out. Mild white beans are used instead of pinto or black, and the salsa (pico de gallo here, but there are many choices) is fresh and plentiful. We chose smokey-sweet al pastor for our meat, but you can get anything from mixed veggies and soyrizo to grilled fish and carnitas. The cheese, melted to bubbling perfection, is a mixture of Oaxacan and Cotija, resulting in rather refined nachos. 3300 Glendale Boulevard

Tacos Savannah (pictured right)
A group of mothers at my Catholic grammar school used to make and sell nachos every Friday at morning recess. They took great care, mixing two types of cheese sauce to create the holy mother of all cheese sauces–I would push other kids out of the way to get in line for them. Since then, though, I’ve rarely enjoyed saucy nachos, which are generally flavorless and soggy. However, Tacos Savannah, a truck that parks at York Boulevard and Avenue 64 most nights, has won me over because somehow their cheese sauce-laden nachos work. It’s probably because the meat, carne asada in this case, is so flavorful. It also helps that they throw in pico de gallo, onions, and cilantro. These might get soggy, too, but you’ll probably eat them too fast for that to ever be an issue. 6305 York Boulevard (in front of Rite Aid).


Valentina Silva writes about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her blog, Eastside Food Bites.

Eastsider Advertising


  1. You need to try the nachos at Korner Grill on the corner of Fountain and Myra.

  2. I’m not ashamed to say nachos are one of my favorite foods – I mean, how could you not like nachos? I got to Hugos on a regular occasion to get the nachos with chicken or Soy Chorizo, and I recommend getting the salsa habanero on the side for a controlled spice (and boy is it spicy, in a good way!).
    Lunch time!

  3. I like the nachos at El Flamin taco in E.P.
    I don’t really care for the nachos at Hugo’s mainly because their guacamole sucks.

  4. nachos @ Hamberger Mary’s

  5. “First created circa 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, the original nachos consisted of fried corn tortillas covered with melted cheddar cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers.”


  6. mexicali on Figueroa has THE BEST nachos. Sauteed peppers, onion, chorizo (or chicken) and the chips stay crunchy to the last bite.

  7. hi eastsider la!

    a good friend and i are total freaks for nachos, and were really stoked to try your picks, here, to celebrate her very last day of maternity leave…

    since it’s monday, and savannah is closed, we headed to hugo’s in atwater.

    and seriously, we couldn’t have been more disappointed/confused. cold beans, served *underneath* a pile of burnt chips, with about 3 tbsps of cheese & a small scoop of guac on top.

    honestly, even in nyc, these wouldn’t be thought of as enjoyable nachos. they are certainly far from nirvana. boo.

    if you’re interested in a photo of how unappealing this dish was, please check it out: http://instagram.com/p/hJ-KhUORdY/

    • @Jessica, I agree those look terrible. I’ve always had great nacho experiences at Hugo’s, which is why I wrote about them, but those are just sad. A pregnant lady should not be treated like that.

  8. Nachos at Carnitas Michoacan (Soto and Whittier, ELA) are good too. Sorry but reading about Hugo’s Tacos toppings was a big sign that they’re probably not that good. Soyrizo? Veggies? Fish? yuck!

    • Funny Victor. And, what you’re saying about Michoacan is true! Anyone have the nachos at Diablo in Silver Lake? They’re not bad, the steak has been consistent.

    • @Victor, I couldn’t agree less about Tacos Michoacan. I think that’s the most overrated place in Boyle Heights. Plus, soyriso as a nacho topping is awesome.

  9. I agree that the food at Hugo’s can be very uneven and am of the belief that generally speaking, their popularity surpasses their quality. On the plus side, they did give me a food gift certificate one time when I had to return food that was essentially inedible (and I almost NEVER return food, no matter how messed up). I understand that kitchens turn out big mistakes from time to time and an entire establishment should not be forever damned for the actions of one very bad cook.

    Anyhow, the nachos (and food in general) at Gus’s Lunch Box are quite good (they have varieties to satisfy both veggie and meat eaters). Plenty of fresh toppings, crisp chips, real cheese (mix of three varieties), insanely hot hot sauce (upon request). They do use the Mexican version of guacamole, which is much more of a sauce than American’s have come to think of as proper guac. It’s good, if nondescript.

    Gus’s has a newish outpost in Atwater on 2320 Fletcher at the old Roselli’s pizza location (small strip plaza behind Astro Burger) and his food truck is parked out in front of Cha Cha Lounge nightly.


Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *