10:07 pm - Thursday, November 23 2017
Home / Food / Eat This Town / Halifax Nacho Quest: Argyle Street

 

www.eat-this-town.com_wp-content_uploads_2014_10_scanway1

Halifax Nacho Quest: Argyle Street

This past August I embarked on my first nacho quest. I gathered up a powerful nacho team from the Twitterverse, and we hit Spring Garden Road with beers and duo-tangs in hand.

You can read about it here.

In September I decided it was time to investigate Argyle Street. The Nacho Team for this quest consisted of many of the same faces: Jenn Gregory Photography, Halifax Wingman, Michael Dinn, Ben, Denton and Vanessa.

This time we were also joined by Halifax ReTales and Graeme Pass!

The scoring categories were as follows:

Aesthetic Appeal
Quality of Salsa & Sour Cream
Quality of Nacho Chips
Cheese Coverage
Topping Distribution
Quality of Toppings
Layering
Flavour Impression
Guacamole Inclusion
Perceived Value

We ordered a platter of nachos at each of these venues:

Scanway Cafe
The Argyle
The Loose Cannon
The Bitter End
Economy Shoe Shop
The Wooden Monkey
The Auction House
Freeman’s

*We also went to The Brown Hound, which has since closed (Appendix 1)

**Durty Nelly’s was closed for a staff event (Appendix 2)

 

Scanway Cafe

Chicken Mango Nachos

$12

scanway1

“Somehow less than the sum of its parts” – Denton

Scanway Catering recently took over the patio that used to be Stage 9/Coconut Grove, operating out of a street level café & bakery down below. Before officially opening, they invited a bunch of bloggers to sample some of their offerings. I was not among these bloggers, but I recall my social media feeds exploding with mention of the chicken mango nachos.

Jenn Gregory Photo and Halifax ReTales had eaten these nachos before. They agreed that what we were served was almost a completely different dish than what they had previously enjoyed (or not enjoyed, in Jenn’s case). These nachos were larger and cheesier – evidence that Scanway has been making improvements to this dish over time.

Unfortunately, there were still some perceived imperfections among the Nacho Team.

The group felt that the chips were not crispy or seasoned enough.  They really didn’t like the chips.

The other problem was the unripe mango, which did not impart the full flavour that one would expect.

The salsa was house-made, but a little weak.

Scanway had also run out of guacamole – which was a big disappointment. Several questers gave them a few pity points, but the scoring was mostly merciless.

We did like the chicken, and we were impressed with the distribution of toppings. Scanway also had a decent score for Layering, and tied for second place for “Perceived Value”. At $12 (including your protein) this is a very generous serving.

The Argyle

$14

+ chicken or ground beef ($2) and guac ($2)

argyle 2

“More than the sum of its (average) parts” – Graeme

“Yellow Rounds! A+” says Graeme. It’s official: my nacho team has a yellow round bias. Despite being generic and having less than optimal aesthetic, they are “…large, salty, slightly chewy, strong – everything I want in a chip” – Denton.

Almost every chip was cheesed, and there were 2 definite layers. There were plenty of toppings, but the beef and chicken were kind of under-seasoned. Flavour points were made up for by the salsa. It was spicy and tasty and came in a generous bowl, perfectly suited to the large yellow rounds.

The Argyle scored third place for “Flavour Impression”, despite the very standard composition and bland protein. But we were not overly impressed with the portion size, giving The Argyle one of the lowest scores for “Perceived Value”.

I believe the consensus was to forego the proteins and tube guac on this one, and just get the regular $14 platter.

Economy Shoe Shop

$16

+ chicken or beef ($3)

ESS3

“Not the ‘chos I remember from the 2000s but still good” – Graeme

For more than a decade, the Economy Shoe Shop has been famous for its nachos, but rumour has it they have gone downhill. I was quite interested to see how they would hold up in a successive analysis.

When they arrived, we were reminded why these nachos are famous. “Leaning tower of nachos”, wrote Vanessa. “Gigantic deep-dish lookin’ mofo”, was Graeme’s description.

The chicken was perfect in texture, size and seasoning. The beef was also good, and there was plenty of it. There were toppings and cheese all throughout the mountain. The salsa was excellent, and guacamole is happily included in the price.

This was the deal breaker for me:  the cheese underneath the top layer was NOT MELTED. In an amateur move, The Shoe Shop broke the most sacred law of layering!

Shockingly, most people didn’t seem to mind. This is because the flavours were just so awesome. “Diggin’ it, couldn’t stop eating”, said Graeme.

As for the price, it ain’t cheap. $16 baseline (guac incl.) with $3 proteins. However, due to its sheer size and customer satisfaction, it actually tied for second place for “Perceived Value”.

The Bitter End

Prosciutto Pineapple Nachos

$10

bitter end 1

“Sex and the City girls go here…” – ReTales

The menu at The Bitter End is comprised of social sharing plates, including these nachos, fancily adorned with prosciutto. The platter is small, but not “classy”. It is a cheesy mess of nachos on a checkerboard wrapper with plastic dipping tubs. This is hardly dainty.

There was lots of cheese – in fact, this is the first time that there was leftover cheese instead of chips! Jenn and Denton reportedly experienced no naked chips at all. The Bitter End scored extremely well in categories pertaining to cheese, toppings and layering.

Whereas most questers were pleased with the cheese coverage, Vanessa gave very low scores. We had ordered 2 platters and it did seem as though one group was enjoying their nachos more than the other. Complaints varied from “needs more pineapple” to “needs more prosciutto”… but overall The Bitter End did quite well.

Somehow this $10 platter also scored first place for value! How? Well, it is only $6 during Happy Hour which is between 4pm-8pm every day! In fact, ALL of the food is $6 during happy hour and there are some decent drink specials as well.

 “As an appetizer, this is terrific. Not for dinner, or for the duration of a football game, but as a small plate, it holds itself up with integrity” – Denton.

The Loose Cannon

$10.99

loose cannon

“They were nachos” – ReTales

On Sundays and Tuesdays you can get a free appy (wings, nachos, skins) with a pitcher of beer for $16.50. We thought that was a pretty good deal, but as Graeme observes: “Looks like we got it for free with a pitcher”. The portion isn’t huge, there is no protein available, and the execution is very standard. In fact, we thought these nachos were a good baseline – an average quality to which one could compare other nachos.

The Wooden Monkey

12″ Regular Nachos

$17

+ guacamole ($3)

WM2

“May be healthy nachos, but not overly satisfying”  – Wingman

The Wooden Monkey offers regular and vegan nachos in 9″ and 12″ sizes. We would would have liked a meat option, or at least beans – but apparently you can get seitan on your nachos if you ask.

Aesthetically speaking, opinions were split. Some people liked the contrast of white cheese and blue chips, but I’d have to side with Jenn who claims the lack of cheese made it look unappealing.

Basically I don’t think there was enough cheese, but there was some layering with adequate meltage. I think the group was forgiving of the cheese shortage because the Wooden Monkey is a “healthy” place. “Cheese wasn’t exciting”, wrote Michael. Denton, on the other hand, felt that these nachos were carefully and thoughtfully executed. They were his #1 pick.

The high score in the chip category proves that the only thing this group likes as much as yellow rounds is blue rounds! We also really enjoyed the pico de gallo salsa. We did not enjoy the guacamole, except for Ben who wrote: “A subtle guac, but my fave so far”.

“All the ‘tube-guacs’ were much preferable to this bland, airy, slightly-off-tasting guac”, counters Graeme.

These nachos definitely had their fans, but the portion/flavour does not warrant the $17 (+$3) price tag.

The Auction House

$13

+ roasted chicken ($3)

AH2

“Pretty until the make-up comes off” – Michael Dinn

What a beauty! As Graeme says, this was the “Most colourful, mountainous, glorious heap yet”. Served in faux newspaper, the tri-colour chips, red onions, shredded chicken and oozing cheese looks simply amazing! This platter took the top score for Aesthetic Impression.

On this fateful day, however, The Auction House let us down.

First – the salsa. I found it too sweet. Denton found it sour. And Michael found it smoky in a “non-sexy” way. Despite being house-made, this salsa scored very low – the lowest, in fact.

Denton said there wasn’t enough chicken for him to get a proper sample. I enjoyed the chicken, but Graeme thought it was “dry as {expletive}”.

But the biggest problem with these nachos was that the cheese, as glorious as it seems, was only covering the top of the nachos. Described as a “cheese desert”, the bottom layers of these nachos were pretty naked.

 Freeman’s

(Chicken or Beef)

$10.99

Freemans

“We waited 30 mintutes for this?” – Denton

The nachos at Freeman’s were wearing what Denton has identified as a “cheese hat”. The cheese only covers the top of the nachos, and the stringy pizza mozzarella threatens to come off all in one motion. You could potentially remove the cheese hat by pulling on one cheese-laden chip, exposing the barren underbelly.

To be fair, the toppings were distributed all throughout the nachos. In fact, there were so many toppings that some questers actually deducted points for “Topping Distribution”.

What we did like about these nachos was the salsa. By no means was it the highest score, but it was house-made and tasty. The sour cream, on the other hand, came in little Nielson tubs.

Another selling point is the price/portion. It is $10.99 and this includes your choice of protein.

But Denton sums it up well: “The Loose Cannon is an average platter, and this one is worse in almost every aspect (except the salsa, which was very good)”.

The Results!

1. Economy Shoe Shop
2. The Bitter End
3. The Argyle

Best Value:

1. The Bitter End (during happy hour)
2. Economy Shoe Shop & Scanway Cafe (tie)
3. The Loose Cannon (Sundays and Tuesdays only)

Appendix 1

The Brown Hound

$15

brown hound

“A very cozy décor with a matching nacho arrangement” – Denton

The Brown Hound has closed since the Argyle St. Nacho Quest, but the scores here were favourable.

Served in a rustic ceramic dish with unusual ingredients (remnants from the Portuguese flavours of Pipa), these nachos were a welcomed difference. They had avocado, black beans and a Portuguese smoked meat that resembled a smoky sliced sausage.

When asked, “What were your Top 3 picks?”, The Brown Hound appeared on the majority of people’s lists.

Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to enjoy the hospitality and flavours that were extended to us that day.

Appendix 2

Durty Nelly’s (Unrated)

$15

+ chicken ($3) and guacamole ($2)

Durty Nelly's

Durty Nelly’s was regrettably closed for a staff event on the day of the quest. But I strive to be thorough, so even though this nacho platter is not rated, I will relay my personal thoughts.

These nachos are not massive, but carefully decorated and cheesed. There were two perfect layers, and very few bare chips.

The toppings were great – except for the pre-portioned chicken which was not particularly flavourful.

The salsa was decent. The guacamole was incredibly creamy and bursting with flavour.

The style of chip is not the team favourite – but I discovered upon talking with my server that these chips are house-made from fresh tortillas. I believe what my team is interpreting as “staleness” is the chewy by-product of making fresh chips. This doesn’t change the fact that the team is partial to the yellow rounds – but it does explain things.

I think these nachos would have scored pretty well, but I can’t speculate any further.

$15 is a bit pricey for the portion size. The delicious guacamole is a steal for $2, though.

Final Thoughts:

It looks like the Economy Shoe Shop will hold onto its title as having the best nachos in Halifax! (well, Argyle Street at least). With that said, I think they could learn a lesson or two from The Arms and their twice-baked method of layering.

I’m going to keep my mind open to improvements at Scanway and The Auction House – there is potential there.

I’m sorry to see The Brown Hound close, as their nachos were my #3 pick. I also regret not being able to properly rate the nachos at Durty Nelly’s – try them out and let me know what you think!

I’m going to take a little break from Nacho Questing until mid-winter. It is VERY labour intensive to organize the quests and to compile all of the data. But I already have plans for Brunswick Street, Barrington Street, Waterfront, South End and North End! So stay tuned!

About Lindsay Nelson

I am a food tourist, food nerd, and self-appointed food authority. I do food quests, food tours, and countless hours of food research. I like sandwiches, beer, traditional and ethnic foods. I collect regional hot dog varieties the same way some people collect stamps. I eat at all the trendy places, but I’d rather just discuss pizza.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this content are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of haligonia.ca.

http://www.eat-this-town.com

You might also like...

KOD

150 Canadian Foods for Canada 150!

What is Canadian cuisine? Is it just a mirror of American cuisine with all of its spaghetti and hamburgers, but none of its amazing barbecue? Is Canadian cuisine a multicultural potluck or a creole? Is it more defined by our wild foods and...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *