From being served up at sports bars and Mexican spots to a Top Chef-helmed diner and Downtown restaurants, nachos are a gluttonous yet integral part of Chicago’s collective diet. No, we’re not talking about prepackaged chips suffocating beneath a layer of liquid cheese; we’re talking about monstrous piles of gastronomic goodness best enjoyed with reckless abandon and chased with an antacid. Here’s a look at the 10 best plates of nachos in Chicago, ranging from traditional favorites to outside-the-box stunners.
Little Goat (address and info)
As with most of chef/owner Stephanie Izard’s creations, this plateful of nachos is as inventive as it is comforting. The masa chips are made fresh daily in-house, and a heavy blanket of cheddar, refried beans, Slagel Family Farm’s barbecued pork, sour cream, pickled peppers, and pureed avocado ensures that no chip is left untouched (or uneaten).
Twisted Spoke (address and info)
If there were an award for “Most Over-the-Top” nachos, these bad boys from Chicago’s favorite biker bar would take the cake. The behemoth dish is sinister in all the right ways (just like the metal tunes coming through the speakers): crispy chips, melty Gouda, succulent barbecued pork, a truck-load of frizzled onions, a drizzle of Sriracha aioli, and just enough cilantro to make you feel better about the ensuing gluttony.
Nachos con carne
Taqueria Moran (address and info)
Given their Tex-Mex origins, nachos are hard to come by at most of Chicago’s authentic taquerias, but every now and then, one of these joints breaks from the mold to give the people what they want: a side of nachos, like this carne asada-, pickled jalapeño-, Mexican cheese-, diced tomato-, and refried bean-laden number.
Rockit Bar & Grill (address and info)
Nachos take a turn for the Greek at the new and improved Rockit Bar & Grill. The unique spin begins with a layer of plentiful chips, followed by feta fondue, Greek olives, tomatoes, and a crowning glory of pulled braised lamb.
Pulled chicken nachos
Hub 51 (address and info)
Head to this perennial River North hotspot for a heap of nachos smothered in juicy pulled chicken, a blend of cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses, tomato salsa, and a generous amount of creamy guac. The dish is an always-on-the-menu staple, and is big enough to split between several hungry folks as an appetizer.
Coach’s pot roast nachos
Ditka’s (address and info)
You don’t have to be a fan of Mika Ditka’s to dine at his restaurant, but one taste of his famous pot roast nachos and you’ll be a fan of “Da Coach” for life. The popular starter, which comes in two sizes, is covered with (what else?) shredded pot roast, velvety cheddar-Jack, jalapeño slices, sour cream, and diced tomato, and is spread out in a thin layer instead of piled high in order to maximize the amount of chip surface area getting coated in the good stuff.
Pulled meat nachos
Smoke Daddy (address and info)
If you’ve ever felt like your nachos lacked smoked meat and a healthy dose of barbecue sauce, come to this Division St barbecue joint to right a lifetime of wrongful nachos. The carnivore-friendly masterpiece is a beautiful mess of chips, pulled smoked meat, cheese, tomatoes, and a flurry of cilantro -- all doused in Smoke Daddy sauce.
Waffle fry nachos
Chucks: A Kerry Simon Kitchen (address and info)
Okay, this waffle fry-based wonder may not be the most traditional nacho dish out there, but it deserves a spot on this list nonetheless. The chip-less mountain is equal parts classic nachos and cheese fries, and stacked with tender short rib meat, habanero queso, green onion, diced tomato, and a dollop of guacamole crema to temper the heat.
Old Fifth (address and info)
This innovative gastropub has a penchant for next-level bar bites, and the Latin-inspired Brazilian nachos are no exception. The fully loaded snack arrives with slow-roasted pork shoulder, a blend of aged white cheddar and Chihuahua cheeses, Brazilian black beans, pico de gallo, avocado puree, lettuce, jalapeño, and chipotle-lime sauce.
Azteca de Oro Grill (address and info)
The nachos at this Northside Tex-Mex mainstay include standard toppings like melted cheese, jalapeños, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, and beans, but for an extra couple bucks, you can (and should) take ‘em next level with your choice of beef, pork pastor, pork carnitas, or fajita veggies.
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1. Little Goat820 W Randolph St, Chicago
2. Twisted Spoke501 N Ogden Ave, Chicago
3. Taquería Moran2226 N California Ave, Chicago
4. Rockit Bar & Grill22 W Hubbard St, Chicago
5. Hub 5151 W Hubbard St, Chicago
6. Ditka's Restaurant100 E Chestnut St, Chicago
7. The Smoke Daddy1804 W Division St, Chicago
8. Chuck's Manufacturing224 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
9. Old Fifth1027 W Madison St, Chicago
10. Azteca de Oro Mexican Grill3731 N Clark St, Chicago
Right across the street from its upscale sister Girl & The Goat, Stephanie Izard's Little Goat is an all-day upscale diner that serves insanely creative takes on classic American comfort food. Split between a sit-down restaurant and a bakery, Little Goat is the place to go for over-the-top breakfast (breakfast spaghetti, banana peanut butter waffles), exceptional burgers (you can choose between a beef, goat, and veggie patty), and crazy desserts (smoked pork & toffee crunch milkshakes, Cheez-It sundaes). If you can't sit and stay -- or handle the long weekend waits -- then hit the "Grab and Goat" take-away area.
In case the exterior motorcycle art and bike handlebars on the front door didn't tip you off, Twisted Spoke is a biker bar. The West Town hangout is beloved by Chicagoans of all stripes thanks to a massive selection of whiskey and beer, legendary Bloody Mary menu, rooftop garden, and sinister bites like barbecue nachos and fried jalapeño poppers. Of all the things that make Twisted Spoke stand out though, it's the weekly Saturday night "Smut and Eggs," when you can order breakfast food and watch porn. Um.
This Logan Square spot lives up to it's name with great tacos and nachos, but it also serves an American-style breakfast menu. The chill vibe and authentic Mexican taqueria style of the spot only make it better.
Rockit serves American-style cuisine with an upscale twist with bites like prosciutto parmesan garlic bread, bourbon chipotle maple wings, and buffalo calamari cobb salad. We recommend the burger with brie for extra gooey wonderfulness. Be on the lookout for their special menus, including a game day menu (so you can eat your feelings). It can get crowded during the weekends, but the after-work scene is much more laid-back and relaxed, making it the perfect place to catch up.
With a menu that includes sushi rolls, great burgers, and a decent amount of wit ("Celebrate all you want, but we don't sing Happy Birthday."), choosing a standout from Hub 51 wasn't easy. But that doesn't mean we didn't do it -- oh, no, we did, and the winner is Hub's small but delicious selection of Mexican dishes, from their pulled chicken nachos and fish tacos to the chicken enchiladas.
Come to Ditka's Restaurant, and you might just see Da Coach himself. Walk right in, savor the legendary surroundings, and get down to business: it's time for Ditka's signature -- a jumbo Spicy Chili Cheese Polish.
Smoke Daddy is a BBQ emporium in Wicker Park serving up sauce-slathered eats like ribs and brisket, while also showing its more delicate side with brunch that includes something called a "Big Daddy Breakfast."
This comfort food eatery offers free WiFi AND maple-chipotle glazed chicken 'n waffles with candied pecans, platters of mini corn dogs, brats & Chi-dogs, and burgers like the Deluxe with melted danablu and toasted almonds on a pretzel croissant. Happy hour is from 5-7 (PM, yo).
Old Fifth is a pizza-slinging pub that's got some of the oldest whiskey in the known world, and some of the newest (read: most innovative) pizzas, like a double-decker one lined with pepperoni.
This Lakeview spot covers all the basics, like tacos, burritos, tortas, & nachos, in this casual restaurant environment. Pro tip: They deliver (within a certain range), so you don't have to leave your house to feast on Mexican & Tex-Mex classics.