21 Best

The 21 Best Nachos in America

Courtesy of Taqueria Diana

Nachos -- they're a combination of pretty much the best foods out there, and yet a truly transcendent plate of them is mysteriously elusive, like the Bigfoot of bar food, except (hopefully) less hairy. To make nachos great, there's gotta be something more than just loads of guacamole or tons of jalapeños -- a truism most nacho-serving establishments seem to forget when they go for quantity over quality.

Whether it's with all-over cheese coverage or the introduction of a seriously awesome unforeseen ingredient (smoked brisket, anyone?), the following taquerias, bars, and holes-in-the-wall have something that sets them apart from the pack and makes them truly supreme.

Here are the 21 best nachos in America:

Taco Surf

San Diego, CA

What you're getting: Build-your-own Torrey nachos
This Cali spot lets you choose your own cheese-smothered adventure (it's going to end well no matter what) with their build-your-own option. Starting off with chips and melted cheddar, you can add up to four toppings ranging from guac, grilled onions & peppers, and salsa fresca to hash browns, beans, and sauteed mushrooms & jalapeños.

El Bracero

Amarillo, TX

What you're getting: Nachos con carne
A big ol' pile of nachos on a plate is pretty great, but you know what would be better? Two piles of nachos. Or a bunch of individually composed (huge) tortilla chips, each with fajita beef and lots of cheese on top, for a perfectly portioned-out nacho experience, which is exactly what you'll get at El Bracero in Amarillo. They've got seafood nachos as well, but the nachos con carne are the real move here, if you're looking for something more out-of-the-box.

Velvet Cantina

San Francisco, CA

What you're getting: Velvet nachos with chorizo

Velvet Cantina in SF layers their house-made tortillas with house-made chile con queso, black beans, sour cream, and guacamole, which alone is amazing. But add spicy chorizo into the mix and you've got a plate that truly can't be beat by any other Mission Mexican joint. And for those looking for a nacho nightcap, they also offer s'mores nachos for dessert -- chock-full of cinnamon, sugar, Mexican chocolate, crushed graham crackers, and molten marshmallow. Finally, there's a way to eat nachos for every meal!

Willimantic Brewing Company

Willimantic, CT

What you're getting: First Class corn tortilla nachos

A seriously plentiful portion (have at least four people with you), you'll feast on perfectly layered, sog-proof chips drowning in shredded cheddar and Jack, diced tomatoes, scallions, and jalapeños with picante salsa on the side. You can top all that off with blackened chicken, veggie chili, or pulled pork too (go with that last one). It doesn't hurt that you can accompany this monstrosity with brews off their extensive list, either.

The Commodore

Brooklyn, NY

What you're getting: Cadillac nachos

A good serving of bar nachos is hard to find (and lord knows we've tried), but perfection does indeed reside in Brooklyn, where Southern dive The Commodore happens to be serving up a primo plate of crisp tortillas layered with creamy white queso, jalapeños, and radishes that might just make the other people at your table sorry they ordered fried chicken -- if such a thing is even possible.

Colima's Mexican Restaurant

San Diego, CA

What you're getting: Carne asada chips

These babies are piled high with perfectly cooked and seriously seasoned carne asada, as well as classics like sour cream, jalapeños, and guacamole. They even give you the choice of nacho or shredded cheese, and, really, you can't go wrong with either. Because cheese. And nachos.

Chacho's

Multiple locations, TX

What you're getting: Pile High or Monster Kong nachos

This Texas chain has nacho diversity on lock, offering a ridiculous number of options. Get 'em loaded with refried beans, shredded cheese (or homemade spicy queso sauce!), and a selection of meats like shredded chicken or picadillo beef served up 24 hours a day, in case you have a 5:30am nacho craving. Which you do.

Graffiti Junktion

Multiple locations, FL

What you're getting: Macho nachos

Presented on a pizza pan (we're still waiting for them to be on an actual pizza...), these nachos could feed a small nacho-loving village with their cheese-, beef-, jalapeño-, sour cream-, and pico de gallo-coated tri-color chips. The people of said village would definitely not be small, though.

Cecilia's Cafe

Albuquerque, NM

What you're getting: Nachos grande

Tasty and authentic, these New Mexican nachos are bursting with flavorful ground beef, guac, beans, cheese, and more, all on crispy tostadas. After you scarf those down, you might as well go for some more traditional NM fare, so order their famous chicharones, which are hunks of stewed pork tucked into a warm tortilla with cheese and green chile sauce.

Brewery Vivant

Grand Rapids, MI

What you're getting: Duck nachos

Purists might turn their noses up at the stuff, but the duck nachos at Brewery Vivant have to be eaten to be believed -- Brie cream, tomato concasse (a fancy word for ground tomatoes), duck confit, caramelized onions, and duck cracklin' with citrus all on top of perfectly cooked tortilla chips. Try any of the beers on tap, and you'll be in nacho heaven, which is perfect, considering this place is in a converted church.

Four Peaks Brewing Company

Tempe, AZ

What you're getting: Five-layer nacho dip with blackened chicken

A deliciously unique take on the classic, this thing starts out with your basic melted cheddar over tri-color chips, but then comes the timelessly tasty trio: five-layer black bean dip, sour cream, and salsa. Definitely add the blackened chicken, or if that's not for you, something like the spicy beef with jalapeños & onions might suffice. This all allows you to build each individual chip to your liking and totally avoids any chance of the cardinal nacho sin of sogginess. They even tell you which beer to pair them with. If that's not love, then, really, what is?

Little Goat

Chicago, IL

What you're getting: Machos nachos

While everything on their menu is pretty damn unreal, the Goat's nachos are a game-changer. You get homemade tortilla chips covered with tender, flavor-packed BBQ pork, refried beans, pickled peppers, cheddar, sour cream, and guac. That's really all you need to know, right?

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Adam Lapetina is the partnerships editor at Thrillist, and has absolutely no qualms about ordering an appetizer as an entrée (if that appetizer is nachos). Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.
Rachel Freeman is a copy editor at Thrillist, and has absolutely no qualms about bringing the ruckus if you try to steal her nachos, because she has very strong attachments to jalapeños and melted cheese. Follow her into the abyss at @rachelifreeman.