Halifax Nacho Quest: North End

The goal of the Halifax Nacho Quest is to discover the best nachos in the city. A group of 6-10 participants embark on a pub-crawl-like adventure, tackling one street at a time, and seeking out nachos wherever they may be.

We’ve already covered all of downtown and the south end (see all quests here). The north end posed some challenges, as we had to travel all the way from the mouth of Gottingen to Lady Hammond Road. This was the first Nacho Quest that demanded a carpool convoy!

Along for the ride were Halifax ReTales, Cailin of Travel Yourself, Denton (welcome back!), Leah, Machzy, LuShark (TheSideDishhh) and Jenn of Halifax Boudoir. New to the quest were Melissa (whose claim to fame is methodically working her way through the entire Salvatore’s menu!) and her companion Howe.

We visited 6 restaurants and scored each plate of nachos by 10 criteria: Aesthetic Appeal, Quality of Salsa & Sour Cream, Quality of Chips, Cheese Coverage, Topping Distribution, Quality of Toppings, Layering, Flavour Impression, Guacamole Inclusion and Perceived Value.

We visited:
The Nook
Steak ‘n Stein
Kempster’s
Lady Hammond Grill
Jenny’s Place
Lion’s Head Tavern

Alterego’s is brunch-only on Sundays so they missed the boat for now, as did Metro Deli & Cafe (open weekdays).

LuShark was experimenting with a live feed that day, so if you’ve always been curious about what a Nacho Quest looks like, check out my Facebook page!

The Nook Espresso Bar & Lounge

2118 Gottingen St.

$11.99

“Incredibly, the cheese was that thick” – Denton

The Nook is a coffee shop that also serves booze and a menu of sandwiches, soups, salads and snacks. I would think to come here for cappuccino and wi-fi, not for nachos and beer. But somehow The Nook manages to deliver both, with a couple craft taps to boot!

When our nachos arrived, it was clear that the theme was going to be cheese. These nachos were blanketed in cheese, they were swimming in cheese, they had cheese up to their knees!

It was good cheese: stretchy mozzarella and flavourful cheddar. There were green and red onions, cilantro, black beans and corn –  great choices for toppings! The flavour experience was amplified by a chili spice blend that sweetly nodded to garam masala.  But there was just so much cheese!

As Leah unwittingly nibbled on a chip that was still quite connected to the pile by its umbilical curd, we all relished in the cheesy hilarity. But the more somber consensus was that less cheese (or more chips) would enhance the other flavours while upholding the integrity of the chips, which had became entirely soggy under the great deluge of cheese. I didn’t think I’d ever want to eat nachos with a fork and knife, but here we were.

I thought maybe we ordered extra cheese by accident, so I returned another day to re-investigate and was presented with a lasagna.

I am ambivalent about these nachos. They were my favourite of the quest and scored 1st place for Aesthetics, Cheese Coverage, Quality of Toppings and Value (2nd for Layering because we couldn’t tell if there were layers or if it was a solid block of cheese penetrating all tortilla resistance). There really was an absurd amount of cheese, which is all fun and games until you have a soggy mess.

Biggest Strength: Quality/Flavour of Ingredients

Biggest Weakness: Too much cheese! – not enough chips

 

Steak and Stein

6061 Young St

$14.49 (large)

Add chicken or pulled pork $3.99

“If I had to be here and was craving nachos I guess I could order them again…” – Leah

Steak and Stein is known for its cheap and heavily marinated steaks. I never thought of it as a nacho destination.

Spoiler Alert: It’s not.

We ordered a large nachos, which came in one big layer. They were adequately cheesy, but we felt that vegetables were lacking. A few people really liked the pulled pork, while others felt that its sweet flavour was better suited to a barbecue platter than a plate of nachos. Everyone agreed that the chicken was very dry.

We liked the large tortilla cups for salsa and sour cream. We were also pleasantly surprised when, after seeing her disappointment, one of the staff ran over to Superstore to get a lime for Jenn’s Corona.

These nachos were okay, but if you’re still talking about the ones at the last place and not the ones in front of you, that’s a problem.

Biggest Strength: Large tortilla cups for dips/pulled pork

Biggest Weakness: Quality of toppings, especially chicken

 

Kempster’s Cookhouse

3644 Kempt Rd

$13

Add chicken or beef – $4, Guac – $2

“The spiced beef really made these shine for me” – ReTales

What a pleasant surprise, Kempster’s! Who would have expected such a nice looking pile ‘o nachos from a family restaurant?

It was a colourful platter with tri-coloured chips, tomatoes and lots of greenery. We appreciated the integrated disbursement of chicken and beef (at no extra cost) and the extra cups of salsa and sour cream, as most places are stingy on dip allotment. The absolute highlight of these nachos was the spicy taco beef. The chicken not so much, but the beef and jalapenos imparted some good heat and flavour.

The guacamole was a great deal for $2 – a generous bowl that had some people guessing whether or not it was house-made. When we inquired, the manager came right to our table and explained that it’s a pre-bagged product but house-smashed, which explained the chunks.

The downfall of these nachos was the lack of layering. Howe noted that the lack of cheese in the centre was a “shame”. Denton, ever the optimist, took comfort in the array of dipping cups for the bare chips.

Kempster’s scored top marks for chips and guac, and was Runner Up for Flavour and Quality of Toppings. They easily could have taken down a #1 or #2 spot with some layering effort.

Biggest Strength: Quality/Flavour of Ingredients (esp. beef and chips)/Guacamole

Biggest Weakness: No layering/not enough cheese.

 

Lady Hammond Grill

6151 Lady Hammond Rd.

$8.19

“An average uni student could make these in their dorm” – Machzy

The Lady Hammond Grill is located in the Chebucto Inn on, you guessed it, Lady Hammond Road. LuShark and I were in love with the old school motel aesthetic, and were really hoping we had found a hidden food gem.

What would our $8 get us in this unassuming locale? We ordered two platters, just in case our money didn’t stretch far enough to feed 10 people, but this proved to be a mistake. The portions were what you would expect but the flavour was mediocre at best, and off-putting at worst. I took one bite and forced myself to swallow the contents. That was it for me. Done.

“There’s a granular, gritty suspension in the cheese with an unpleasant texture, and the jalapenos are weird,” observed Denton. “Umm… just had a jalapeno. WTF was that?” wrote Leah. “The jalapenos are 10 years old!” exclaimed Cailin.

While the cheese and jalapenos were egregious, the other vegetables were surprisingly fresh and chunky.

Most questers just nibbled on the salty rounds that weren’t burnt or contaminated by cheese or jalapenos, while Leah lamented the last half hour of her life.

“Nothing about this was spectacular. Nothing about this was even enjoyable, really. I was pretty psyched on my cold canned pepsi with a skinny straw. The pepsi was by far the highlight” – Leah

Biggest Strength: Fresh veggies (except for the jalapenos) & Price

Biggest Weakness: Flavour/Quality – basically everything.

 

Jenny’s Place

6211 Lady Hammond Rd.

$11

“These are nachos with a party spirit” – Denton

After our disappointing visit with Lady Hammond, we were happy to grab beers at a good neighbourhood pub. Jenny’s Place is the most northerly pub on the peninsula, and I was recently there for a pretty good burger with the Dive Bar Dining Society. Denton noted that when the nachos came to the table, “Anyway You Want It” by Journey was playing on the radio and appropriately captured the moment.

These nachos weren’t huge and the toppings weren’t amazing, but they were proper nachos with two distinct cheesy layers. Howe wrote that the “cheese was good and everywhere”. Melissa agreed: “Lots of cheese the whole way through. A solid basic order of nachos”. For $11 bucks! We collectively agreed that these were a great deal before the beef was added.

The beef was underseasoned and overcooked, and the veggies did little to boost the flavour. It was a salty and cheesy basket, but in a satisfying way. “I’d be happy to eat these while swilling back beer, but I would skip the beef”, concluded ReTales.

Jenny’s had top scores for Topping Distribution and Layering, and was Runner Up for Best Value.

We agreed that if we could take Kempster’s beef and throw it on Jenny’s nachos, we might have a winner. The best scenario would be to transport all of Kempster’s ingredients to Jenny’s kitchen so that they could layer them and serve them in a pub environment. But you can’t really have it “any way you want it”… can you?

Biggest Strength: Cheese Layering/Great Value

Biggest Weakness: Lack of flavour

 

Lion’s Head Tavern

3081 Robie St.

$14

Add chicken or beef – $4

“I finished eating them 2 min ago and I already don’t remember them” – Cailin

The Lion’s Head provided a better tasting beef option, but most questers still preferred the taco beef at Kempster’s. There was an attempt at layering, but alas, the cheese was not melted all the way through. A dire misstep.

These were comparable to other baseline nachos like Jenny’s, but inexplicably more expensive.

“I have had better and much worse nachos from here in the past. They’re definitely inconsistent at best. Might order if out for beer with friends but in no way {are they} destination nachos” – Leah.

Biggest Strength: Seasoned beef

Biggest Weakness: Mediocrity

The Results:

1. The Nook
2. Jenny’s Place
3. Kempster’s

Final Thoughts: 

The north end has no shortage of good places to eat, but for some reason there are a lack of pubs and an even more serious lack of pubs serving nachos.

It was a tight race between Kempster’s and Jenny’s! Kemspter’s had good ingredients but poor layering, whereas Jenny’s had great execution but less flavour. Neither are nacho destinations, but they both do a pretty good job for a pretty good price.

Steak ‘n Stein and the Lion’s Head were not particularly memorable… and Lady Hammond – well, I’m trying to forget!

The Nook had the most flavourful, unique and memorable nachos of the bunch. I would make the trip back to eat these, but I would definitely request “light on the cheese”! I know ya’ll are saying “Come on, you can’t have too much cheese!”, but you can, and I dare all of you to polish off one of these bad boys and report back to me on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below! I’d like to hear about your experience!

About the Author

Eat This Town
Food Nerd. Pizza junkie. Burger ambassador. Bean paste enthusiast. Beer drinker. Urban wanderer. Friendly local.

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