Editor’s Note: What a Snack is yet another semi-regular (read: whenever our lazy asses get around to it) column, focused on things that are really, really satisfying to eat when you’re stoned. Stoner food is, in our humble opinion, a genre in and of itself, and one every bit as worthy of critical analysis as fine dining. Food from all regions and traditions can be stoner food, of course, but stoner food shares certain characteristics, opulence chief among them. And what’s more opulent than potato chip nachos? This nearly perfect combination already boasts a very appropriate name—Stoner Nachos—so it’s the clear choice to kick this column off.
Let’s talk about nachos. Nachos are pretty much the perfect stoner food. But what about pizza/jalapeno poppers/those peanut butter pretzel things from Trader Joe’s?, you might be saying. While those are all important pillars of the stoner food pantheon, nachos are the foundation from which those pillars rise.
Nachos are a salad, obviously, but one invariably made of starch and cheese, the best, most fundamental combination of things to eat while high. They are also finger food, which greatly enhances the already very tactile experience of eating food while you’re high, and reduces the eating process to its simplest, most primal form—see food, want food, grab food, stuff food into face. Sandwiches, tacos (arguably a sandwich, if you like being wrong), pizza, hot dogs, hand pies, bao, and other graspable food items provide this experience as well, but I would argue that none hit all the same notes of opulence all at the same time in the way that nachos do.
With a single nacho, which can, in adherence to the inviolable One Nacho Rule, be downright expansive, you get a little bit of everything in one bite. Melty, oozy cheese, crunchy chips, succulent meats, unctuous avocado, salty olives, spicy salsa, and so on ad infinitum. And as long as there are chips and cheese, there is no law about what else goes on there—Kimchi and beef bulgogi? Why the fuck not?—so the flavor possibilities are quite literally endless. You get to layer all the rich shit you want on there, then eat a tiny bit of all of it in one bite, and you get to get as weird as you want. I rest my case. But the real question here is not whether nachos are good—obviously yes—but which nachos are good.
Lucky for Seattle, we have some excellent nachos on offer. The ones at Bait Shop are a masterclass in gloppiness (though the very necessary guac add-on is a bit steep at $5), and I’ve already said my piece about the emotionally resonant, utilitarian Pub Nachos at the College Inn, but those are just the pinnacle of what’s out there. Traditional nachos abound. Today, however, I want to bring your attention to an oft overlooked subgenre of nachos: literal “Stoner Nachos.”
All nachos are already stoner nachos, of course, but those that are specifically named as such earn the distinction by subbing out tortilla chips for something more indulgent. Bimbo’s Cantina, the Cha Cha’s infamous feeding trough, served theirs with Doritos, a bold, daring “fuck you” to arteries. Technically, Doritos are still tortilla chips, albeit extremely unhealthy ones, but it’s really the extra calories that count. Layering cheese on top of cheese dust will do. Personally, though, I’m more partial to potato chips. I’m also partial to my unclogged arteries. Which brings me to the Cascadian Nachos ($12) at sister restaurants Saint John’s and Solo Bar.
As the name implies, they rest atop Tim’s Cascade Style Potato Chips. Instead of blanketing that already very oily, salty snack food in heavy co-jack, they drizzle them in warm, liquified blue cheese, which is then crisscrossed with a balsamic reduction to provide a sweet, acidic counterbalance. The textural topping role is played by halved cherry tomatoes and scallions, also much lighter than the typical cast of guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and olives. For $2 more, you can add crispy bacon bits, another clever alternative to, say, massive mounds of shredded chicken or ground chuck. Indeed, I’m a big fan of these as a munchie food not so much because the potato chips make them more gut-bustingly opulent, but because they know that the chips could potentially do that and take carefully measured, extremely delicious steps to avoid it.
The cheese sauce still gives it gloppiness, but not so much that you must coat your knuckles in search of a handhold (I’m looking fondly at you, Bait Shop), and it distributes easily enough to give every bite a bit of that funky blue cheese tang people either fiercely love (correct take) or absolutely hate (wrong, bad). The balsamic cuts across it neatly and, along with the scallions and tomatoes, keeps it from just being chips and cheese dip with the dip dumped out on top.
Your taste in nachos is, like your taste in anything, a subjective matter, which makes arguing about which nachos are good, better, or best a pretty stupid affair. That said, the Cascadian Nachos are a proverbial hill I might be willing to die on. Opulence is an important part of stoner food, of course, but not wanton opulence. Whoever cooked these up considered that, and found a way to give our gluttonous asses all the salt and fat we’re evolutionarily engineered to want, but without using a soporific amount of solid food to do it. We always want nachos, especially when high, and we all want to get coma’d by a big plate every now and then, but sometimes we don’t. For anyone who likes to smoke, eat nachos, and maintain, here’s your huckleberry.