Brennan Angel

“Umm, excuse me. If your party doesn’t show up in 10 minutes we’ll have to give up your tables.”

I look up from my note pad and am greeted by an annoyed hostess donning a fake plastic smile who is threatening to end Nacho Tour before it has even begun. It appears that most of the party is running on “Cal Poly time.”

“Oh, well I just talked to the coordinators and they’re on their way,” I said, reassuring the hostess.

No sooner than this reporter/unofficial spokesman for the Nacho Tour can finish soothing the furrow from the woman’s brow, does the entire outfit begin herding through the front door. With a round of hugs, high-fives, and a couple of “Nachooooo” Libre chants, the Nacho Tour is on.

Presented by the fine folks at PolyEscapes, the event is a “tour de force” of several restaurants within downtown San Luis Obispo. The sole purpose – scarfing down nachos while judging their quality.

The Nacho Tour has been around for some time. No one knows how long for sure – one veteran claimed 10 years – but last year marked the first year that the event was cancelled.

Last Thursday, I joined about 20 or 30 Cal Poly students (eager rookies, psyched-up veterans and some non-students who tagged along simply for their love of finger foods) and we embarked on the resurrected annual Nacho Tour.

Organized by agribusiness senior Jessica Wallstrom and graphic communications senior Brennan Angel, this year’s tour was scheduled to start at Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant at the top of Monterey Street. Nachos were the main course and everyone was asked to judge each platter on several distinct categories.

From Vallarta’s, the crew would munch on nachos at Pepe Delgado’s, Downtown Brewing Co., and round the tour off with a stop at The Original Spike’s Bar and Grill. The tour was set to begin at 6:30 p.m. and the party would hop from restaurant to restaurant every 45 minutes.

However, due to a time conflict, Pepe Delgado’s became our first stop of the evening. I guess the jovial ruckus of 30 something college kids who want nothing more than mere nachos during “peak business hours” was just too much of an inconvenience. But enough with the nitpicking; we’ll let the steaming piles of tortilla chips and cheese speak for themselves. Bring on the nachos!

Pepe Delgado’s: A bit of history and jalape¤os

“What brings me out here?” industrial engineering senior Gregg Simms said. “It’s got to be the free nachos, good company and beer.”

Simms is the first “nacho tourist” I meet as I sit patiently in the Pepe Delgado’s lobby waiting for everyone to arrive. Simms is also a Nacho Tour rookie. When I ask him about the history of the tour he was just as unsure as I was.

“I think the original guru graduated last year,” Simms said.

At about 6:25 p.m. the bulk of the Nacho Tour party filters in through the front door and we are immediately whisked to our tables by our anxious hostess.

I sat with a group of chatty-cheery 20-somethings and immediately began making light conversation and asking what brought everyone out on the tour.

“I love nachos,” journalism sophomore Stephanie Evans said. “Plus a lot of my friends are in PolyEscapes. It just sounded like such a fun idea.” Evans also told me that her birthday was on Friday. Happy 20th, young blood.

After a round of icebreakers and a bottle of Modelo Negro, our first batch of nachos was served, and man, was it something.

Jackson Pollock (the modern artist famous for making “barf” splatter-painting look so hot) would be proud of the array of textures and colors that Pepe Delgado’s nachos offered – sharp cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, chunks of grilled chicken or steak, refried beans and sturdy tortilla chips, topped with sour cream and “house” guacamole.

Did I forget to mention the boatload of jalape¤os? There were tons of them and, man, did they make this platter of nachos kick-your-ass hot. As a connoisseur of all things spicy, I loved it. On my judging ballot, I gave Pepe Delgado’s an 11 out of 15 (good food, but knocks for hasty service).

On our way over to Vallarta’s, I asked Eric Henderson, a Cal Poly graduate and long-time Nacho Tour veteran, to see if I could find out more about the origins of the tour.

“It started as an ‘ASI Outing’ back in the ’90s and it used to be held in April,” Henderson said. “We would pick out four restaurants, and we used to give a plaque to the winner. Izzie’s (now long gone) would always win because they gave us free nachos and treated us like kings.”

Vallarta’s: The royal treatment

As we walk into Vallartas, we’re given the “star treatment” and shuttled off to a private banquet room. I also hear the nachos will be on the house – all five servings of them. High marks go to Vallarta’s for the hospitality.

While we wait in the banquet room, margaritas and bottles of Modelo begin pouring in. One nacho tourist came back from the bar carrying what appeared to be a bowl of margarita that was so big she needed to cup it with both hands. I wondered if she was getting in over her head because after pounding a gallon of margarita, there was no way she was going to make it to Spike’s.

After a short trip to the bar, I came back to find that our nachos were getting passed around the table.

“Woo-hoo, this is so awesome. We brought this tradition back from the freaking dead,” said Katie Evans, an environmental engineering senior and PolyEscapes Chair, said as she sipped on a strawberry margarita.

Evenly-spread mild cheddar and Monterey jack cheese blended with refried beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and jalape¤os, of course, made for some good eats. My only complaint was that the chips lost their rigidity too a fast, turning the platter into sloppy, yet delicious, goop.

However, you can’t beat good hospitality. Vallarta’s loved the Nacho Tour and was down to support the crew during their quest. I gave them 13 out of 15 for superior service, and even though the nachos were a bit on the “gringo” side of authenticity, they were still damn good.

Check out tomorrow’s paper for the rest of the Nacho Tour!

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