Nachos have become a fan favorite in Mexican-style chains as well as sports bars, casual-dining restaurants and brew pubs. While authenticity may be a priority at Mexican concepts, some of consumers’ most craveworthy nachos appear on menus outside the Mexican space—a trend that operators may find noteworthy as Cinco de Mayo approaches. Nachos are a popular pairing with beer or margaritas to celebrate the May 5 holiday.
Click through to uncover the 10 chains that customers say offer the most craveable nachos, from the leading brands surveyed for Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics. The chains are ranked from 10th to first, in order of the percentage of recent diners who say they crave the chain’s nachos.
10. Joe’s Crab Shack
With a menu heavy on shellfish and fish, this beach-themed seafood chain wouldn’t seem like a destination for nachos. Yet 3.8%of recent customers found the nachos at Joe’s Crab Shack to be craveworthy. In keeping with the concept, this take on nachos features tortilla strips loaded with crab dip, pico de gallo, cheese and black bean-corn relish. One consumer called out Joe’s crab nachos as “my fave”—an indication that nachos can be a popular item even when they stray far from their roots.
9. Miller’s Ale House
There’s nothing Mexican about Miller’s Ale House. As its name implies, the tavern-style chain has an extensive beer list with lots of shareable snacks and apps. And nachos are a top choice. About 4.2% of consumers who visited the restaurant found the nachos craveable, especially the nachos con pollo. For this version, tortilla chips are topped with chicken marinated in salsa, then smothered with white queso and melted Jack and cheddar cheeses. Sour cream, jalapenos and salsa are served with the nachos, too.
8. Taco John’s
This quick-service chain offers Super Nachos, an item 4.3% of consumers deem craveable. Taco John’s covers tortilla chips with nacho cheese, beef, refried beans, cheddar, tomatoes, olives, guacamole and sour cream. Consumers also rate the chain high for overall craveability, with 49.5% of visitors finding its other signatures—burritos, street tacos and loaded potatoes—craveable, too. “The nacho cheese sauce and potatoes ole are the best,” said one respondent.
7. On the Border
Nachos at On the Border fit with the chain’s Mexican DNA and are particularly craved by Gen X and baby boomers, according to Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics data. The traditional Stacked Nachos—which 4.4% of customers say are unique to the chain—are topped with layers of seasoned ground beef, refried beans and queso, finished with sour cream sauce, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos and guacamole. “Their nachos are better than anywhere else,” said one recent visitor.
6. Twin Peaks
Sports bars have made nachos a must-have appetizer, adapting the Mexican prep to American appetites. Twin Peaks offers up Double Stacked Nachos—a combo of tortilla chips, chipotle queso, melted cheddar, refried beans, pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo, sour cream and cilantro. Customers can opt to top these with a choice of meat, such as smoky pulled pork with barbecue sauce, steak or chicken. Twin Peaks’ nachos are deemed craveable by 4.4% of consumers, who proclaim them as “delicious.”
Food made from scratch using authentic Tex-Mex recipes elevates the menu at this casual-dining chain. The nachos—which 5.1% of recent visitors rate as craveable—are available in three variations. The basic version is layered with refried beans, cheese, jalapenos, lettuce and tomatoes; Special Nachos add guacamole and pico de gallo, while Panchos include a choice of beef or chicken.
During weekday happy hour, Chuy’s offers a free nacho car, loading a vehicle trunk with chips, salsa, queso, taco meat and garnishes. Guests can customize nachos and pair them with Chuy’s cocktails, including its signature margaritas, which are available on the rocks or frozen, dispensed from slushy machines. “The nacho car is a great idea,” said one respondent. “It’s a big asset in choosing to go to Chuy’s.”
4. Moe’s Southwest Grill
Nachos at Moe’s are customizable, all starting with chips topped with the fast casual’s signature queso. Guests add their choice of protein (grass-fed beef, chicken, pork carnitas or tofu), beans and pico de gallo. In addition to its nachos being deemed craveable by 5.2% of recent customers, Moe’s ranks above average for more general attributes. In fact, it’s the top-rated Mexican chain for food (54.4%), convenience (60.3%) and value (44.9%), finds the Technomic survey.
3. Taco Bell
Taco Bell offers several types of nachos, but consumers called out the Nachos BellGrande and Nachos Supreme for their craveability. Both feature seasoned beef, sour cream, tomatoes, nacho cheese sauce and beans for a base price, with upgrades including creamy jalapeno sauce, guacamole and more, plus over a dozen add-ons, such as onions, seasoned rice, shredded cheese and sauces. About 6.1% of consumers said they couldn’t get their Taco Bell nacho fix anywhere else, with the ability to customize with the chain’s core ingredients contributing to the nachos’ craveability score.
2. Yard House
Yard House visitors gave the brewpub’s nachos a craveability score of 7.2%. The poke nachos, a contemporary Asian riff on the classic, are built on a base of crispy wontons, topped with marinated raw ahi tuna, avocado, cilantro, serrano peppers, green onions, nori, sesame seeds and three sauces—sweet soy, Sriracha aioli and white truffle. Both these and the chicken nachos especially struck a chord with younger female customers, who tended to order them as an impulse purchase along with drinks.
1. Qdoba Mexican Eats
The nachos at fast-casual Qdoba came in at No. 1 for craveability with a score of 7.2%. One respondent said, “I love their nachos with chips on the side; the pork is my favorite! I always get enough for both dinner and lunch the next day.” Another recent nacho customer praised the quality, variety and taste of Qdoba’s food—with so many options lending to its craveability rating. The menu offers 3-Cheese Nachos, which are customizable with a choice of protein (adobo chicken, grilled steak, pulled pork, smoked brisket, ground beef or vegetarian), queso, pinto and black beans and a range of sauces, salsas and garnishes.