September 26, 2018

By Mandy Ellis

Blackened Tuna

In an East-meets-West twist of Asian and Tex-Mex flavors, head chef Kel Bundrant of Atlanta's The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar uses blackened tuna. Yellowfin tuna is rubbed with Cajun seasoning then quickly seared and sliced thin. Golden brown wontons, fried flat, served as chips and house-made crab Rangoon dip as the cheese, with garnishes of house-made avocado salsa, diced tomatoes, limes, and microgreens. 

Blue Crab and Caviar

Joe Cervantez, executive chef at Houston, Texas's Brennan's Courtyard Bar 7-7-7, swims into luxury with $100 Blue Crab & Caviar Nachos. A pound of lump blue crab that's headed up in better and chives, crab claws, and Petrossian caviar sit above tortilla chips and bechamel sauce made with St. Andre cheese, leeks, dry vermouth, and wood-fired corn. Diced avocado, pico de gallo, lime crema, sour cream, and guacamole top the dish. 

Venison Chili

Mike Turner, vice president of the culinary and supply chain at Walk-On's Bistreaux and Bar (which has 19 locations in Texas and Louisiana), summons Louisianan and Southern flavors with Venison Chili Nachos. Aromatics like garlic, granulated garlic, dark chili powder, cumin, salt, paprika, oregano, white pepper, and cayenne are sauteed, then tomatoes, kidney beans, beef base, chicken base, and masa are incorporated. Ground venison is sauteed in, then water. After simmering for two hours, the chili covers tortilla chips while house-made queso, tomatoes, green onions, pickled jalapenos, and sour cream are layered on top. 

Apple Butter Barbecue

Kevin Felice, corporate executive chef for 40North Restaurant Group including The Office Tavern Grill which has three locations in New Jersey, does an untraditional pork and apple spin. Dry rub consisting of brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, mustard powder, garlic powder, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper coats pork shoulder, which is seared and slow cooked in apple cider and cinnamon. It's then shredded and simmered in house-made apple butter barbecue sauce. The pork tops sweet potato chips, as does melty aged white cheddar, textural fried shallots, bright salsa verde, and lime crema. 

Pimento Cheese

At Tupelo Honey's 15 locations throughout the U.S., Eric Gabrynowicz, vice president of culinary serves up Pimento Cheese Nachos. His house-made pimento cheese includes cheddar cheese, mayo, mustard, pimento, salt, and pepper. "Everybody's opinionated about pimento cheese, like barbecue, and I add mustard because adding acidity is a benefit and it cuts through the fat," Gabrynowicz says. The cheese is warmed, whipped, and ladled over tortilla chips and a ragu of chorizo, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and black-eyed peas. For "acid bombs," pico de gallo, tomato salsa with green tomatoes and roasted poblanos, cilantro, and jalapenos finish the nachos. 

Lamb Keema

Pulling from Indian heritage, owner/executive chef of Nashville, TN's Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Maneet Chauhan, whips up Lamb Keema Papadi Nachos. Ground lamb is browned to start the lamb keema, then the fat is strained and tomato puree, turmeric, garlic ginger paste, cumin, red chili, house-made garam masala, coriander, green chili, and cilantro are added. After the mixture cools, it's put over crispy papadi chips, and topped with sweet tamarind chutney, creamy cheese, and sour cream, as well as pico de gallo and mint chutney for notes of acidity and freshness.