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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Nacho Libre

Thursday, July 8, 2010 @ 12:07 PM

0511001652America turned another year older this week and I hope everyone had a fun filled and relaxing holiday weekend.  Adam and I certainly enjoyed the time with our family, but unfortunately got a hold of a nasty stomach bug that managed to move its way through the family throughout the weekend.  Without going into gross detail, let’s just say food has not really been that exciting these last few days, nor has it been a topic I have been very interested in discussing.  However, I would hate to disappoint you PCC fans, so I will buck up and introduce you to another tasty delight.

Everyone I know loves some type of bar food, whether mozzarella sticks, wings, burgers, nachos, or whatever a particular joint is known for; and although I don’t make it a point to eat bar food all that often, I do enjoy certain dishes to nosh on every now and again. What makes bar food so appealing to many people is that they are easy to eat items that are served at bars and pair well with beers…not to mention the greasy goodness. 😉  In fact, bar food is so popular across the nation that Travel Channel even produced an entire show to feature spots they had picked out from around the country to be considered the best bar food in their “Food Heavens” series, Bar Food Paradise; and it happened to be while watching that show that we scouted out this week’s feature spot for their signature bar food creation…Irish Nachos!

Now, to be bluntly honest, one bar food I’ve never really gotten down with is nachos.  Don’t get me wrong…I love chips and salsa or even chips and cheese, but there is something about them loading all that other stuff on top of those chips that turns me off.  However, with that being said, when I saw what these “nachos” were, I just knew that my typical feelings on nachos were not going to hold true; and lucky for us it was very near our former hometown. So off we went to sample this amazing looking and famous bar food creation at J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill.

0511001658 0511001659J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill, located in Arlington, Texas (very near the Texas Rangers’ ballpark) has been serving up cold beers and various bar foods to its patrons since the 1970’s; and although they serve up just about any type of typical bar food you can think of, what has been setting them apart since 1979 is their origination of “Irish Nachos.” Pay attention, because it was the list of ingredients that made my ears perk up and got me thinking there may be a type of nachos I might actually like.  These nachos are created on a large skillet with a base of natural cut cottage fries with skins (potatoes), topped with melted cheddar cheese, bacon, chives, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos.  Now can you guess what may have changed my mind about nachos? 🙂  If you guessed a base of fried potatoes, you guessed right. I mean that is one heck of way to start off some nachos; and in addition, there are all the other items that I love (well besides jalapenos), but there are no beans, no sour cream, no other random Mexican ingredients…just plain tasty ingredients.

Knowing this place was near the ballpark, we knew the next time we were headed to a Texas Rangers’ game we would have to make this place our pre-game destination; and especially after we decided we were moving, it was even more pressing that we make a trip.  So a few weeks before we were no longer going to be Texans, we headed out to our first baseball game of the season and made a little pregame pit stop for the famous nachos.  When you arrive at J. Gilligan’s, I will admit that it doesn’t look like much, rather just a typical local bar that just happens to be in Arlington.  Even when you step inside it appears just like you might expect…lots of neon signs, long metal tables, old cushioned metal chairs, and that sort of dank smell that comes with older bars.  All that being said, it also has that certain old and familiar charm of fun evenings out, gathering with your friends to watch the game, and maybe a karaoke night or two…all-together very inviting and fun. And in that spirit, we were quickly helped by a waitress and placed our order for some Irish Nachos, sans jalapenos.

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It wasn’t long before she placed the skillet in front of us, and literally by the look on faces, you could have heard the food angels singing above us!  The dish looked amazing & delicious; and tasted every bit as good as they look, likely thanks to the fact that they do not scrimp on the cheese. I mean, with each bite that cheese oozes out and brings all the flavors together.  Also, what makes these so good is that unlike tortilla chips that you don’t want to get all soggy and gross, these “nachos” are actually thinly cut potatoes that already have a soft texture that allows for flavors to soak in…so the soggier…the better! 🙂 One caveat is that although each bite was tastier than the next and the addition of the chives and tomatoes added a zest and sweetness that was very welcome, these nachos are definitely on the heavy side, and I could only put down a few bites.  Still, as bar food goes, these bites were every bit worth it!  In fact, Adam enjoyed them so much, he took a group of guys back there a week or so later after another game.  Ya…these “nachos” are clearly bar food worthy!

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SIGNATURE DISH: They have many dishes on their menu, but these “Irish Nachos” are for sure their signature and at the top of the list.  J. Gilligan’s faithful love them so much that they go through 3,600 potatoes and 80 pounds of cheddar a week…HOLY NACHO!

TASTE: I think I described it pretty well above, but these are crazy good!  They are sort of a wonderful mix of home fries, potato skins, loaded cheese fries, but on a much more original and tastier scale.  The fresh cheddar they use rather than a cheese sauce also makes these just plain ooey gooey and delectable; and the simple switch in the base ingredient from chips to potatoes have taken a traditional dish to much tastier and untraditional new height.

AMBIANCE: J. Gilligan’s is not overly aesthetically pleasing, but nor is it out of the ordinary from any other neighborhood bar; and it admittedly has its charm.  It is old school and not fussy about the details, and they seem to like it that way.  They don’t apologize for the way they look and it doesn’t seem to deter the faithful flock of continuous patrons. I think what is most enjoyable about a place like this is that there is no need to feel pressure to look over the top good…which a girl like me can definitely appreciate! 🙂

PRICE: Since this is your typical down home bar, the prices are extremely reasonable, with a full order of these nachos coming in a whopping $6.49! I would say that is a pretty good deal, especially since the two of us could barely finish the full order.  Additionally, all of their other dishes looked like reasonably prices; and you won’t find no $10 beers here. Like I said…great place for a pre-game stop to get started with food and drink so you won’t spend so much at the ballpark…cause we all know how outrageous those prices are!

SERVICE: In all, we received very adequate service, and our server was very friendly and engaging.  Like any bar, it appeared that you could order at the bar or from a waitress at one of their tables, and possibly it was because they were not very busy when we visited, but we got our orders through very quickly.  However, I could see how given a busy weekend night or during other sporting events that it may take a bit longer to get attentive service, but on our visit we were helped very promptly and very happy with the service.

Overall this dish is one I am not sure can be easily duplicated, but one I know I want to have again.  With that being said, thanks to their creation of this most heavenly bar cuisine…I give J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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One Response to “Nacho Libre”

  1. definitely had the stomach bug earlier this week, I feel your pain!

    and i LOVE nachos of all sorts, so I’d be all over these 🙂

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