So here’s how Nacho Daddy’s owner and management see their establishment: as “an American grill with Mexican flair” (also expressed as an “American-Mexican collision”).
I really like that, for a lot of reasons. Among them: There’s no ambiguity about the mission. Another: Unlike a legion of Mexican-American restaurants that make a show of Mexican authenticity, Nacho Daddy knows exactly what it is and is proud of it. A third, which wasn’t as obvious until we ate there, is that this is another example of bringing honor to the concept of fusion, even if Nacho Daddy doesn’t use that label.
It’s a fusion of, obviously, Mexican and American, but there are a few others in there as well, such as Thai and Italian. In the purest sense of fusion, the kitchen takes elements of several cuisines and brings them together to create a winning dish.
The concept most often shows up in the nachos, of which, as you’d no doubt expect from a place called Nacho Daddy’s, the restaurant offers a considerable list. We stayed with the Mexican-American theme with the Nacho Average Burger Nacho ($8.95).
What it was: a towering pile of corn tortilla chips interwoven with layers of ground beef and “queso” sauce, with a bunch of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and red onion and crumbled bits of applewood-smoked bacon piled on top. How it was: somewhat surprisingly, quite delicious. I was a little dubious about the “queso,” first after seeing it on the menu and then after seeing it in reality, because it looked awfully Whiz-y — much like the stuff you get on nachos in every mass-market venue around. But that also meant it was creamy, and mild, and therefore melded quite nicely with the beef, and in tandem with the beef cloaked the chips well and was complementary to the more assertive flavors of the tomatoes, bacon and onions. Lots of textural contrasts there as well, with crisp and smooth and crunchy.
One drawback: While the chips, piled high in a skillet, were kind of held together because of the interlayering of the meat and cheese, the other ingredients were positioned more precariously, which made the dish the culinary equivalent of Jenga. Every time we pulled out a chip, no matter from what part of the pile, we were afraid the whole thing would come tumbling down, and indeed a lot of the toppings ended up on the table.
Fish tacos ($14.95) also offered appealing contrasts of flavors. The mild white fish, which the menu promised was mahi-mahi, had been grilled instead of being fried, which is the most common treatment with fish tacos. It was stuffed into three soft corn tortillas along with slices of avocado, shredded cabbage, a fairly spirited Serrano aioli and mango salsa. I don’t even like mangos, but this salsa was perfectly balanced and a really nice counterpoint to the fish. One quibble: As the tortillas got a little soggy from their contents they started to fall apart. I’ve seen other restaurants combat that issue with double tortillas, although that seems a little excessive. But they got especially messy at the end.
On the side: a middlin’, mostly tomato-ized rice, and pretty good black beans with white and yellow cheeses.
Chicken fajitas ($17.95) came to the table sizzling like crazy and they retained heat for quite a while afterward, which may explain why the chicken chunks were on the dry side, despite a marinade that left behind a lot of flavor but not much moisture. This was a very generous serving (shrimp and beef are other options), accompanied by the requisite sauteed peppers and onions, sour cream and guacamole. And the OK rice and some OK frijoles, also with white and yellow cheese.
Service throughout was oddly a little unbalanced; our waiter was there a lot at some times, hardly at all at others. We liked the atmosphere; while this is a big barn of a place, and was crowded on the evening of our visit, the noise level was reasonable and included sports on TV and music as well as conversation, amping up the energy. We also liked the decor, fairly neutral but with Mexican-style accents like the large Spanish-language panels suspended from the ceiling and the artwork on the walls, and neon in the bar area.
We were tempted by dessert — especially the coconut flan — but couldn’t face it after these portions. On a return visit, maybe we’ll follow the example of a couple at a nearby table who each partook of a pile of nachos from the selection that included Thai-spiced chicken with Asian vegetables and peanuts and Florentine-style chicken and prosciutto, with sun-dried tomato and spinach.
Fusion like that definitely is worth exploring.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0474.