When looking for a tasty Mexican food joint, salsa is an effective litmus test. The rule: If a place has good salsa, the food usually measures up as well.
Such was the case with the gimmicky Mexican restaurant known as Nacho’s Libre. Yes, as in the movie. The whole place pays kitschy homage to the film; the walls are adorned with images of the Nacho Libre cast, including one painting of the caped wrestler holding a blue and red iguana in his hands. There may be a subtle message in there somewhere, considering the other local restaurants Nacho’s competes with.
The appetizer nachos are a great starting point. They come topped with cilantro-loaded guacamole and Oaxaca-style cream. For a foundation, you get thick tortilla chips, which achieve that first crunchy, then chewy texture that’s able to hold up the mounds of aforementioned ingredients, along with beans and cheese.
Among the many dishes that stand out—plates like barbacoa beef, seafood fajitas and about a dozen different moles—the cochinnita pibil is hearty Mexican-hearth food. Simply put, it’s roast pork with rice and beans. What you need to know is that they take a quality-cut pork loin and rub it down with a sweet and peppery achiote paste. Then they add a splash of vinegar, orange and lime juice and let it simmer until it achieves tender perfection. Finally, a hand-made tortilla—which I swear is lovingly patted by an 80-year-old señora in the back—is filled with the tender pork and topped with a radish and habeñero relish that is uniquely acerbic and cool like slaw but packs heat like the Cartel.
Even if Nacho’s Libre has neither the Red nor Blue Iguana by the neck, as suggested in the painting, one thing is sure—considering it’s only a year old, Nacho Libre is holding its own in the Salt Lake City Mexican-food scene.
1280 S. 300 West
Thursdays, 6 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28 / Free