One of the goals that I have for Berks County Eats is to visit as many recently opened restaurants as I can, as early as I can.
This week, we visit one of the newest, Nacho Average Empanada.
I first discovered Nacho Average Empanada at the chili cook-off at this year’s Reading Fire + Ice Festival. I picked up a menu and saw the Fairgrounds Farmers Market listed as the address.
The market stand wasn’t open yet, but the menu listed empanadas, hot dogs, chili, taco salads, and build-your-own nachos. We were just a little excited to try it.
The stand itself is small – or at least it feels small. Much of the stand is closed off by a long, white wall where the menu board hangs. There’s no seating along the narrow aisle, just a very small shelf that I supposed could be used if you really wanted to stand and eat. Otherwise, dining in means carrying a tray of food to the seating area in the center of the market.
Despite the relatively small menu, choosing what to order was not easy. I knew I wanted to try the build-your-own nachos, but that was only a starting point. I still had to choose a meat (chili, beef or chicken), a cheese (shredded, nacho, queso or jalapeno cheese), and three toppings (tomato, lettuce, olive, jalapeno, scallion, cilantro, onions, sour cream).
That’s a lot of possibilities.
Having been impressed by the chili at the cook-off, I decided to make that my starting point, building a tower of tortilla chips, chili, shredded cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion and guacamole.
The guacamole was one of the weekly specials – a $2 add-on that isn’t available on the regular menu. But it was almost forgotten when my meal was constructed. Thankfully, the mistake was caught before I made it to the table.
There was a lot to love about the meal, starting with the tortilla chips. Nacho Average Empanada fries their own corn tortillas. The tri-corner chips were smaller and thicker than store-bought varieties. It made it difficult to use them as scoops, but they were more favorable (thanks to the frying) and crunchier. If you’ve ever had house-made tortilla chips, you know that makes a big difference.
Just as it was at the cook-off, the Nacho Average Chili that topped the chips was hearty with a mild mix of spices. It’s thick enough to work as a topping without making the chips wet and soggy.
The guacamole was good, but I probably would skip it in the future because the dish is served with homemade salsa – finely chopped and blended into what felt more like a thick sauce. The mild was very tame and safe for all. It’s served on the side so there’s no harm in trying the spicy if you are not sure.
It also ate like a meal, one that I couldn’t quite finish (though I came very close).
Julie’s taco salad was similar to my own meal in portions. It started with a similar base, but a single fried tortilla. Toppings included ground beef, lettuce, shredded cheese, tomato, onion, olives, scallions, sour cream, and special sauce with a side of salsa.
Julie felt the inclusion of both scallions and raw onions was a little much – particularly the onions which were stronger and a little overpowering at times for her taste. And the “special sauce,” we think it was a chipotle mayo, was visible on top of the salad, but there wasn’t enough to get a real taste of it.
It was a good salad, but it didn’t feel special or out of the ordinary from others available on menus around Berks County.
Our biggest regret on the day was that we visited Nacho Average Empanada and didn’t order any empanadas. We knew we wouldn’t be able to finish them and didn’t want to judge by how they heated up in the microwave at home.
At the same time, we were slightly disappointed that a place with empanada in its name only offered two basic varieties – beef and chicken. There are also better and more authentic Mexican food options in Reading and Berks County.
But it wasn’t a bad meal by any means. On the contrary, it was a good meal and the price was right – just over $20 once we added on our two bottles of water.
It’s also something that the Fairgrounds Farmers Market needed. Of all the amazing stands, there were no representation of Latin American foods.
The only other thing I can say is, welcome to Berks County.
Nacho Average Empanada
2934 N. 5th St Hwy
Reading, PA 19605