Imagine you go to a quaint country fair and are wandering through it when a strange man approaches you in front of an unmarked tent. “Hey buddy,” he whispers, “want to see a man eating chicken? Only thirteen dollars.” You of course want to see whatever gigantic beast of a chicken this character has located in his tent, and maybe even see it eat a man as well if you’re forking over $13. You pay up, he opens the tent flaps to let you inside, and you wander down to a single chair in a room so dark you can barely see the gigantic metal cage in front of you. You sit, hearing the snuffling and chewing of presumably the monstrous beast inside, and begin to sweat with anticipation. “BEHOLD!” The carney yells, and flips on the light… to reveal some regular ol’ dude in the cage, sitting at a table, a cooked chicken in front of him, eating it. You turn to the carnival chap, shouting at how bamboozled you were, and his reply is, “Well, this is our interpretation of a man eating chicken.” Pretty much the exact same thing happened to me Rail Trail Flatbread Co. when I ordered Street Corn Nachos.
I saw that Rail Trail had an appetizer of “Street Corn Nachos”, briefly scanned over the ingredients, saw that I could get pulled pork on them, and ordered away. I was well familiar with what “Street Corn” was: a boiled or grilled ear of corn covered in salt, butter, mayo, chile spices, and other condiments, also known as Elote, from the Nahuatl. You can look that right up on Wikipedia. The huge mistake on my part was to not look up the word “Garnachas”, and when the dish arrived I sorrily regretted that.
Are you familiar with “Garnachas”? Don’t bother looking that up on Wikipedia, because it doesn’t have a page on there outside of the Spanish language version of the site. No, the top listing when you search for them on Google is “Have you tried garnachas? - General Discussion - Chowhound”, where you will learn that they are basically fried puffy tortillas with stuff on them. You’ve got to be pretty woke to have a leg up on a food that’s only on wikipedia as a subcategory of the “Sope” page, so kudos to Rail Trail Flatbread Co., but is that what the customers are looking for?
You may not guess it from someone who has been writing about Mexican food for more than five years, but I do know a thing or two about the topic and have never heard of Garnachas. The Sope, which the Garnacha is the Guatemalan variant of, I have, and being a predominant Mexican dish I would imagine others would have as well. Garnacha by itself though, not so much. Plus,if the customer is expected to know that obscure word, why not just use the formal name for “Street Corn” and call the appetizer “Elote Nachos” as if you know the former you are sure to know the latter. Even better, why not just call the dish “Elote Garnachas” as that is exactly what they are!
When you go out somewhere and order a Cheeseburger, you expect a bun, meat, and cheese. If you go and order one and what you get instead is a piece of exotic bread you’ve never heard of with a texture and consistency that’s not like any bun you’re used to, meat, and cheese, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. For the restaurant to say that’s their interpretation of a Cheeseburger is a them being truthful, but a little weak.
Nachos are a pile of chips, cheese, and toppings, with a little leeway as to what you can do with them. If you get rid of the pile of chips and replace them with 5 or 6 big ones, sure, those are single serving nachos, one step removed from the traditional variety. Then you make a change to that and replace the chips with what is technically still corn, but served in an entirely different form, that’s another step removed, and personally one step too far. Imagine expecting potato chip nachos, and instead getting nachos with thick cut french fries. Sure, it’s the same vegetable base, but created with a totally different style, texture, and mouthfeel. The restaurant could say that’s their interpretation of potato chip nachos, and they’d be right, but you go in expecting and looking forward to one thing, and when another completely different one comes out you’re going to be disappointed.
And that’s the worst part, if I have been expecting “Elote Garnachas” I would not have been sad in the least, although the pile of chopped corn on top of the giant puffy discs of corn is a bit corn heavy. The fact that I was expecting nachos and had my heart so set on them was not a ledge I could come back from. And if I, someone exceedingly open to all kinds of crazy foods, can’t accept this change, I can’t imagine a bunch of frat bros walking in off the street looking for some brews and ‘chos to eat while watching the game, or family with picky eating kids stopping in after church, are going to be too impressed.
Rail Trail Flatbread Co., I am begging you, change the name on these. In much the way that you don’t call your flatbreads a pizza, even though it would be within your rights to say that they are your interpretation of a pizza, don’t call these nachos. Our waitress was incredibly kind to not charge us for them after we debated about how they were or were not nachos and how they were or were not interpretations of nachos, so there are no hard feelings, but let’s make a change so that confusion doesn’t happen to anyone else. Your secret sister restaurant Less Than Greater Than across the street manages to make some of the best food and drinks I’ve ever had, what shows up at the table is what you expect, AND have a Tiki night no problem, so I feel like a little name change to give you some more points on your side of the street isn’t a big ask. Nachos didn’t really catch on until Frank Liberto got the name out there and he’s gone down in history as the man who brought them to America. Just think, when future historians look back across the ages to find out how Garnachas took off, ground zero could be the “Elote Garnachas” at Rail Trail Flatbread Co. Does going down in history as the restaurant that brought Garnachas to America sound like something you might like? Just think about it, that’s all I ask.