I have a horrifying and shameful secret to reveal: sometimes when I eat spicy food my tum tum hurts. There used to be a time when I was known as “The Cast-Iron Stomach” and could eat a whole platter of Buffalo Calamari with a side of jalapenos any time of day without a second thought, but those days are long over. Now if I want to think about eating nachos after 8 pm I better have some Tums ready because my guts are going to be an acid bath. I thought they’d be ok if I went to The Compass Tavern for lunch, but then I saw their nachos.
If you’re up on your Worcester history, you’ll see that The Compass Tavern is located in the building that once housed the inestimable Smokestack Urban Barbecue down by Union Station. Where Smokestack was a rather regular restaurant interior though, Compass has succeeded in turning it to exactly what you’d want in a local worn tavern/bar/watering hole. You walk in and think you know exactly what kind of pub food you can expect, but you would be wrong. Summed up by their “COMPASS Ultimate Platter” appetizer, it contains 2 mac & cheese balls, 4 buffalo tenders, 3 beef skewers, onion rings, 4 potato skins, and no substitutions, exactly what you’d expect. Then it goes and throws in 4 garlic romano wings as well, throwing you for a loop. The very same loop I was worried my guttyworks were going to be in they set the nachos down in front of me.
As you can see, they are very red. I’ve always gone with the “more colors an order of nachos has the more flavor they have” because you can see the variety, so I wasn’t expecting much here. But like sneaking a garlic romano wing into what should just be pub food they surprised me. Despite the solid red heartburn color, there was shocking flavor to be found in these nachos.
I went with the chicken option, because while chili was another choice, so was an evening of acid indigestion. At a pub typically one would expect little chunks of dried out bird, but nope, nice and juicy here. I didn’t notice any roasted red peppers, unless they’re calling pico de gallo “roasted red peppers”, but even the pico/traditional salsa combination was nothing shabby. What really made these puppies sing though were the chips, which were lightly dusted in a spicy kind of spiced spice. Nachos made with chips like Doritos are a bit too flavored and a bit too weak to be good, but if you take some good thick chips like these and give them just a hint of spice to kick it up a notch they are good for the show. The delicious nacho show that is.
Listen, looks can be deceiving, and if ever a restaurant has taught me this it is The Compass Tavern. I suppose that time I battled a Mimic that has disguised itself as a treasure chest I discover this as well, but that event didn’t involve eating nachos and only rewarded me with 450 xp. The place might just look like a well worn pub with a pile of chips drenched in salsa for food, but if you give them a chance you will be pleasantly surprised. And it’s not so spicy that it’ll blow your guts out.