One of the many happy things that came from the opening of the Capitol Hill light-rail station in March 2016 is that it brought Nacho Borracho into my daily orbit. The bar—which is decked out in all manner of graffiti, Mexican knickknacks, and string lights—is less than a block from the station where I catch the train to get back to my house in Columbia City. After a day's work, I almost never fail to have one or two or three drinks at Nacho Borracho before dipping into the underground. I'm home in 30 minutes.
For me, the bar not only functions as a "third space"—a location that's between the "first space" (home) and the "second space" (work)—but also a "fourth space," a location where you meet, by appointment, new people or old friends you have not seen in some time. I pick Nacho Borracho for such occasions because it always nixes the alcohol-enhanced temptation of calling an Uber afterward. The station is right there. I can listen to music during the trip. There are people to watch on the train. And I love the night walk from the stop: My head is swirling with booze and beats (usually by Burial or Model 500) and the few visible wandering stars in the light-populated urban sky.
Nacho Borracho also has food. It's sold by a separate business within the bar that functions like a taco truck. For a number of years, it was operated by celebrated chef Monica Dimas. In March of this year, however, Dimas left to focus on her main restaurant, Little Neon Taco on First Hill. She was immediately replaced by Ricardo Valdez, a chef from Los Angeles who once worked at the fancy London Plane. He calls his new taco joint El Xolo. The good news is there's no bad news about Valdez's kitchen.
His tacos are prepared with a visual elegance and complicated flavors that are enhanced or made distinct by heirloom corn, which produces darkish tortillas. But best of all are the nachos: inexpensive, very generous (lots of cheese, a heap of meat, and sharp-tasting guacamole), and rich with chips that are, in my estimation, unusually crisp. One plate keeps three people going and talking, which is why nachos are bar food par excellence.
And this, after all, is the point of my piece. Nachos are the most appropriate fare for the inherent sociability of bars. They do not lock up drinkers in the prison of separate plates (dinner in a regular restaurant), but are open to the whole table. One does not break a conversation if they are eating nachos with friends. Words, dreams, passions, philosophies easily flow over the pile. Few things in the nightlife world are sadder than the sight of a person picking at a plate of nachos alone.