Unexpected Chain Restaurants That Have Really Good Nachos

The classic bar appetizer nachos are often wrongly assumed to be an American invention. The ballpark and movie theater staple was actually invented in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in 1940. As often is the case, necessity was the mother of invention. The story is that a group of American women came to the Victory Club restaurant when it was not technically open. Nacho, who was the maître d'hôtel at the time, saved the day by whipping up a simple dish of fried corn tortilla chips, Colby cheese, and slices of pickled jalapeños baked together in the oven — and the rest is history.

Nachos are a classic happy hour choice because they are social; You typically share the bounty and eat with your hands. They pair perfectly with your beverage of choice from a mocktail to an IPA. It's easy to customize nachos to fit your culinary preferences with additions of meat or even tofu. You feel satiated and happy after consuming nachos with friends.

It's a given that nachos are a staple at Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, but here are 12 popular chain restaurants that you might not expect to have good nachos.

Joe's Crab Shack

Nachos were not invented with meat or fish of any kind in the recipe, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. When the mood for seafood hits, consider heading to Joe's Crab Shack for its unique spin on the popular dish.

The restaurant's under-the-sea-themed nachos are great when you want seafood as they come with shrimp and crab. Just don't tell Ariel or King Triton as they might have been friends with them previously. The nachos have a creamy texture and flavor because of the addition of cream cheese and cotija in addition to Monterey Jack. They are finished with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, roasted corn, black beans, cilantro, jalapeños, and roasted salsa verde with avocado. 

"I enjoyed the different taste of the seafood nachos compared to regular nachos," wrote Eric F. on Yelp. Rachel T. and her large party also enjoyed the dish. "The nachos were loaded and good for sharing," she gushed.

Miller's Ale House

Some things just seem like they belong together: peanut butter and jelly, pie and ice cream, or nachos and beer. For the latter, head to Miller's Ale House where the dynamic duo pair perfectly together.

These nachos are not normal-sized; in fact, they're mega. They come loaded with roasted chile spiced chicken as their protein. The cheeses of choice are Monterey Jack and cheddar complemented by pico de gallo and scallions. To finish this nacho masterpiece, garlic-lime crema is drizzled on top. Because that is not enough, there is also guacamole, sour cream, and jalapeños. Let's not forget the bowl of white queso for dipping. All of this costs just $17.99 at our local Miller's.

Alexis N. ordered the nachos and was pleasantly surprised by her experience at Miller's. "The chicken on the nachos was very tasty and all the toppings were very good," she wrote on Yelp. She did not expect a "sports bar type place" to be this satisfying.

Hard Rock Cafe

The original Hard Rock Cafe opened in London, England which makes the fact that it has nachos on the menu surprising but delightful. Hard Rocks also have awesome rock and roll memorabilia so you have plenty to talk about and enjoy as you munch on the cheesy feast. Come for the nachos, stay to discuss Prince's Purple Rain costume.

Hard Rock's nachos jazz up Ignacio's original creation with the addition of ranch-style beans, pickled red onions, and scallions. For an additional charge, you can choose to add guacamole, grilled chicken, or grilled steak. They also come complete with spicy jalapeños to bring up the heat factor.

Gparlie loved the nachos and posted about the spice level on Tripadvisor. He titled his post "fabulous nachos” and left a rave review. "Being An Indian & especially from New Delhi we love to have balanced spicy food which we very well had at this place. Portion size was good enough for 2 people and the food quality significantly justifies its price and the brand name where it is being served," he wrote.

Twin Peaks

Nachos are the perfect game day food and because of this, they can be found as a mainstay in major sporting arenas. When you cannot make it to the stadium or field for the big day, the next best place is a sports bar so Twin Peaks has got you covered when you want to watch the big game and eat some delicious nachos. 

The nachos are not simply one layer but instead double stacked, and there is no upcharge for adding meat like at some other establishments. You can choose between smoked chicken, brisket, or pulled pork. The cheese choice is also unique as the dish includes chipotle queso in addition to cheddar. The restaurant also tops it all off with house-made avocado smash.

"The BBQ pulled pork nachos are great, and a steal for less than $10 and a massive serving," wrote Jon L. on Tripadvisor.


Applebee's prides itself on being a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant, which brings to mind thoughts of chicken tenders and burgers. You might not suspect it, but the restaurant also has delicious nachos, so the next time the family is out on the town consider stopping by and snagging some. Adults can also take advantage of Applebee's fun bar with reasonably-priced signature drinks and constantly changing drink specials.

There are two kinds of nachos on the menu: chipotle lime chicken and ground beef. Both are topped with queso blanco and a blend of melted cheddar cheeses. The dishes are rounded out with fresh jalapeños for spice and sour cream to cut the heat. There is also guacamole for all the avocado lovers out there.

These nachos hit the spot when you want something tried and true. They are not too adventurous but are consistently good. You can use them as a safe standby to satisfy the family (even those notoriously picky eaters) all for the low price of $12.99 at the time of writing.

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday has a reputation for its quality burgers and salad bar. This American chain of restaurants has a few surprises up its sleeve as well, one of which is its nachos, especially if you love barbecue sauce. And really, who doesn't?

In this appetizer, crispy tortilla chips are loaded with mouth-watering barbecue chicken. It also features black beans instead of the more common pinto. The toppings are drizzled with additional barbecue sauce to add extra flavor. The result is a divine marriage of savory gooey cheese and sweet and tangy sauce. Combining sweet and savory amplifies both flavors and makes Ruby Tuesday's nachos even more delectable. This large crowd-pleasing appetizer only costs $13.99 in our area, so it is a great deal.

Ruby Tuesdays are mainly found on the East Coast of the United States so if you find yourself in that area, drop by for some nachos with a barbecue twist. There will be no regrets.

Yard House

Yard House is a California-born chain that focuses on a huge selection of draft beer, music, and good food, including two types of nachos. You can choose between a more classic take featuring chicken, pinto beans, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and more, or poke nachos with marinated raw ahi and crispy wontons.

The chicken nachos are filling and perfectly balanced according to Dulse Natalie M. on Yelp. They are great to share. "Perfect amount of everything on there! I was afraid the nachos would get overpowered by the beans," she raved. Her fears proved unfounded. "Every nacho had something on it! No empty nacho seen!"

Don't be afraid to try the less traditional poke nachos. Val G. calls them her favorite and orders them whenever she can. She changes up her drink to keep things fresh, but the nachos stay the same, which is a tell-tale sign of a great dish.

Dave & Buster's

Sometimes you need to let loose and play some arcade games. Classics such as air hockey, Dance Dance Revolution, and ski-ball are great ways to relieve some stress. Plus they are just plain fun. What would make an arcade even more fun? Nachos.

Dave and Buster's nachos are a great option for gaming enthusiasts. You can grab a platter to share among friends in between playing or pre-game. The nachos come with ancho chile chicken and are made creamier with ancho lime crema. Another fun feature is the grilled poblano, which is a mild chile that might not pack a ton of heat but makes up for it in flavor. You cannot beat the price point for these Grande Cantina Nachos which go for $14.50 by us.

Miguel S. went here for a fun date night and had the best time. "I had these delicious chicken nachos," his Yelp review recalls. "The sauce that they put on the chicken nachos was so delicious. And it had a little spicy kick to it. The chicken nachos have chicken, avocado, sour cream, jalapeños, cheese, and chips. What a great combination!"

The Cheesecake Factory

When you think about The Cheesecake Factory, the delicious namesake dessert comes to mind and not nachos. Even though it is not named The Nacho Factory, this oversight should not stop you from choosing one of the two offerings.

Cheesecake Factory diners have nacho options. There are the traditional Factory Nachos, which come with crispy tortilla chips, melted cheese, jalapeños, and green onions. The toppings are accompanied by sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. Red chile sauce is drizzled over the entire dish, which runs around $16.95.

The other spin on nachos is the ahi poke variety. Instead of tortilla chips, there is a crispy wonton base complemented by avocado, green onions, chiles, sesame seeds, and sriracha aioli. This goes for $17.95. A good tip is that you can order the nachos to share and save room for a cheesecake dessert. If you enjoy having nacho options, wait until you see the extensive cheesecake menu. It even changes seasonally.


Beer is delicious and all but it is not the only thing happening at BJ's. You can probably guess at this point that the restaurant has nachos too.

These ones are loaded and customizable which makes them super fun. The base is tortilla chips, jalapeños, housemade sriracha queso, melted jack cheese, and cheddar cheese accompanied by guacamole, sour cream, fire-roasted salsa, and pico de gallo.

This is where things get interesting. They can stay plain which is a great vegetarian option or you can choose between Piranha Pale Ale chili or grilled chicken. For an extra charge, you can upgrade and add tri-tip if you like your nachos with beef.

"Served in a large pizza pan. They include melted shredded cheese AND cheese sauce, chili, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, and loads of pickled jalapeños. The best nachos I've had anywhere in a long time," enthused one Tripadvisor user.

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville

It's surprising that Jimmy Buffet does not sing about nachos. You can imagine that would be a hit song. Thankfully he makes up for it by having two different versions of the popular dish on his restaurant's menu. While you're wasting away in Margaritaville you can enjoy poke nachos or Volcano Nachos and it does not even matter if it is 5 o'clock.

The poke nachos are a great option that matches the island decor of the restaurant. Eating seafood is a perfect way to feel beachy vibes.

The Volcano Nachos are a great alternative if you're feeling like a red meat option. They come smothered in chili and cheese. Traditional toppings of pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, sour cream, and jalapeños are also on board.

If you don't order either of these options you're missing out. Just ask Tripadvisor user Shirley G. "We ordered Volcano Nachos, big mistake, now I have been craving them since we left," she gushed. "I don't have the words that could possibly do them justice."


The name O'Charley's sounds Irish, and Irish people tend to be known for their stews, creamy soups, potatoes, whiskey, and beer. This establishment is actually Southern and prides itself on its big comfort classics such as fried chicken. So while the name might be confusing, the bottom line is the chain's nachos are pretty comforting after all.

These are the only nachos on this list that come topped with chicken tenders, which this establishment just happens to be known for. One skeptical Yelp user even doubted the hype but quickly realized his mistake. "My girlfriend and I both said, 'it's just chicken tenders, how good can they possibly be?'" Famous last words. "We were both surprised," he confessed.

This dish combines two comfort foods and creates a super yummy one. Another special attribute is the special smokey honey barbeque sauce which is drizzled on top. Nachos and chicken fingers together in one dish is not something to be missed.

Jack in the Box

In order for nachos to meet the specific parameters required of fast food — inexpensive, easy to prepare quickly, and scalable — chains have to simplify. That's why drive-through-appropriate nachos usually consist of little more than chips, a processed cheese sauce, and maybe a topping or two. Counter to all that, Jack in the Box found a way to make fast food nachos not only possible but innovative, hearty, and consistently crunchy from the first bite to the last.

Jack in the Box doesn't actually call its nachos by that name, but the Loaded Tiny Tacos are nachos by any definition. First, the burger-centric chain shrinks down one of its most unique and cult-beloved menu items, its crunchy, fried tacos filled with a creamy, meaty slurry of cheese, beef, and sauce. Then they throw a bunch of those little tacos into a deep box and cover it all with a drizzling of cheese sauce, spicy sauce, and shredded lettuce. All of these acts work together to transform some miniature tacos doused with liquid into what's really nacho chips stuffed with nacho ingredients, which are then tossed with other nacho plate favorites.

Famous Dave's

Chili is Tex-Mex cuisine, meaning it was perfected in that border-hugging region comprising Texas and Mexico, benefitting from elements of both cuisines. There's also a strong barbecue culture and history in Texas and Mexico. Famous Dave's, a chain of traditional barbecue restaurants, pulls from all these different culinary traditions to make a truly exciting nacho plate. It's a viable entry among its regular fare and would be an exceptional entry on the menu of a Mexican-style restaurant chain.

A platter of Famous Dave's BBQ Nachos Appetizer can easily serve one or two people because it's loaded with toppings and accessories. The dish starts with a standard base of tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, tomato, and lettuce, but then it gets more interesting. Where other restaurants might use pinto beans, Famous Dave's piles on Wilbur Beans, its in-house sweet-and-savory barbecue beans side dish. Then comes a generous helping of Famous Dave's chili, its signature Rich & Sassy barbecue sauce, jalapeño slices, and a seasoned sour cream concoction. That would be plenty of chili and barbecue representation, but then customers get a choice of what slow-cooked barbecued meat they want on their BBQ Nachos Appetizer: Texas-style beef brisket, chopped pork, or pulled chicken.