Nacho—yes, your average festival

When I heard there was a food festival in town boasting more than 40 types of nachos, my curiosity—and love of melted cheese—was piqued. I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that nachos are like sex and pizza; even when mediocre, they’re still pretty good.

So, on Saturday I headed out to Cesar Chavez Plaza for Sac’s newest annual event: Sactown Nachos Festival. The organizer, Brent Sands, dedicated some of the proceeds to Project Optimism, a nonprofit that pairs recent graduates with at-risk youth. Good cause, good potential.

As I approached the festivities, I couldn’t help but wonder two things: Do nachos really need to be improved upon, and have these kinds of festivals reached their peak and become predictable? Sands himself told me his inspiration “was a random idea while eating nachos one day.” The website touted the usual modus operandi of food festivals: beer, live music, a game area. A few additions had some potential to be unique, such as street performances and—promoted vaguely—“fashion.”

Unfortunately, both my questions were answered pretty quickly. The park seemed awfully empty for an event touting 40-plus nachos. I had hoped for a variety of local restaurants showing off their vision of the ultimate nacho, perhaps deconstructing the dish or spinning it upside down and creating something entirely new.

Instead, a few tents were scattered around the fountain, unphotogenic in the 103-degree sun. Even more disappointing, sitting in the back was the mainstay of all food festivals these days: food trucks. My heart sank. No sign of street performers, although a small van of boutique clothing hid in the corner. Things were definitely going the “predictable” route.

It looked like a lot of vendors were a no-show, meaning a smaller variety of nachos than promised. Club 56 was there, as well as Gameday Grill, 19th Hole Cantina and Chando’s Tacos’ food truck. The Roaming Spoon offered vegan nachos in two options: The OG and the Badass.

I skipped the vegan nachos for Gameday Grill, whose menu had tri-tip nachos with bacon. With homemade chips and a rich, creamy cheddar sauce, Gameday Grill seemed to win best nachos of the day. Sure, Chando’s delivered on the yum, but that’s not surprising. Otherwise, no one’s nachos stood out. They were all good enough—nothing creative.

As the day dwindled, I grabbed some dessert nachos from OMG! Yogurt made with waffle cones, vanilla yogurt, whipped cream, Reese’s Pieces, strawberries and chocolate syrup. I walked past the game area, feeling kinda bored.

That changed later as local R&B artist The Philharmonik performed on stage; I felt like I was at a block party rather than a festival. What Sactown Nachos may have lacked in creativity, it made up for with a warm sense of community. Thousands of people had wandered through the festival like neighbors: eating food, drinking drinks, playing games, getting the most out of the last weeks of summer. Maybe there’s no need to reinvent nachos, after all.