Zoo Nachos: ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa Logo


It took me almost a month to start writing this review. I wasn’t sure I would. I didn’t have quality photos of the nachos and I still don’t know what was in them. But I ate them. I cleaned that little paper tray.

Last night, I decided that these nachos have a story worth telling.

Our local zoo runs a Zoo Boo evening thing in October. I don’t know anything about it. Maybe it’s multiple days, maybe not. We went on Saturday, 28 October 2023. My wife invited me and I went. She drove. The only decisions I made were to attend, and not to bail out when I found out we were going at night. Why would we go to a zoo in the dark?

This place was packed. I wanted to leave before we pulled into the over-capacity parking lot.

Four Hours of Frosty, Forest & Fae

We walked around the zoo for about four hours. I had a Wendy’s Frosty, which was obviously amazing. The animals were asleep. My wife had the time of her life. I can’t figure it out.

This gregarious wolf was wearing a lady’s nighty and loitering around Grandma’s forest cottage. Presumably, he had already devoured her and was waiting for Little Red Riding Hood. If his British accent was authentic, he was a long way from home:

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Fae fellowship was alive at Zoo Boo this year. This tall faerie was helping a normal-sized faerie fix her outfit:

Fae Fellowship


In the middle of wandering around this zoo in the dark for hours with no animals, my eldest daughter really wanted nachos. That’s my girl. Their wall-mounted food court nacho menu listed a serious selection of optional toppings. I cannot believe I don’t have a photograph of the menu. If we ever go back, I’ll take a photo of it and add it here. It’ll probably be taken in daylight, because I go to the zoo to see animals.

My daughter ordered the nachos with chicken. As for the laundry list of other toppings, she just said, “Everything.” Perfect.

The nachos were about fourteen bucks ($14), a totally acceptable price. The portions were generous, especially for this situation. This is the city zoo. The nachos and toppings were absolutely piled on. I got my money’s worth out of the zoo people. Nobody took advantage of us.

They also gave us a couple of above-average-looking, individually wrapped plastic forks. We didn’t open them so I brought them home. This was definitely a finger food situation.

The zoo nachos included two long, cold packets of sour cream and a plastic circle thing of guacamole. These looked good, but I never tried them. The paper tray was so packed with nachos and fresh toppings that it was obviously not a good idea to mix in the sour cream and guacamole while standing up, balancing the nachos with my left hand, and chasing my family around in the dark. I’m sorry to say that the sour cream and guac went unopened and are probably in a landfill now. Too many nachos is a nice problem to have, but I’m not happy about that waste.


Zoo Nachos Top Photo

There was nowhere to sit and 99% of the public areas were kept dark for the Halloween theme. We took these photos standing up in a rare, well-lit spot.

Zoo Nachos Side

Eating Conditions

95% of my eating was done in the dark. No bad surprises. No regrets. I even managed to get some others in my family to take a few bites. Everybody had good things to say.

The nachos had bacon on top. A lot. It worked.

There were multiple kinds of cheese. The classic cheese wasn’t melted. It didn’t matter.

The ingredients were fresh. The chicken was fine. No weird bites of anything.


Listen to me. These are zoo nachos. They shouldn’t sell nachos at the zoo, but they do. And you know what? They’re pretty good.

If you find yourself at ZooTampa, day or night, there is a credible nachos option. Go for it.

Location Details

ZooTampa at Lowry Park
1101 W. Sligh Ave
Tampa, Florida 33604

Taco Bell Nachos BellGrande

Generally, if a restaurant has nachos, that’s what I’m going to order. This is not the case at Taco Bell. Admittedly, Taco Bell is only a restaurant in the strictest sense of the word. But they do sell food and that food includes nachos. So I’ve ordered them.

Last night, my daughter came home with an uneaten set of Nachos BellGrande. I found them in the refrigerator this morning, Sunday, 27 November 2022.

No Taco Bell nachos are good, even fresh. But I put these in the microwave and gave them a try.

Here are some photos. I’m sorry about this.

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How were the chips? In a word: Springy. Not in the good way.

How was the cheese sauce? Edible.

The tomatoes? My daughter apparently asked them to hold the tomatoes. Probably a good call.

The beans were fine. So was Taco Bell’s usual (very thin) sour cream.

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How was the “beef”? I don’t want to talk about it.

The Taco Bell product page (let’s not call it a menu) describes these as:


730 Cal Nutrition Info


Here’s a snapshot in time of the top of that product page:

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Value for money: Extremely low

Enjoyment: Almost non-existent

I wish Taco Bell cared about providing good nachos.

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Volcano Nachos

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I ordered these for the first time yesterday, 20 June 2022, at the patio bar, right in front of the volcano feature that periodically fills a giant blender jar with dirty water. I was told this is one of three bars at that Margaritaville.

It was a busy Sunday night inside and outside the Orlando CityWalk Margaritaville, with no seating for hours at a table. But we found four adjacent seats at the full-menu patio bar immediately upon walking in around 8PM.

The two male bartenders were very friendly, helpful, and attentive.

While I was asking about the Volcano Nachos, the bartender offered that they were enough for four people. Wow. Okay, that’s what’s for dinner. I ran it by my spouse and children and everybody was game.

I actually got into a bit of a tiff with my sixteen-year-old. I was slapping her hand (and her sister’s hand) away from the nachos so I could take a photo while the volcano was still pristine. They both wanted at those nachos. I had to actively (verbally and physically) keep my daughters from tearing chips off of the volcano while snapping my photos. I did what I could photographically, but these were hostile conditions. 

Spoiler: They were enough for all four of us, plus we filled two large to-go containers to the brim with what we didn’t eat.

The Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville menu describes them as:


Tortilla chips layered with chili, cheese, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, sour cream and jalapenos (3710 cal.) $17.95

Were they good? Yeah. Were they great? No. But the portion made up for that about two times over.

How was the cheese? There was some real cheese on the outside. It was melted and crispy. Nice looking. It was probably okay, but I can’t say I really tasted it.

Inside the tower of nachos, there was some kind of creamy cheese sauce. That wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the low-grade movie theater stuff either. Some work went into that interior cheese sauce, though that comprised all of the real cheese I experienced while eating these. The exterior cheese was superficial.

What was the meat? A finely-ground beef chili with black beans. It was very good. Didn’t detract from the nachos in any way. The menu didn’t list any meat substitution options, or I would have gone for the chicken. There was a little sweetness, which I think came from the chili and from the cheese sauce.

 Would I order these again? Yeah. I will probably never order anything else when I eat at a Margaritaville. Then again, if a place has nachos on the menu, I order the nachos.

We had a lot left over, probably more than half. How were they the day after? I personally devoured one of the two to-go containers myself the next day (today) around 3pm. Every bite. I ate these fridge-fresh. They were about as good as when I ate them fresh the night before. The chili was really good. The only cheese to be found in today’s leftovers was the inferior interior stuff, but it was okay. The chips were a little soggy. But those chips, like the night before, were not greasy. Nothing about these nachos was greasy or oily.

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How could these be even better? Well, at this price they’re almost free. So I’d say replacing the interior cheese with some real cheese, and adding twenty-five percent more chili would bring these to another level entirely. And I’d pay $25 for that, seven bucks more than they cost in their current form. I’m always willing to pay more to get real cheese.

The value for your nacho dollar here is substantial. That volcano was a mountain of chips.

These were eighteen bucks. I say eat them. Don’t overthink it. Have a beer, too. Share with five of your closest friends. Or with three of your hungriest friends.

Smokey Bones BBQ Mag Nacho

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I don’t know what “Mag” means, but these are some decent nachos.

I ordered them without cheese sauce. I’ve ordered them once — on Friday, 27 May 2022, over lunch in Clearwater, Florida.

Update: I ordered these a second time, in July 2022. Same location. Same excellent lunch company. Same excellent nachos.

First of all, they’re pretty. Just gorgeous. But how do they eat?

There’s nothing even remotely greasy about their chips. There was enough cheese. Ample pulled pork and chicken. I was concerned that they come with BBQ sauce on them, but it worked.

I shared these with an old friend, plus one beer apiece, and it was a filling lunch. Really good for the $17.99 spent (plus beers, tax, and tip).

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We didn’t have any left, so I can’t comment on how they are the next day (cold or reheated). Sorry about that, but running out because they’re good (and with no complaints about portion size) is more plus than minus.

The Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill menu describes them as:


Freshly fried tortilla chips topped with BBQ pulled chicken, hickory smoked, hand pulled pork, cheese sauce, cheddar jack cheese, tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, sour cream, sweet BBQ glaze and cilantro.

They also offer a version “Minus the Meat” for $11.99 with 1,470 purported calories. I didn’t try those.

Nacho Evaluation Criteria

By what measure, nachos? Seems the criteria should be:

  • What kind of cheese? Just the petroleum-based movie-dispenser nacho cheese “sauce“? Exclusively real cheese? A combination?
  • Is the cheese melted? It should be.
  • Taste
  • Freshness of ingredients
  • Abundance of various ingredients
  • Chips: Are many of them stuck together? Are they soaked in oil (yuck)? Are they crispy? Do they cut the roof of your mouth?
  • Ingredient distribution: Are the toppings sprinkled on top, or are they layered throughout the pile of chips?
  • Greasiness of chips
  • How you feel after the meal
  • How are they the next day (refrigerator-cold)?
  • How are they the next day (microwaved)?
  • Price


Carmelita’s Nachos

It’s probably not a good long-term strategy to start at the top, but here I go anyway. The best nachos I can remember can be had (consistently!) at Carmelita’s Mexican Grill & Cantina in Dunedin, Florida. The cheese is real and abundant. The chips aren’t greasy. They taste and feel great.

The quantity of everything is unbelievable. The chicken is fresh, seasoned, white, and abundant. As with any seasoning, it is a very personal preference, but you soon stop thinking about things like that when you put chip to mouth at Carmelita’s.

Their mild salsa is also top-shelf. I’ve ordered nachos (and nothing else) and had chips and salsa (free for the table, I believe) as a side dish. So good.

I don’t have any photos of Carmelita’s nachos today, but I’ll come back and add a photo someday.

Recommendation: Buy. Eat. Rejoice!

Location Details

Carmelita’s Mexican Cafe
1280 Main Street
Dunedin, Florida 34698

Nacho Ingredients

At their most basic, nachos are corn chips and cheese. But what a food design playground nachos can be!

Here are some common ingredients in nachos:

  • Corn chips (required)
  • Cheese (required)
  • Meat — chicken, ground beef, steak
  • Tomato
  • Jalapeño pepper slices
  • Lettuce
  • Salt (usually just cooked into other ingredients and sprinkled on the chips)

Here are some common toppings for nachos, all of which can also be dips: