A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 30, 2006
Nacho (Nachos)

Nachos are tortillas with melted cheese and often other toppings (such as jalapenos). The name “nacho” probably comes from the name “Ignacio” of inventor Ignacio Anaya. It’s said (see below) that ladies from Eagle Pass, Texas visited the Cafe Moderno (not the Old Victory Club, where Anaya also worked) in Piedras Negras, Mexico, in June 1940, and that Ignacio Anaya (their waiter) invented the dish for them there. He called it “Nacho’s Specials” (Nachos Especiales).

Ignacio Anaya admitted (see the 1969 citation below) that the recipe for “nachos” was similar to “quesidias” (quesadillas), a dish his foster mother served of fried tortillas with cheese inside.


Wikipedia: Nachos
Nachos are a popular snack food, originating in North America. In their simplest form, nachos are usually tortilla chips covered in melted cheese. First created circa 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, the original nachos consisted of fried tortilla chips covered with melted cheese and jalapeño peppers. The first ballpark nachos were served at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The International Day of the Nacho is celebrated on October 19th with the International Nacho Festival held at Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. 
Origin
Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, around 1943 at a restaurant called the Victory Club. The wives of several U.S. soldiers from nearby Eagle Pass, who were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day, so chef Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invented a new dish for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles and fried them, then added yellow Wisconsin cheese, calling the dish nachos especiales, or “Special Nachos”.

The word “nachos” appears in a 1954 advertisement for the Victory Club, in a cookbook published by the Church of the Redeemer, in Eagle Pass.

Wikipedia: Ignacio Anaya
Ignacio Anaya (died 1975), also known by the shortened form of his first name as Nacho Anaya, was the inventor of nachos.

Anaya was living in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, USA, and working at El Moderno restaurant there, in 1943, when he invented nachos and served them at the restaurant as “Nachos Especiales”.

The original form of nachos, as made by Nacho Anaya, included fried tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and jalapeños.

Anaya’s son, Ignacio Anaya Jr., a retired banker, currently lives in Eagle Pass, Texas.

In the early 1990s, a holiday called the International Day of the Nacho was initiated to commemorate the invention of nachos and to celebrate nachos. The International Day of the Nacho is observed chiefly by eating nachos.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
nacho, n.
orig. U.S.

[Origin uncertain. Perh. < Mexican Spanish Nacho, pet-form of the male forename Ignacio (with reference to the supposed creator of the dish: see note below).
A Mexican chef, Ignacio (‘Nacho’) Anaya, who worked in the Piedras Negras area in the 1940s, is often credited with creating the first nachos (see e.g. quot. 1970).]
A tortilla chip, typically topped with melted cheese, chilli sauce, etc. Usu. in pl.: a Texan or Mexican dish consisting of these, freq. served as a snack or appetizer with savoury dips.

1949 J. TRAHEY Taste of Texas 27 He returned carrying a large dish of Nachos Especiales. ‘These Nachos,’ said Pedro, ‘will help El Capitansoon he will forget his troubles for nachos make one romantic.’ 1965 M. F. KOOCK Texas Cookbk. 219 Nachos show up at many cocktail parties in Texas. They are easy to make. 1970 For Goodness Sake! (Church of Redeemer, Eagle Pass, Texas) 89 Nacho Specials. This simple yet delicious snack originated some years ago in Old Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico when a group of Eagle Pass women asked the chef, Nacho, to make something for them to eat with their cocktails.

28 January 1948, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 14A, col. 4 ad:
Mexican Food at its best!
LATIN QUARTER
MEXICAN RESTAURANT
305 W. Josephine
(...)
“NACHOS” (Mexican Hors-D’-Oeuvres)...35c
Here is a real dainty! Golden fried tortilla strips, deliciously spiced, topped with mellow, melted cheese and garnished with chili jalapeno bits. 

A Taste of Texas
by Jane Trahey
New York: Random House
1949
Pg. 27:
There’s a little restaurant in the small Mexican town of Villa Acuna that serves some of the finest food in the world. For part of World War II, Mr. Julian Cross, managing editor of the San Antonio Express, was stationed on the Rio Grande border. One night a small group of officers, one terribly homesick, decided to visit Pedro, their favorite waiter there. Like all Latins, Pedro just couldn’t stand unhappiness. He did everything but stand on his head to cheer his morose uniformed guest. When nothing, including the Martinis, worked, Pedro left. Sometime later he returned carrying a large dish of Nachos Especiales. “These Nachos,” said Pedro, “will help El Capitan—soon he will forget his troubles for nachos make one romantic.”

Mr. Cross didn’t say whether they made El Capitan romantic or feel lees forlorn, but from the tone of his letter Nachos sound pretty good. The recipe follows.
Pg. 28:
Homesick Hors d’Oeuvre
1 pkg. Mexican tortillas
A small hank of American cheese
A bottle or can of pickled peppers (preferably jalapenas)
Cut tortillas into small triangular pieces, place in a pan and put into a medium hot oven to toast. Remove from the oven when barely crisp, put a small piece of cheese on each piece of tortilla. Replace in the oven until the cheese is melted; remove from oven and garnish each piece with a small slice of pickled pepper and serve.
Julian B. Cross; San Antonio, Texas

19 January 1954, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 2B, col. 1: 
Our weekly prize of $10 went to her for her “Nachos Specials.”

23 May 1954, San Antonio (TX) , “Nacho’s? Natch!” by Clarence J. La Roche, pg. 3H, cols. 1-4:
PIEDRAS NEGRAS—One afternoon in 1940, four Eagle Pass ladies walked into the Victory Club dining room looking for something new in cocktail hours snacks.

They were seated at their table by smiling, friendly Ignacio (Nacho) Amaya (sic). Their request went something like this:

“Nacho, we’re tired of the usual type snacks with our drinks. Do you think you could whip us up something new? something different?”

ALWAYS READY to help—and to try his hand at anything—“Nacho” Amaya smiled and told the ladies he would see what could be done.

“Honestly,” he admitted to us recently over a bottle of cold Bohemia, “I didn’t have the least idea what I was going to try. But, I went into the kitchen, looked around and started groping for an idea. I saw a bowl of freshly fried pieces of tortilla; then I figured some grated cheese on them might be all right.

“Well, I got the cheese and began sprinkling the tortilla pieces with it. About this time, I got the idea to put some jalapeno strips atop the cheese. I got the jalapeno; and as I finished putting the strips on the cheese, I decided it would be a good idea to put the whole thing into the oven to melt the cheese.”

“Nacho” Amaya was a bit timorous when he set his concoction on the table before the ladies from Eagle Pass. He muttered something about hoping they liked it and swiftly sought an exit.

Before he could hide, however, the ladies were clamoring for him.

“Make us some more of those wonderful snacks,” they demanded.

When “Nacho” brought out the second batch, one of the ladies asked:

“What do you call these snacks?”

“Well,” stammered Amaya, “I guess we can just call them ‘Nacho’s Special.’” He figured he never would hear of the concoction again. He was wrong. Next day, when he came to work, waiters at the Victory Club asked: “How in the heck do you make ‘Nacho’s Specials’?” We had calls for them last night but didn’t know what they were!”

NO SOONER had he passed on the secret than Gaspar Salazar, a club waiter, got a call for the “Nacho’s.” It’s been that way all up and down the border now for 14 years.

Fame of the delicious “Nacho’s” has spread from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Juarez. The “Nacho’s fans have carried the recipe up and down the Rio and into Mexico. I was with Frank G. Huntress, Jr., president of Express Publishing Company, when he showed the waiters at Matamoros’ famed Drive Inn how to prepare “Nacho’s.” They’re now the top snack there.

Huntress had tasted the “Nacho’s” in Piedras Negras; he has been among those spreading the fame of the delicious snack. We took time out with him in a restaurant in Xochimilco to tell the cook how to make “Nacho’s.”

Other spots along the border have claimed the “Nacho’s” as a native article; but Ignacio Amaya says, definitely, he “discovered” them here.

The “Nacho’s” inventor is a native of Chihauhua; he has lived in Piedra Negras for 18 years. He lived in Texas several years, working for the San Angelo Standard-Times. In 1929-30 he worked for Mrs. Crosby’s famous restaurant in Acuna, across from Del Rio; then went to Cafe Apolo in Torreon. For the past 16 years, he’s been with the Victory Club where, today, he is “jefe de cocina”—a title we know as “executive chef.”

3 December 1954, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 6C, cols. 4-5:
AN EXPERT’S RECIPE
FOR TASTY NACHOS
By SUSAN HART
Food Editor

Mexican Nachos, which were originated in Piedras Negras by Chef Ignacio, are fast becoming accepted popular appetizers. 

6 August 1961, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Around the Plaza” by Joyce Bacon, pg. B1, col. 1:
On nearly every San Antonio menu, as well as on many around the world, is a delightful dish called “nachos.” Nachos are usually served as a cocktail snack or side dish with a Mexican dinner. But how did they get their name?

Nachos are named after Ignacio Amaya (sic), operator and manager of the Victory club in Piedras Negras, a wonderful, quiet little town just across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass. Around 1940, Amaya, nicknamed Nacho, was working at the Cafe Moderno, now managed by Cruz Bernal. When a group of people one day asked for hors d’oeuvres, Amaya took some tostados (fried tortillas), and topped each with melted cheese and a sliver of jalapena.

The guests were delighted and asked Amaya what they were called. Since he had just invented them, he replied:

“Just call them Nacho’s special.” Through the years “special” has been dropped and their fame has spread—this partly thanks to Mrs. Paul Steele and her friends of Eagle Pass, who were among the first to eat nachos and never failed to take visitors to Cafe Moderno to sample them.

Amaya says they may be fixed a number of ways, topping the tostados with guacamole or refried beans and then the cheese and jalapena.

15 June 1969, San Antonio (TX) Express and News, “‘Nacho’ Inventor hasn’t profited” by Bill Salter, pg. 9H?, cols. 1-3:
Born in 1895 in Chihuahua, Mexico, Anaya was raised by a foster mother after his parents died “when I was real young.”

IT WAS IN his younger days that Anaya began to get the idea for his Nachos.

“THIS WOMAN WHO raised me used to feed me quesidias,” Anaya said, then went on to explain that quesidias are folded tortillas with melted cheese inside.

With this in mind, the stage is set for mid-1940 when Anaya was a waiter at the old Moderno Restaurant which has since been torn down and replace with a swank, new Moderna.

“These four ladies were sitting at a table drinking chicos...”
(...)
But, a true Nacho today is as it was in the beginning...a tortilla quarter, Wisconsin cheese and a sliver of jalapeno pepper.
(...)
SPREAD OF THE creation has been mostly by word-of-mouth, Anaya explains. After someone would eat a platter of Nachos in the old Moderno or old Victory Club where Anaya worked until 1961, he would pass the simple recipe on to restaurants where he lived or traveled.
(...)
Since Nov. 18, 1961, he has operated Nacho’s Restaurant, two miles from Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras International Bridge on Highway 57.

25 March 1974, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, pg. B1, col. 1:
Before the deluge of weekend mail from former residents of Eagle Pass arrived, Action Line talked to Ignacio (whose famous nickname is “Nacho") Amaya, inventor of the Mexican hors d’oeuvres. (...)

Nacho says it all started back on a hot June afternoon in 1940 in Piedras Negras when Mrs. Paul Steele, a Mrs. White and several others from Eagle Pass came into the Cafe Moderno where Amaya was a waiter.

They ordered a drink but asked him for something to snack on. He returned with the tostados covered with cheese and a slice of jalapeno pepper.

“What do you call this?” Mrs. Steele recalls asking.

“Just call it the Nacho Special,” he replied.

His fame spread and after the war one group of investors wanted to sponsor him in this country with a chain of “Nacho” food stands. He might have been the Col. Sanders of Mexican foods.

Instead, he opened his own restaurant, named, naturally, “Nacho’s,” where he has made the nacho famous. His restaurant can seat 100 and often does.

His secret? “I use Wisconsin cheese,” he says.

He is now 78, has nine children and no regrets at remaining in Piedras Negras.

27 March 1974, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, pg. B1, col. 6:
The original “Nacho” is named Ignacio Anaya. We called him Amaya. It’s “N,” as in Nacho.

12 November 1975, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 1C, col. 1:
Ignacio Anaya, originator of the famous “nachos,” a Mexican food operator, died in Piedras Negras last Sunday.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, October 30, 2006 • Permalink