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Denver's five best chips and salsa

The salsa bar at Taqueria Chely's.
The salsa bar at Taqueria Chely's.
Lori Midson

Our feelings for the magical pairing of chips and salsa extend beyond just casual flirtation. We love them deeply. In fact, we're pretty sure we could live on chips and salsa alone if we had to, and at many restaurants in this city, we'll gladly skip everything else just to stuff ourselves on a basket full of fried corn tortilla points and cilantro-and-chile-laced sauce.

And while bad chips and salsa are sort of like bad sex -- at least you're getting some -- we've got a few favorites that are worth a special trip. Here are Denver's five best:

Denver's five best chips and salsa
Lori Midson

5. Taqueria Chely's

The salsa bar at Taqueria Chely's is an intense object of our affection, and we need to make several trips back and forth to get our fill. We'll pour the salsas on everything that we order, but they also make an ideal setup for the start of a meal. Just be forewarned that they don't come with a basket of chips, so you'll need to ask for a stack of tostadas -- and then focus on tasting every type of salsa the place has mixed up.

Denver's five best chips and salsa
Tacos Jalisco

4. Tacos Jalisco

Sit down for a meal at Tacos Jalisco and you'll start with the free chips -- straight from the fryer -- and a melange of salsas. One version pairs tomato with jalapeño and onion; another matches sweet to heat; a third features tangy tomatillos; another highlights the creamy avocado. And they all play off each other, so after you've dipped your way to the bottom of each bowl, you're likely to want refills.

Denver's five best chips and salsa
Lori Midson

3. Tacos y Salsas

The Tacos y Salsas mini-chain has one of our favorite salsa bars in the Mile High, with a buffet line of pickled peppers, radishes and, of course, sauces made with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, tomatillos and hot chiles in myriad ways. Perhaps the best way to sample its offerings if you don't want to just gussy up tacos is to nab a basket of chips and go to town.

Denver's five best chips and salsa
Lori Midson

2. Los Carboncitos

The chips at Los Carboncitos are a fairly recent addition, and they come with a caddy of four salsas for dipping. It's tough to pick a favorite from that quartet, since each rendition, whether laced with smoke, tinged with heat, downright fiery, or smacked with cilantro and onions, is excellent in its own right. Luckily, you don't have to.

1. Casa Blanca

This Arvada strip-mall joint doesn't look like much from the outside, and there's not much on the menu that will bring us back. But the big exception are the chips and salsa. Every dining table gets a free round of thin, crisp, just-fried tortilla triangles paired with a peppery salsa brimming with the zip of onions, the tang of tomato and the fresh bite of cilantro. We've been known to buy that salsa by the quart, and that's what earned the restaurant our award for Best Free Chips and Salsa in the Best of Denver 2011.

Honorable mention goes to El Taco Veloz at 5145 Federal Boulevard.

Have other favorites? Tell us about them below.

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