100 Favorite Dishes: Nachos from the Pioneer

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Suffice it to say that I eat out more than the general population, unless, of course, the general population can catalogue more than 450 restaurant meals in a year -- which is about the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I stomached in 2012. Pathetic, isn't it? But all those food dates are worth the gluttony, because it allows us to tell you where you should eat, a little favor that we started in late 2009, when we embarked on a culinary journey that took us through our favorite dishes in the Mile High City -- 100, to be exact. Now we're back with round three, counting down (in no particular order) 100 more of our favorite dishes in Denver (and Boulder). If there's something in particular that you think we need to try, reveal it in the comments section below, or shoot me an e-mail at lori.midson@westword.com.

No. 97: Nachos from the Pioneer

There are rules when it comes to nachos: The chips (corn, of course) need to be sturdy; otherwise, they'll become soggy under the weight of the real reason you got nachos in the first place -- all that stuff that comes heaped on top. Second, nachos shouldn't be fancy or tampered with. Save your pork belly, your foraged wild mushrooms, your ahi tuna and whatever other foodstuffs you find tempting for something else -- never nachos. Nachos are intended as a party food, a beer chaser, a late-night weed habit. Third, the chips should be baked so that the outer edges emerge golden. Fourth, and most important, do not, for the love of Tostitos, pile a bunch of corn chips on top of one another like the dead zombies in The Walking Dead. Overcrowding is rude.

See also: - Our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2013 archive - Denver's ten best nachos - 100 Favorite Dishes: Tortilla soup from the Pioneer

There are few places that actually manage to follow the rules, but the Pioneer, a watering hole and Mexican joint, is my savior. The chips -- salty, thick and stiff -- are arranged in a single layer (this kitchen, thankfully, realizes that nachos aren't meant to be Everest), each chip smeared with black beans and topped with either grilled chicken or beef, melted asadero cheese (a welcome change from cheddar), ribbons of scallions, fresh jalapeños, pico de gallo and zigzags of Mexican crema. Every single chip receives the royal treatment, and each bite is better than the last. A sphere of well-seasoned guacamole is lobbed on top, and, if you can stand the heat, the housemade habanero salsa is a mind-altering sidekick.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2013 countdown are linked below:

No. 100: Foie gras oysters from Sushi Sasa No. 99: Porchetta from Parisi No. 98: chocolate caramel sea salt tart from Spuntino

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