We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

A plate of nachos reminds me of a gaggle of girls gussied up for a Friday night after too many shots—a hot mess. Corn tortilla chips heaped with globs of refried beans and oily (or worse, processed) melted cheese. Salsa and guacamole in heaps like wet confetti.

The flavors certainly complement each other, but something consistently gets lost in the construction. The biggest assembly offense is a mountainous stack of chips.  The bottom of these plates always ends in one of two disappointing scenarios: Either a layer of dry, boring chips that failed to receive glory from above, or an inundated mess more suitable for a soup spoon than finger food.

Other plates disappoint me with ingredients that shouldn’t be toppings for nachos or maybe anything. Greasy chili and barbecued pork commonly overwhelm a plate while slices of bland chicken breast dry out in the oven and end up like wood.

Los Tios Grill in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood has a decent nacho rendition, but I have to order them with a caveat.  The thick and sturdy semi-circle chips can stand up to an onslaught of lettuce and sour cream but only when I request the kitchen use a light hand when applying cheese. Still their careful chip-by-chip construction is worth the effort and results in a balanced plate. Either way the small metal cup of an acidic and bright homemade hot sauce makes up for any shortcomings. I’d eat it by the spoonful.

Metrocurean pointed out a few fancy nacho plates I’d like to try before the football season is over but I’m pensive. Are train wrecks are less likely with elevated ingredients, or are all nacho plates doomed to resemble a bad weekend night out in Adams Morgan?