To love me is to know nachos are as much a part of me as my own mouth. This chip, cheese and beans, and often chorizo-laden fantasia was the subject of my first article for CharlotteFive, where I picked the best nachos in Charlotte.

That was 2015, and this is now. Did you know since last year’s list, Vida Cantina has banished crab nachos from their menu? Gone! A memory! Gentrification in Charlotte has gone too far.

Speaking of gentrification, this list prioritizes taste over location. It doesn’t need to be a “hole in the wall” to be good, because I only hear people who live elsewhere use that term for a place that’s probably someone’s neighborhood watering hole.

Given that, here’s my stringent nachos ratings system:

The heavier the chip, the better. No one likes a flimsy chip that can’t withstand the queso.

The right queso. No thanks, runny, pale cheese. Points for expert use of liquid and shredded cheese in different varieties.

The right meats. Sprinkled throughout and not in heavy layers. The biggest nightmare is heavy strips of meat breaking the chips. Chunks or shreds, please!

Your nachos winners of 2016 are:

(5) East Boulevard Bar and Grill.

I put a high value on my Pretend Husband Fitz Bailey’s culinary impressions since he introduced me to my all time favorite: Taco Boy Nachos. His favorite here, the Grilled Buffalo Chicken Nachos, have the right blend of shredded cheddar jack cheese, bleu cheese, and chunks of chicken. For the spicy inclined. (1315 East Blvd, Suite 130, Charlotte.)

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(4) Lupie’s Cafe Charlotte.

This is the spot for drunken (or at least hungover) nachos. Lupie’s doesn’t mess around with its cheese: Looking into the open kitchen, the full cheddar shreds bloomed in the preparer’s hand like a plump, waving sea anemone before going onto the chips and into the oven. The Throw Down Nachos are served with homemade chili and the sturdiest chips (del Pasado brand) on this list. You can do half Texas chili and half Southern chili for a sweet and spicy mixture. (2718 Monroe Rd, Charlotte.)

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(3) Tipsy Burro Saloon and Cantina.

The same owners of The Thirsty Beaver in Plaza Midwood and The Rat’s Nest in NoDa, Brian and Mark Wilson, have opened a new joint, except there’s nachos involved. Ask for the queso and shredded cheese combo and pork as your meat. Dipping that first pork-laden chip into pineapple slaw is like discovering you could run when you only thought you could walk. My server said, “I’m jealous of you right now” when she brought them over. “I’m jealous of me, too,” I replied. (2711 Monroe Road, Charlotte.)

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(2) Zada Jane’s Corner Cafe.

First on my list last year, it’s still my go-to when I don’t want heavy-salted meats. They are the best at incorporating veggies — roasted squash, romaine lettuce, zucchini and corn — into their nachos. My girlfriend Lara and I always find ourselves here when we’re in Plaza Midwood, drawn to the crispy blue corn chips and hot Pepper Jack queso. Since my last article, it appears they’ve increased their queso by about 30 percent. I’d say they are getting better with age, which is almost a good cheese joke. (1601 Central Ave.)

(1) Sabor Latin Grill.

You know it’s a lasting relationship when you start hearing Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” playing in your head. The Nachos Supreme is an embrace of chip and cheese so light and fresh and filling you’ll think you can have another round, but you shouldn’t. The span of flavors in these nachos was born in the streets — Latin American street food culture, that is. They also follow my mandatory cheese rule: The liquid cheese properly coats all of the chips. Get the spiced shredded chicken. If you’re a vegetarian, forgive yourself this one indiscretion. (Multiple locations.)

Photos: Joanne Spataro

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