The Etiquette of Nacho Hill

Nachos. For outdoor lovers in Mountain Country, nachos (with beer of course) are an essential, must-have after a long day spent rock climbing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, river rafting, fort building, naked mandolin-playing in the woods, whatever-it-is-you-do-outside-with-your-buddies tradition. In fact, there is nothing better than working up a hunger by playing in the sun, then sitting down at a table in the local bar/grill/hole-in-the-wall, when a giant plate of nachos is carefully placed in the middle of you and your friends.

Here lies the problem with this scenario. Let’s say, for example, you spent the last eight hours mountain biking with three of your cohorts and everyone is as ravenous as a wolf in a meat locker. So, picture these four people sitting around a pub table, and a mountain of chips, cheese, beef, shredded chicken, sour cream, guacamole and salsa is slowly lowered by a pretty waitress into the middle of the pack. Feeding frenzy is a downright polite way of phrasing what happens next.

Darwin would find ample proof of evolution in the mountain bar, as survival-of-the-fittest materializes among the primitive instinct of the hungry, when the fastest of the bunch does everything in his power to ensure smothered-chip consumption at a higher ratio than everyone else. Inevitably, the slow and weak of the group is soon left with nothing but scraps of dry, broken chips and bits of cheddar baked onto plate’s edge.

To ensure everyone gets a fair share of nachos, or to at least level the playing field, a list of nacho-eating rules must be put into effect. You see, proper nacho etiquette begins with the understanding that the plate is divided into sections based on the number of nacho-eaters. Four people means the nacho mound is divided into quarters, three people equals thirds, two splits the hill in half, and so on. It should also be understood that the aspect of the nacho mountain facing you is your side. This means that you may only eat what’s in front of you and never stray into the established territory of your bros/lady friends.

With this is mind, here are five, set-in-stone laws that return civility to our post-recreation watering holes known as “The Etiquette of Nacho Hill.”

Thou Shalt Not “Reach Over.”

The “Reach Over” occurs when you see a fully loaded tortilla chip covered in cheese, beans and guac, but it’s on the other side of Nacho Hill. Resist the temptation, even if you’re stuck with desert-dry corn chips on your side of the plate. If you do “Reach Over,” you’re likely to have your hand bit off by your bud if he catches you.

Thou Shalt Not “Double Dip.”

Usually, Nacho Hill is accompanied by its good friend, Salsa Pond. This lovely lake of pureed tomatoes, peppers and Mexican spices exists to yummy up those chips that escaped baptism-by-Holy-cheese. However, a mindless person lost in conversation about that “sick drop-off that almost caused an endo,” is a perfect candidate to absentmindedly “Double Dip” a half-eaten chip into Salsa Pond. Watch out for this blunder and don’t become a Double Dipper yourself.

Thou Shalt Not “Strip Mine.”

“Strip Mining” is a sneaky little maneuver that takes advantage of a loophole in the divided plate rule, even if you’re technically eating from your side of Nacho Hill. Here’s how it works: As casually as possible, begin eating chips from the bottom of the pile. As you “mine” deeper into the mountain, eventually the top of Nacho Hill collapses onto your side of the plate. This supposedly gives you property rights to the “mine tailings.” Much debate and legal wrangling will probably ensue once Nacho Hill collapses and you stake your claim. Avoid this technique unless you don’t mind enduring the wrath of your “friends.”

Thou Shalt Not “Perform The Plate Turn.”

When Nacho Hill is finally consumed down to a sad plain of soggy chips, a little bit of precious gold is uncovered. Hard bits of baked-on cheese, stuck to the edges of the plate, reveal themselves. These commodities, in an otherwise barren landscape, are like a discovery of buried treasure, and a race to claim them goes off like a gunshot. However, the divided plate rule still applies. Some sneaky fellows may try and circumvent this by employing “The Plate Turn” until the leftover cheddar is on their side. This trick only works if your partners’ attention is on the television, or they’re in the bathroom. Otherwise, it’s a risk and a tactic best avoided.

Thou Shalt Not “Call a Showdown at Lone Chip.”

Imagine if you will, that Nacho Hill is destroyed and only one chip remains in the middle of the plate. It’s an unlikely event, and, at best, the chip is a moist, broken, pathetic-looking thing devoid of anything worth tasting. And yet, knowing mountain-dwellers after a few beers, that final, nasty chip is the most desirable thing on earth. In this scenario, a showdown ensues. However, the showdown, unfortunately, is nothing like the climax of a Spaghetti Western film, but instead devolves into a boring, “you take it,” “no you can have it” debate that ends when “Mr. Quickdraw” snatches the chip from under the verbal gunslingers. Instead of creating this embarrassment, etiquette dictates that it is best to just leave the last chip alone.

Follow the simple “Etiquette of Nacho Hill,” and your post-recreation, nacho-eating experience will be fulfilling, enjoyable, and everyone will get his or her fair share — except for your waitress who, if anything, will be left with the sad, leftover chip as the only tip you dirtbags will leave her.

Jared Hargrave writes about outdoor recreation (and nacho consumption) from his home in Salt Lake City. You can read his work in the Outdoor Utah Adventure Journal and at