There’s simply no fooling around when it comes to the chile con queso game in Austin, Texas. Since queso is the starting point for many Tex-Mex meals, it’s got to be good to catch on here. Here are the Austin restaurants that offer the best queso in town.
Owner Jorge Garcia says that Kelly’s Queso is named after longtime customer Kelly Schneider. “Every time she was here for queso and margaritas, she would always order it with no meat and whole black beans.” When it came time to update the menu, Garcia decided to make Kelly’s Queso a regular part of the lineup. To make the vegetarian queso extra creamy, the restaurant uses Land O’Lakes Extra Melt American cheese. Food snobs may balk at the use of this processed cheese product, but try it before you pass judgment. It’s served with whole black beans, fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. 614 East Oltorf Street; (512) 444-0012.
Another queso dish named after a longtime customer, Bob Armstrong Dip includes taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream. The dish was created by original owner Matt Martinez as a special treat for former Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong. Armstrong was so proud of his addition to the menu that he used to wander around the dining room and introduce himself to any table that was enjoying the queso. 2613 South Lamar Boulevard; (512) 462-9333.
The Queso Especial at Trudy’s is served with guacamole and pico de gallo, but to make it extra special, many regulars order it with a spicy add-in: Brisket Tinga. The seasoned ground beef gives an already delicious dish an extra kick. Cheese fans will also want to try Trudy’s famous migas, a spicy egg dish with serrano peppers, secret three-cheese mixture, corn tortilla strips, and tomatoes. 409 West 30th Street; (512) 477-2935.
The Texas Chili Parlor is best known for its amazing chili, which is available at three levels of spiciness (X, XX, XXX). Add some creamy melted cheese into the mix and, well, you’re going to need a nap afterward. The restaurant is also a popular hangout for Longhorn fans and a great place to get a glimpse of the laid-back Austin of yesteryear. 1409 Lavaca Street; (512) 472-2828.
For a fancy twist on queso, try El Alma’s Queso Blanco y Rojo. It consists of a heavenly blend of white cheese, poblano peppers, mushrooms, onions and red salsa. The Queso Fundido is also a winner, featuring melted jack cheese with onions, poblano peppers, and mushrooms.1025 Barton Springs Road; (512) 609-8923.
Co-owner Ava Cole says that her parents, who started Magnolia Café in the 1970s, knew that the only way to get her to eat broccoli was to smother it in the restaurant’s queso. “My whole life has been spent with our queso -- a blessing, to be sure,” says Cole. Magnolia’s Mag Mud queso is served with black beans, avocado and pico de gallo. A popular variation is the Sonora Queso, which replaces the black beans with spiced beef. The queso is also featured in a number of other dishes, including the delicious Eggs Zapatino, which is a Tex-Mex version of Eggs Benedict. 1920 South Congress Avenue; (512) 445-0000.
The Kerbey Queso is served with a generous helping of guacamole and pico de gallo. The Cowboy Queso variation includes black beans. The queso is also a key ingredient in David’s Enchiladas, which are made with chicken or cheddar-jack cheese enchiladas topped with a spicy sauce. 3704 Kerbey Lane; (512) 451-1436.
The Queso Fundido at Takoba is a hearty appetizer with a mix of Oaxaca and Monterey Jack cheese, chorizo sausage and roasted poblano peppers. The queso is served with thick, house-made corn tortilla chips, so it’s very easy to get full before the main course arrives. Pace yourself. 1411 East 7th Street; (512) 628-4466.
The Choriqueso at Sazon is a multilayered masterpiece. Creamy white cheese is sandwiched between layers of pico de gallo and sautéed chorizo sausage. This is another heavy appetizer, so you may want to limit yourself to a few bites if you’re planning to order a full meal. 1816 South Lamar Boulevard; (512) 326-4395.
Diablo Sol Food consists of Maudie’s signature queso plus seasoned beef and pico de gallo. Guacamole is a popular addition to enhance the creamy goodness. To keep things interesting, a Queso Blanco variation is also offered periodically as a special dish. The queso also plays a starring role in many of the enchilada dishes, including my personal favorite: Josie’s Enchiladas. It’s a simple dish with just two cheese enchiladas covered in spicy queso and onions. Order extra tortillas to make the most of this cheesy indulgence. 2608 West 7th Street; (512) 473-3740.