Queso lovers have it good in Austin, very, very good. We have an abundance of restaurants serving up outstanding queso. Queso, to anyone reading this that may not be familiar, is not just the Spanish word for “cheese,” but also a melted concoction of deliciousness used mostly as a dip for warm, lightly salted tortilla chips, and sometimes as a sauce (drizzle a generous amount on your enchiladas and you’ll love me forever). And just like we have strong opinions on the best barbecue in town, we are passionate about the best queso in Austin. To say I’ve enjoyed researching this blog post is a major understatement, as I love cheese in just about any form. I welcome all suggestions if you feel I’ve left out a delicious queso in my guide to the best in Austin.
You may argue with me, but my favorite queso in Austin is at Kerbey Lane Cafe. The Kerbey Queso is a scoop of guacamole swimming in queso, topped with pico de gallo. Simple, delicious. I’m not the only one who thinks Kerbey Lane Cafe makes the best queso, either. Their Classic Queso and Vegan Queso is now available in Whole Foods stores throughout Texas (except El Paso), and in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. What’s up, EP? You El Pasoans need to try it, and you’ll like it.
She’s not the prettiest girl at the party, but a to go container of Torchy’s Taco’s queso is the most popular item of any table, at any meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, snack, happy hour, whenever, this green chile queso packs a spicy punch, has a hidden dollop of guacamole, and is topped off with queso fresco, Diablo hot sauce and a scattering of chopped cilantro. For a spicy queso, you can’t get any better than this one. Whether you love Torchy’s or not, you’ll love this queso. Yes, Tacodeli advocates, I’m talkin’ to you.
Maude’s Hacienda is our family’s regular Tex Mex spot, in our S. Austin ‘hood. My son is addicted to Maudie’s queso and will argue with me that it is the best, and the only. He turns his nose up at other quesos, which is perfectly acceptable as it leaves more cheese for me and his father. Maudie’s is a smooth, not too thick and not too thin queso perfect for chips (and french fries). You won’t regret ordering it. The above picture shows their small sized queso, which is just enough for the three of us to enjoy without ruining our appetites. Maudie’s also offers their Diablo Sol Food, which is taco meat smothered in queso and garnished with pico de gallo. I always order my Diablo Sol Food with guacamole added, and a margarita. It’s serious enough to be a meal for two.
A bowl of queso with taco meat and guacamole is nothing new to Austin. In 1952, Matt’s El Rancho opened its doors, serving up Tex Mex food. Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong was a regular, and one day asked for something different, not on the menu. The kitchen obliged (read all about it here), and the famous Bob Armstrong dip was created. Layers of picadillo (taco meat), queso, sour cream, and pico de gallo make for one amazing queso experience. Matt’s has made its recipe available through various sources. Here’s one that is true to taste from Lisa Fain at Homesick Texan, or try this one found at Bon Appetit.
The queso at Chuy’s serves as dinner on many a happy hour night for Austinites. When I moved here in the late 80’s, my friends and I made happy hour at Chuy’s a regular event. We’d send someone early, to grab a table in their small “bar seating” area adjacent to the Nacho Car (back end of a classic car, redone into a serving area for queso, chips, bean dip, and salsas). Fast forward almost three decades, and folks are still gathering at Chuy’s for happy hour margaritas and queso, bean dip and salsa. Can’t go wrong with Chuy’s version of queso, which is a propietary blend of melted cheese, green chile sauce and ranchero sauce.
Magnolia Cafe has their Mag Mud, a delectable mix of queso, black beans, avocado and pico de gallo. When it’s 3am and you need queso, do the Mag Mud. Do it.
I’m certain there are other great quesos in Austin that I haven’t tried yet, but the excellent ones I’ve listed are a fantastic jumping off point in the quest for the best queso. Whether you’re a purist, who wants only queso in their queso, or someone like me who loves the addition of picadillo, guacamole, and beans, you’re guaranteed to find a queso to fit your idea of the best in town.
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