Chicken in soy sauce
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What: A classic Tex-Mex dish found all over town, queso is simply melty cheese—usually a yellow Velveeta-like mix—in a bowl with a couple of add-ins, like guacamole, pico de gallo, black beans, ground beef, or all of the above. It’s served with tortilla chips, making it like deconstructed nachos—instead of dumping the cheese on top, you dunk your chip into the cheese. It’s so simple and so insanely addictive, consider yourself warned: Once you start, you cannot stop. Maybe for days.
Where: Among the many quesos we loved was that at the 24-hour Kerbey Lane Café (multiple locations including 3003 S. Lamar Blvd, map), a local institution that combines Tex-Mex, locavore, Southern, and vegan influences on its long, eclectic, modestly priced menu.
When: Daily, 24 hours
Order: You won’t go wrong with either of the creamy, smooth quesos ($8.25) on offer: the classic “Kerbey Queso” (pictured), with guacamole underneath the cheese and pico de gallo (tomato, cilantro, onion) on top; or “Cowboy Queso,” which is the same but adds black beans to the mix. Both come with chips and spicy salsa on the side. Some people swear by the pancakes here, too (breakfast is served all day).
Alternatively: There are too many places to list, but a highlight among them is the “Mag Mud” at Magnolia Café (two locations including 1920 S. Congress Ave., map), another iconic 24-hour Austin diner, where chunks of avocado augment the queso’s intense creaminess (alongside black beans, pico de gallo, and hot sauce). The roasty-smoky-spicy green-chile queso at local favorite Torchy’s Tacos (multiple locations including 1311 S. 1st St., map) is also quite good, topped with guacamole, queso fresco, cilantro, and habanero-based Diablo sauce—and served with homemade tortilla chips to boot. If you prefer a so-thick-your-chip-gets-stuck kind of queso, try Polvo’s (2004 S. 1st St., map), where optional additions are ground beef, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Another famously decadent queso in town is the Bob Armstrong dip, likewise with ground beef, at the nearly 60-year-old Matt’s El Rancho (2613 S. Lamar Blvd., map). The list never ends—go forth and explore, friends.
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