The 9 Most Craveworthy Quesos in Austin Right Now
From long-standing classics to exciting new arrivals, dip your chips into these favorite local mouthwatering quesos
The golden, melty, delicious chip dip and all-purpose condiment known as queso is a crucial part of Austin’s culinary culture, and this Tex-Mex icon appears at restaurants, food trucks, and bars all over town. While it’s difficult to find a “bad” version of queso around here, a handful do stand out as particularly worthwhile. This collection of 9 quesos represents our favorite quesos available in Austin right now, from long-standing classics to exciting new arrivals.
We know that Torchy’s Tacos has now evolved into a taco chain with locations in numerous states, but it’s still a business with Austin roots, and it just happens to serve the finest queso in the entire city. Torchy’s green chile queso excels on every level, starting with its texture: thin enough that it won’t clump and clot easily, but thick enough to cling to a dunked tortilla chip. The cheesy indulgence is tempered by the vegetal flavor and subtle heat of the green chiles, and because Torchy’s serves their queso with a scoop of fresh guacamole and a drizzle of their zippy Diablo Sauce, you’ll get an extra dose of spice and the temperature contrast of the cool, creamy guac. Torchy’s green chile queso represents the Platonic ideal of Austin queso. We said what we said.
De Nada Cantina
The combination of potent margaritas and a platter of queso and chips is an ATX favorite for good reason, and we’re pleased to report that one of the city’s top destinations for strong margs also serves a formidable queso. De Nada Cantina in East Austin features a queso with an expert balance of saltiness, spiciness, and richness, and it really sings when it’s paired with the restaurant’s piquant salsa verde. This queso manages to stand out as both a chip dip and as a taco accoutrement, and the way that it complements De Nada’s rightfully famous margaritas can’t be overstated.
Matt’s El Rancho
Because queso is a Tex-Mex staple, restaurants that specialize in this hybrid cuisine tend to be safe bets for cheese dip that hits the spot. Matt’s El Rancho has been feeding Austin since the mid 1950s, so it’s no surprise that their signature queso, known as Bob Armstrong Dip, still counts among the best versions in town. Bob Armstrong Dip consists of Matt’s El Rancho’s glossy yellow queso, a scoop of seasoned taco meat, and a scoop of fresh guacamole. You get substance and spice from the taco meat, cooling refreshment from the guacamole, and a burst of vibrant cheese flavor from the queso. This legendary dish is a queso that can be a meal in and of itself.
Slab BBQ & Beer
Slab BBQ & Beer may be famous for their loaded barbecue sandwiches and their willingness to embrace BBQ styles that diverge from strict Central Texas techniques, but their queso shouldn’t be overlooked. This silky white queso presents its cheese flavor notes in an elegantly subtle way, and the fact that the queso doesn’t try to smack diners over the head with aggressive salt and spice makes it the perfect addition to one of Slab’s most popular dishes: the BBQ nachos. Chips loaded up with smoked brisket, pork, or chicken, drizzled with queso, then garnished with pickled cucumbers and jalapenos, onions, and red BBQ sauce? We’re here for it.
Iliana de la Vega, the profoundly talented James Beard Award-winning chef behind El Naranjo on South Lamar Boulevard, offers a version of queso on her menu that reflects her own Oaxacan roots. She uses Oaxaca cheese (a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella) as this dish’s base, but she also gives diners the option to add mushrooms, chorizo, or huitlacoche (a type of fungus that grows on corn and is a delicacy in Mexican cooking) for added flavor and texture. The queso fundido then goes in the oven to caramelize, and de la Vega serves the dish with her impeccable handmade corn tortillas.
Holding court on Manor Street in Cherrywood for over 30 years, Mi Madre’s enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a must-visit spot for breakfast tacos, saucy enchiladas, and other traditional favorites. This team also knows their way around a queso recipe, and Mi Madre’s queso is everything we want from Tex-Mex cheesy dip: just enough salt, just enough of a kick, and that telltale bright yellow hue.
Lazarus Brewing Co.
When breweries make the choice to serve food, they generally (and rightly!) focus on dishes with a strong track record of highlighting the flavors of a frosty brew. Lazarus Brewing Co.’s two locations in East Austin and in North Loop both take that task very seriously, and their celebrated queso fundido is exactly what we want to eat when sampling Lazarus’s latest releases. The baked cheese has a perfect exterior crust to contrast with the melty interior, and the addition of spicy chorizo adds substance and panache.
Vegan queso is on the rise in Austin, but making a top-notch queso without dairy is a trickier endeavor than many assume. Luckily, the team behind The Vegan Nom, a smash-hit group of Austin food trucks, has the magic vegan queso touch at Double Trouble. Their Planet Queso, made with legumes, delivers remarkably on-point cheese flavor while also being soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, and all-natural. While you can get Planet Queso at any of The Vegan Nom’s locations, we prefer to enjoy it at Double Trouble, a new all-day cafe and bar in North Loop that’s a joint venture between The Vegan Nom and Barrett’s Coffee. They serve their queso with fresh guac, nutty salsa macha, charred tomatillo, and crispy tortilla chips for the perfect dunk.
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ may have recently departed Austin and set up shop in Buda, but their queso is so noteworthy that we couldn’t leave them off of this list. If you’re searching for a queso with a healthy dose of heat, then Valentina’s is the one for you. Valentina’s queso has a slightly looser texture than many other versions in town, which makes it a fantastic condiment for tacos. But for those who want a heartier queso for chip-dipping, we recommend ordering it with Valentina’s acclaimed smoked brisket stirred right in.