What: A classic Tex-Mex dish found all over town, queso is simply melted 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 love is that at the 24-hour Kerbey Lane Café, 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 ($8.09) 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, 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 roast-y-smoky-spicy green-chile queso at local favorite Torchy’s Tacos 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, 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. The list never ends — go forth and explore, friends.