Queso (n): creamy and gooey molten cheese typically served in a bowl alongside an insane amount of tortilla chips that you will completely devour anyway.
Houston is a Tex-Mex mecca, so our queso game is obviously second to none. And while really, any bowl of melted cheese is beautiful in our eyes, we dug up the quesos that make you want to dunk your face into them despite the potential damage to your skin. Then we gave them awards to make them feel special. Here they are, the greatest quesos in Houston:
Most Indulgent: Smoky queso "knocked up" at Beaver's
What happens when an oak and maple-smoked barbecue brisket gets "caught banging" a bowl of green chile-spiked asadero cheese? You get the "Knocked Up" smoky queso -- a cheesy, beefy lovechild that only a "gastropub meets Texas icehouse” could conceive. Trust us when we say you want to eat this love child.
Best Queso con Carne: Jose's Dip at Molina's
The city’s oldest Tex-Mex joint claims to be the O.G. of this silken, spicy meat and cheese dip. Some story about a waiter named Jose throwing taco meat into a bowl of chile con queso and BOOM. Magic. We don’t care if it’s true or not. Jose is a genius and his dip is magic.
Best Classic Queso: Chili con queso at Fusion Taco
Like it or not, classic queso is made with highly processed cheese. Fusion Taco ups the ante by using the cheesier Golden Velvet product in lieu of Velveeta. With a little bit of cream, fiery house salsa, and chipotle peppers, the result is a bright orange bowl of cheese that you kind of want to dip your fingers in, but it’s hot, so you settle for fresh chips instead.
Best Surprise in Your Queso: Green chile queso at Torchy’s Tacos
While we are surprised that something this good has come out of Austin, the real surprise here is the guacamole hidden inside this chain’s chunky cheese goo. It makes for a thicker, creamier dip, but the loads of green chiles, Diablo sauce, and queso fresco don’t hurt either.
Best Queso on a Burger: The Ole at Peña’s Donut Heaven
We feel that we shouldn’t have to explain why you should eat this. But we will. Two words. Queso. Burger.
Best Queso for Purists: Queso blanco at Escalante’s
You’ll get fresh tortilla chips and salsa the moment you sit down at this 21-year-old restaurant, but you’re missing out if you don’t order at least one bowl of queso. Don’t be fooled by its paleness, this white cheese dip -- served with green pepper and ground beef accoutrements on the side -- is no joke.
Best Way to Eat Queso Late Night: Tex-Cajun Virgin fries at BB’s Café
Imagine poutine. Now imagine poutine if some madman from the Gulf Coast got a hold of it and replaced cheese curds with spicy, chile-spiked queso and added shreds of the most mouthwatering roast beef to the gravy just because HE’S MAD. You now have this plate of fries that you have taken to Uber-ing yourself to pretty much every weekend.
Best Fusion Queso: MKT Queso at MKT Bar
This creamy white dip is made with four kinds of real cheese, making it about four times as awesome as regular queso. The bowl’s already boasting grilled jalapeño, olives, and roasted peppers along with its melted Beemster, sharp white cheddar, Gruyére, and Kefalograviera (go Greece!); but if you want to make it even better, throw on some cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced kibbeh. Do it.
Best Queso Throwback: Felix’s Queso from El Patio
When Felix Mexican restaurant closed, cheese lovers mourned. Thankfully, El Patio revived the restaurant’s namesake dip. The ultra-cheesy, stupidly greasy dip is a fat boy’s dream. Pile it on your chips, then stuff your face with said chips as you think back on the good ol’ days.
Most Innovative Queso Delivery System: The puffy queso at Los Tios
Los Tios douses its smooth, bright orange chile con queso onto a giant crisp puffy taco ball. One bite and you’ll never look at tortilla chips the same way.
Best Queso Flameado: Queso flameado at Ninfa’s on Navigation
Ninfa’s makes this cheese casserole with a mix of Oaxaca cheeses and spicy-as-hell chorizo, then serves it all melted and stretchy inside hot and fresh grilled tortillas. It’s basically like grilled cheese for grownups.
Best Chips & Queso Combo: Chile con queso & chips at El Tiempo Cantina
The chips that this classic Tex-Mex haunt serves with its superb, velvety cheese dip are made with flour, making them more supportive vehicles for all of that queso that you’re shoving into your mouth. Piping hot, fat, and fluffy, they remind us of a Taco Bell chalupa shell in the best way possible. The plate only holds a handful, so practice your best hand box out or hope your friends are too marg’d up to notice the difference when you switch them out for the free corn chips.
Best Free Queso: Chuy’s happy hour
This could possibly win best queso period. Because, let’s face it, there’s no better queso than free queso. During Chuy’s happy hour, this silky, chile and ranchero-spiked cheese dip is served in a "nacho car" (yes, it’s an actual car) alongside salsa and hot and fresh chips. For FREE.
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Although this Sixth Ward BBQ spot offers top notch ribs and brisket, it has two main attractions: the first is a smoky queso (made with smoked asadero cheese, green chillis, and pico de gallo), while the second is a bacon omelette biscuit: an expertly crafted cheese omelette stacked with copious amounts of bacon and sausage with a chipotle honey and cream gravy blanket. Other menu items include Southern-style fare like fried pickles, barbacoa empanadas, and creative mac 'n' cheese.
Part taco truck, part restaurant, Fusion Taco blends Asian and South American flare for exciting dishes like Chili con Queso and Chicken Tikka Masala tacos.
"Where all good doughnuts go," Peña's Donut Heaven has been serving Texans since '96 and is still going strong with this family-owned Pearland spot. This ain't your average or generic donut shop; when you come here, you're met with a selection of creatively topped donuts and cronuts (oreos, maple bacon, Foot Loops) along with the options of breakfast tacos and breakfast plates stacked high with bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, potatoes and grits.
Live music, pizza, brunch, booze -- there aren't many desirable things in this world that MKT bar doesn't have. Creative takes on American (read: Southern) staples like crispy chicken and waffles, braised lamb tacos, and ground chuck cheeseburgers will have you stuffed, but you'll make the room for a couple drafts from the Lone Star state or a bottle of something sparkling.
El Patio is a restaurant/lounge that offers up delicious Mexican food and margaritas. Make sure to try their "world famous" Felix Queso.
The fajitas at the original Tex-Mex outpost on Navigation earn their cook the title of Mexican fare experts. Alongside the fajitas, staples like mole enchiladas, Oaxacan-style pork tamales, and jalapeño-stuffed Shrimp Diablo (not to mention the head-sized frozen margaritas) take some serious culinary chops, which means these dishes go far above and beyond Houston's other Tex-Mex eateries.