Almost as sacred as the mighty breakfast taco, queso is Austin’s liquid gold.
But not all queso is created equally. Some comes plain, some with garnish and some “cowboy style.” But one thing’s for sure. This ooey-gooey goodness has been perfected in our capital city.
While I do have an opinion on who reigns the queso kingdom in Austin, I’ve decided to simply share with you the top six quesos every person must try in order to be considered an Austinite. You can decide for yourself which one is the best.
#1 Torchy’s Tacos
On your quest for queso, Torchy’s Tacos will probably be the easiest for you to sample since it’s a popular local chain. They have four locations in the 78704 alone. The latest recently opened on South Congress at the former Fran’s Hamburgers location.
This queso is rich and comes with a touch of guacamole, queso fresco, fresh cilantro and a drizzle of diablo sauce. Before eating, be sure to mix it all together to blend the flavors. The diablo sauce is what gives it an orange hue and adds a little kick, but not enough to leave you reaching for your water glass.
Okay, fine. It’s my favorite queso in Austin. But while I do love me some Torchy’s, their queso can be inconsistent from location to location. The texture can vary from rich and creamy to a little runny, but overall the taste has a perfect mix of flavors.
#2 Kerbey Lane Cafe
Kerbey Lane Cafe has six locations in Austin and has been around for 35 years. As you can imagine, they are not newbies in the queso world. The Kerbey Queso is creamy, white and comes with pico de gallo and guacamole. There’s a pretty large amount of guacamole, so I don’t recommend stirring it together like I would at Torchy’s. Instead, scoop equal parts onto a chip.
The flavor is quite mild and doesn’t have a lot of spice, but this queso recipe has been perfected. You can even ask for “cowboy style,” which comes with black beans.
Another local taco powerhouse with five locations in Austin and one in Dallas, Tacodeli has probably the most straightforward queso of the bunch. It’s light, creamy and on the runny side.
And that’s it. No muss, fuss or spice.
But with their award-winning spicy salsas as a counterpart, you can’t blame Tacodeli for keeping their queso mild. I really appreciate the simplicity because it complements any item on the menu.
Trudy’s has been a local icon since 1977 and there are now four locations around Austin, plus South Congress Cafe which is owned by the same restaurant group.
There are two queso options at Trudy’s for indecisive eaters: the traditional chili con queso and a the queso especial. Chili con queso is their original recipe, with loads of peppers and the option to add beef or chicken. Queso especial takes the traditional queso recipe and adds guacamole and spicy pico, making a colorful bowl of golden goodness.
#5 Magnolia Cafe
Another Austin icon, Magnolia Cafe, originally began as The Omelettry West in 1979. There is actually a fascinating history you can read about on this website about how Magnolia Cafe came to be, which some might compare to the Fran’s and Dan’s story. Long story short, as of 1988, Magnolia Cafe had two locations and became a 24/7 diner.
What I love about Magnolia is there are so many versions of queso you can get! Their basic Mag Queso comes with queso, avocado and pico. However, they are most famous for their Mag Mud, which adds black beans to their Mag Queso, similar to the Cowboy Queso at Kerbey Lane. You’ll definitely want to scoop this queso out with a spoon for fear of losing a chip. They also have a lesser known Sonora Queso, which adds spiced ground beef to the Mag Queso and is ideal for the meat eaters of Austin.
#6 El Alma
The most unique of all the quesos on this list, El Alma’s Queso Blanco y Rojo is features white cheese with a red salsa. It’s then topped with onions, mushrooms and rajas (sliced poblano peppers.) And to make it even more unique, it’s served with fried tostadas (flour chips).
Queso Blaco y Rojo is not overwhelmingly spicy and I feel sophisticated every time I eat it. Perhaps it’s the ambiance, since El Alma has an amazing outdoor patio overlooking Butler Park and downtown. A great place for date night.
1025 Barton Springs Road – Website
So there you have it. Distant cousins of Velveeta and Rotel, and sisters to guacamole, these six quesos are the ones you need to try in order to earn your queso badge and get on your way to becoming a real Austinite.
@jpino9 wants to know:
Who do you think reigns the queso kingdom in Austin?