SpareFeet are a hungry bunch, and we love professing our love of food. After all, we are a startup bred to ox-like strength by a consistent diet of beer, champagne and breakfast tacos. Beer for our brains. Champagne for our hearts. Breakfast tacos for our bones. And the blood that runs through our veins? It’s cheese—chile con queso, to be exact. How else are we going to win the Austin Startup Games again next year?
Behold our paean to chile con queso (or just queso): The gloriously cheesy, seductively gooey, already-melted-in-your-mouth-but-soon-to-melt-your-heart nectar of the gods.
What Makes Queso So Great?
Where to begin? If you don’t eat queso at least once a week, something is missing in your life. (That something is called dairy—sorry to all of our lactose-intolerant friends! Check out the delicious alternative at Food for Lovers.) Beyond shredded cheese, fancy cheese plates and even the enjoyable cheese of “Titanic,” nothing can beat the superior cheesiness of chile con queso.
Chile con queso is the crowning glory of Tex-Mex. It’s usually made up of glorious cheese (Velveeta is best for meltability), cream, chili peppers, and a whole slew of other optional miscellania like pico de gallo, avocado, black beans and meat.
Some people call queso “cheese dip.” This is a grave mistake that should be avoided at all costs, lest ye wish to suffer the wrath of horrified Texans everywhere. “Cheese dip” is wimpy. QUESO describes what it really is … a righteous baptism of cheese.
The History of Chile con Queso
Some believe that chile con queso originated in 1935 in central Arkansas, attributing it to a Little Rock restaurant called Mexico Chiquito. Others believe it started with Janie and Matt Martinez Sr.’s Matt’s El Rancho in Austin in 1952.
Whatever the origins of queso may be, one thing is for sure: Queso is king, and most Texans, especially Austinites, are obsessed. The typical cycle is as follows:
Step 1: You order queso without thinking. If you are thinking, it’s about queso.
Step 2: You eat it by plunging whatever you can find into its glorious lake—tortilla chips, queso chips, your fingers, your face.
Step 3: You paw at the ever-dwindling basket of chips (queso boats), silently calculating the right queso-to-chip ratio for maximum ROI.
Step 4: You feel uncomparable sadness as you watch the last glob of cheese disappear from the bowl. You secretly hate whoever took it.
Step 5: You contemplate ordering a second bowl, just because you’d like to see that glorious, vibrant work of culinary art one more time.
Step 6: You enter into queso withdrawal and write things like this.
The queso itself is not too thick, not too runny, so it actually stays on your chip but doesn’t get gelatinous too quickly. That consistency is key.
— Rachel Greenfield, Torchy’s Tacos queso fiend
All for Queso, and Queso for All
I asked SpareFeet where they indulge in their cheesy lover in Austin. Their overwhelming response? Torchy’s Tacos.
Here’s how Torchy’s green chile queso transforms SpareFoot’s own Rachel Greenfield from a marketing machine into a queso fiend:
This is an elegantly crafted queso, wherein the perfect amount of spicy heat meets cooler flavors and amazing texture.
The inner core of this queso is a glob of guacamole. This is top-notch guac with the right balance of lime and cilantro flavor. The queso itself is not too thick, not too runny, so it actually stays on your chip but doesn’t get gelatinous too quickly. That consistency is key.
This gloriousness is topped with a drizzle of diablo hot sauce. I love this beautiful red sauce because it’s not vinegary and packs a lot of Mexican flavor with its heat. Finally—this may be my favorite feature—cool queso fresco (cotija cheese) is crumbled atop the masterpiece.
Your first bite is heavenly. The coolness of the queso fresco and guac meets the diablo heat and all the spices inherent to the queso itself. Their chips are good, too! Sometimes you get one that’s too salty or too hard, but for the most part they are delightfully crisp, thin and warm.
She’s not the only one at SpareFoot who gives more than glowing reviews to Torchy’s queso.
- “Torchy’s queso is the BOMB! They put guacamole in their queso, for God’s sake!”–Zach Bird
- “Green chiles make it a whole new experience.”–Tony Emerson
- “Torchy’s was one of the first places I had queso after moving to Austin and won my heart from the first bite!”–Josh Tong
- “It has an addicting spicy kick to it!”–Michi Hu
- “It’s like crack in a bowl. I can’t stop eating it.”–Storie Cunningham
- “I love Torchy’s queso because of how spicy it is!”–Jeanette DeHay
- “Torchy’s, because it’s the only one worth eating.”–Craig Barrett
Other SpareFoot queso favorites include Polvos, Magnolia Cafe’s Mag Mud (“Usually when I go, I just get a Mag Mud and call it a day,” developer Evan Huston said), Chuy’s happy hour queso bar and Queso Compuesto, Curra’s Grill, Zocalo Cafe and, of course, the original Matt’s El Rancho (“You can get it in a giant bowl and swim in it,” SEO specialist Josh Waldrum said shamelessly).
The huge range of responses just shows how deeply ingrained queso has become in our everyday lives. Work, play, sleep, drink, queso. Repeat.
Photos courtesy of pointaustin.com, chickenfriedeverything.com, tapiture.com