ATXGuide

The Austin Queso Power Rankings

Where to eat giant bowls of hot, melted cheese.
a bowl of queso

photo credit: Richard Casteel

You’ll find a thick layer of bubbling queso at Austin’s core. It’s a staple of nearly every Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurant in town, and it’s the crowd-pleasing app that both picky four-year-olds and people in search of late-night munchies can unite over.

So after hours of highly scientific research (check out our full taste test here), we’ve determined the very best bowls of gooey, melted cheese you can get in Austin. We considered everything—the texture of the cheese, the structural integrity of the chip, and the overall flavor of each restaurant’s signature or fully loaded offering. Here are the best quesos in Austin, ranked.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Lambert's

BBQ

Downtown Austin

$$$$Perfect For:Corporate CardsImpressing Out of TownersDinner with the Parents
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Adding brisket burnt ends to queso almost feels like cheating. But when the end result is rich and buttery queso filled with smoky nuggets of brisket like this, we’re happy to let it slide. Besides, it’s not really cheating if there’s no victim (except for maybe the cow. RIP). This is the queso we would send to represent Austin in any cheese-based competition, worldwide. And the housemade chips are thick and crunchy enough to hold up to all that pressure. 

What we got: Chipotle queso with burnt ends

There are roughly 100 Chuy’s locations across the United States, but this Tex-Mex empire started right here in Austin on Barton Springs Road. And it’s an empire built largely on melted cheese. This queso has all the melt factor of a typical Velveeta-based version, but with a few other cheeses mixed in to add some great flavor and texture, while a bit of green chili and ranchero sauce add some much-needed kick. We like the fully loaded version with ground beef, guacamole, and pico, but the cheese in this holds up on its own. The chips can be a little brittle, but not enough to prevent us from enjoying each bite. 

What we got:  Queso, fully loaded

We’re not huge fans of the tacos at Torchy’s, but we can’t deny that they make some excellent queso. The cheese stays soft and melty for far longer than it should—probably due to some combination of witchcraft and chemicals—and there’s plenty of green chili in it, adding a little kick and a bit of earthiness. Torchy’s queso is worth the trip alone—stop by just for that and a drink—but if you’re looking for great tacos, we’ve got plenty of other spots we’d recommend first. 

What we got: Green chili queso and chips

Kerbey Lane has made a name for itself on three things: early morning food, late-night bites, and Kerbey Queso. The classic queso gave us strong Velveeta vibes on the cheese alone—there wasn’t enough added in to prevent it from tasting like plastic. But the additions of fresh guacamole and pico in the Kerbey Queso make it memorable. If you’re ordering the classic queso, add some chorizo for a little oomph, otherwise stick with the Kerbey Queso—that’s where they shine. 

What we got: Kerbey Queso

photo credit: Richard Casteel

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The first thing you’ll notice about the queso at De Nada is the heavy amount of black pepper in and on top of it. It’s almost overwhelming at first, but we find that after the first few bites, that pepperiness mixes in and becomes a welcome addition to a giant bowl of melted cheese. The chips here are some of the better ones we’ve come across—they’re just thick enough to hold up to a generous amount of cheese without feeling dense. At around $6, this is also one of the best values on this list. 

What we got:  Chips with queso blanco and salsa verde

It’s only $1 extra to get Fresa’s queso fully loaded, so it feels like you’re losing money by ordering the classic. The fully loaded comes with black beans, guacamole, chorizo, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and vinegary salsa bruja mixed into the melted cheese. If that sounds like a mouthful, just imagine how it feels to the chip that has to carry that weight. You could pour this over chips and call them nachos. There’s a lot going on, but the ratios are good and it’s an overall solid dip, even if the cheese gets a little lost in the mix. 

What we got:  Queso, totally loaded

For only a quarter, you can add guacamole to Maudie’s chile con queso. We highly recommend spending the extra $0.25—it makes an otherwise ordinary queso just a little bit more memorable. This isn’t our favorite queso of the bunch, but it should help pass the time while you’re waiting for your second margarita to arrive. 

What we got:  Chile con queso, add guacamole

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

The queso at Tacodeli is perfectly fine, and also perfectly forgettable. Nothing about it stands out, but nothing about it disappoints, either. Except maybe the size—a small order is only $5, but it’s also the tiniest portion of queso we’ve ever seen. Good luck finishing more than a dozen chips before you’re scraping the bottom of the bowl. 

What we got: Queso and chips

The Bob Armstrong dip at Matt’s El Rancho is excellent when enjoyed within 10 minutes of preparation. After that, it starts to congeal into a semi-solid mix that tastes like plastic and processed cheese topped with cold ground beef and lukewarm guacamole. Matt’s may have scored low in our blind taste test, but we still think it holds up when you’re enjoying it in a packed dining room with a margarita in hand. Get the large if you have a big party, otherwise this queso is dense enough that a small order should go a long way. 

What we got: Bob Armstrong dip

There’s very little cheese in the loaded queso at Trudy’s. In fact, it’s almost entirely refried beans, which is great if you’re a bean enthusiast or sensitive to lactose. It’s a little too thick and chunky to really enjoy—we’d stick to the classic queso. Or just get a few Mexican martinis and forget about the cheese entirely. 

What we got: Loaded queso 

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Suggested Reading

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The Best Tex-Mex Restaurants In Austin

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16 restaurants that remind us how incredible Mexican food is in this city.

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