Photography by Catherine Downes.

Taste Test Thursday: Chips and Queso

We gathered six different versions of the cheesy appetizer from area restaurants. Some were neon yellow, others were white and flecked with peppers, but only one reigned supreme.

Queso is more than just a bowl of melted cheese. The creamy and delicious appetizer comes in a variety of flavors, colors, and consistencies. Some recipes call for cream, while others require chicken broth, and some get down to the nitty-gritty by using Velveeta. Regardless of how it’s made, there’s something undeniably satisfying about grabbing a tortilla chip and diving into a piping hot bowl of queso.

For this week’s taste test we gathered six different versions of the cheesy appetizer from area restaurants. Some were neon yellow, and others were white and flecked with peppers, but only one reigned supreme. Here’s what happened.

The chips and queso:

A. El Fenix
B. Mr. Mesero
C. Gloria’s
D. Mi Cocina
E. Meso Maya
F. Torchy’s Tacos

Tasting notes:

El Fenix

  • Apparently I like thin chips, this one had a nice texture to it. The queso was less impressive, it needed something to make it interesting.
  • Overwhelming flavor of stale onion powder.
  • Kind of gummy with a strong Velveeta bent. Pepper flavor but no heat. Chips tastes like store bought, I feel like this would be easy to make at home.
  • Chips are light, airy, and crispy. The queso is the opposite.
  • Chips are slacking. Queso does not pick up said slack.
  • Fine queso. The chips are a pleasant surprise, light and a little airy.
  • Eh, seems like just jarred queso.
  • Chip is nice. Thin, crunchy. Queso is a little bland, thin.
  • This one is a bit bland.

Mr. Mesero

  • The chip’s size made it a little daunting. The queso was fine, though. Nothing to write home about.
  • I appreciate the spinach, adds a nice, fresh, flavor-dimension. Love this crisp chip! The least salty combo, which is a plus.
  • This looks like spinach and artichoke dip. Oddly, it sort of tastes like it, too. The chips have such a corn flavor that they overpower the mildness of the queso blanco.
  • Fantastic chip, strong, study, and thick. That’s quality. Queso is one of the best, I love the poblano.
  • Respect due to unconventional chips. Queso good and thick.
  • This is Mesero, right? I recognize it by the really great white queso paired with brick-like chips.
  • Bland, could use some salt. You would think it’d have more taste with the spinach. It did have a little heat, though, which was nice.
  • Thicker white queso, gooey, got a nice spice. Chip is too thick and too big.
  • Thick and gooey, I don’t like the texture.

Gloria’s

  • Both chips and queso were pretty traditional.
  • The pretties of the quesos. So glossy. Strong pepper flavor and a nice kick. Chips are too salty, though.
  • Sharp cheese flavor with an awesome variety of peppers. Chips are ideal, crisp, light, delivery devices. Small amount of heat at the end.
  • Bad chips and queso, both taste cheap.
  • Nothing special, but a good “salt of the earth-type queso.”
  • Sort of resembles yellow Play-Doh. Not much flavor from the chips or the queso.
  • Nice strong pepper taste with some heat.
  • Like the roasted pepper flavor in the queso but it could stand to be spicier.
  • Yummy cheddar-y flavor.

Mi Cocina

  • This was the least visually appealing. Tasted the most processed, bad aftertaste.
  • It’s as if someone added tomato powder to this. Texture looks like it, too.
  • This seems thin, and there’s way too strong a tomato flavor. Chips are sturdy, though.
  • Standard Tex-Mex chips, queso is less than special. Might have come from a jar.
  • Boooooo.
  • Hard chips. Not offensive, but not the most flavorful.
  • Not strong enough. Seems a little too watered down.
  • Queso is too thin, tastes of sour milk. Yuck. Chips are also too thick.
  • This one was OK, I didn’t love it or hate it.

Meso Maya

  • The cheesiness is pretty strong. It’s a fine combination, but bland.
  • It’s like I’m eating liquid Kraft Singles. Not complaining.
  • No.
  • Love the chips, love the queso. Big chunks of tomato and pepper. Plus, white cheese feels less processed.
  • A + chip design, perfect for scooping. Queso is underwhelming.
  • Yikes! Is this just a nuked bowl of cream cheese?
  • Strong cheese taste. Didn’t enjoy the consistency, kind of chunky.
  • White queso, just tastes of melted cheese with no other flavor to it at all. I like the shape of the chips (in strips).
  • I like the chip shape, but the queso is too salty.

Torchy’s Tacos

  • Nice, thin chips. The queso is a perfect blend of cheese, salsa, and spice. It had just enough kick to slow me down, but not enough to stop me from eating. (I tried this one first and it ruined the whole thing, nothing else could live up.)
  • Spiciest of the bunch, not into how vegetable-y it tastes. Chips tastes like wontons aka grease.
  • Chips are way too salty, and while I kind of respect the heat of this one, it’s trying too hard to fancy up cheese.
  • Chips are deceptively good, if a little salty. Queso is near perfect, nice amount of spice.
  • I’m a big sucker for avocado stuff and spiciness. This is killer.
  • Zippy! Chips were pretty good, though could be a bit stale? But the good ones reminded me of my favorite light, corn chips from El Rancho in Fort Worth.
  • Nice heat. Strong pepper zing. Love the consistency.
  • Delicious queso. Spicy, love the green chilies.
  • Spicy and delicious.

Tally up:

El Fenix 1
Mr. Mesero 2
Gloria’s 2
Mi Cocina 0
Meso Maya 0
Torchy’s Tacos 4

The winner is:

Torchy’s Tacos wins this week’s taste test challenge with four votes. Their queso is a “green chili queso” and comes garnished with queso fresco, cilantro, guacamole, and hot sauce. So what do you think of the results? Do you agree? What’s your favorite queso in town? Let’s talk about it.

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