Taste Test Thursdays

Taste Test: Non-Tex-Mex Queso

Because everybody loves queso.

Reputations are important. They can grant you access to lavish dinner parties or leave you deserted in back alleys to go head-to-head with dumpster rodents over discarded pâté de campagne. Maintaining a decent reputation takes work. Polishing your character takes years. Plus, before you pull out the lemon-scented Pledge and cotton rag, you need to determine which type of vibe you’re going for. Punctual and patient? Solicitous and seductive? Unapologetically unconventional? Absorbed by alliteration?

I could feel my reputation slipping around the office over the past couple of months. I had asked my colleagues to eat egg salad. This resulted in a golf ball-sized ding to my shiny façade. A week later, I requested they drink non-dairy milks, which all-but-totaled my disposition. I was no longer perceived as the nice lady who shares delicious snacks. I was, in their eyes, a heinous hag who had caused discomfort by triggering their gag reflexes. I was one misstep away from being cast into that rat-filled alley. I needed to fix this.

So, I bought queso. Everybody loves queso.

We’d already taste tested Tex-Mex queso. You can read about it here. This week, as a fun twist, we tasted queso that can be found on the menus of non-Tex-Mex restaurants. It was a success. Their pitchforks dropped to the floor as they reached for tortilla chips and dunked them into the yellow goop.

I was safe. (For now.)

Here’s what happened.

The queso:

A. Haystack Burgers and Barley
B. Happiest Hour
C. Smoky Rose
D. BrainDead Brewing
E. Dot’s Hop House & Cocktail Courtyard

Tasting notes:

Haystack Burgers and Barley

This is the Cracker Barrel of queso. Smooth texture and creaminess, not too spicy but enough there to make it taste like queso is supposed to taste. Total comfort queso.

You know, after pushing so hard against the assorted fake milks last time, it feels like no coincidence that we’re awarded with queso. You have to be the change you want to see in this world. This particular variety, however, is extremely meh.

Tasty. Classic Tex-Mex flavor. The chips are good, too.

Most similar to a traditional Tex Mex queso. Felt like Mi Cocina.

Standard flavor. I like the peppers and tomatoes.

This was my favorite. The consistency was nice and smooth and the flavor wasn’t too strong. The chips were crunchy.

A good mix of flavors and good consistency. Chips were perfect.

A good creamy queso with a classic chip. You honestly can’t go wrong. There isn’t much texture but sometimes the cheese is all you need.

Happiest Hour

This is the Applebees of queso. It is not that the queso is bad, but there just isn’t much to it. Not enough spice, and the texture is a bit congealed rather than creamy. It is attempting to be something it can’t quite grasp.

More flavorful than it looks. Got some pizazz, some pop, some spunk!

Bland. Still liquid cheese, would eat.

I’m a sucker for a salty chip. While I was a little hesitant about the consistency of the queso (looked almost blended), the combo worked out.

A little bland, mostly just cheese. Not worth the calories.

The texture was interesting and I’m not sure if it was a good or a bad thing. The flavor was great and had more of a kick to it than A.

A little too thick but nice flavor.

The consistency is different, Seems like a hummus-queso blend? Kind of like if there was a wholegrain, healthy version of queso.

Smoky Rose

This is the BJ’s of queso. It knows who it is and what it wants to be. It isn’t afraid to be a little bolder with the flavors and is the best of the bunch. The avocado, cotija cheese, and chunks of jalapeño make it extra tasty.

Reminiscent of Elmer’s glue. Not bad.

Ooh I like this one. It’s aesthetically appealing and has a nice, smoky kick. I would order that.

Props for originality and a bit of a spice kick, but chips almost felt stale.

Like the white queso. It has a kick to it and lots of peppers and meat.

I like my queso when it’s not too out there. And this one was definitely out there. This had the most kick to it, and the most texture.

Nice mix of flavors, unique, not too cheesy, great creamy texture.

I deeply wanted to like this queso because there’s nothing like a white queso. But there is too much going on here. I can’t even put a finger on the flavors but I’m not a fan. Chips are nice, though. (Disclaimer: I hate cilantro.)

BrainDead Brewing

This is the Chili’s of queso. It is solid and savory and has a bit of spice, but more complex than some of the others. It’s the kind you could make at home, but probably won’t.

I wish there were better chips involved here, but this wins. It’s kind of cheating, because of the guac. I mean, if you really want to get loaded queso, you should go to E-Bar. But, yes, for our purposes here, this wins.

Good chip. Decent queso. It’s pretty much a spin on Matt’s El Rancho’s famous Bob Armstrong dip. I want number C again.

Didn’t do much for me.

This one has guac in it and I’m not thrilled with the texture.

D was similar tp A and probably comes second. The chips were nice and classic and the dip wasn’t too spicy.

Odd texture.

Nope. tastes like three-day-old queso that was left in a hot car.

Dot’s Hop House & Cocktail Courtyard

Hello, this is Catherine. The food runner who picked up this queso was two hours late. So, we didn’t get to include it in the taste test. However, when I stuck all of the leftover chips and queso out on the office’s free table, this was first to vanish. So, it’s safe to say that people enjoyed it.

Tally up:

A. Haystack Burgers and Barley 4

B. Happiest Hour 1

C. Smoky Rose 2

D. BrainDead Brewing 1

E. Dot’s Hop House & Cocktail Courtyard N/A

The winner is:

Haystack Burgers and Barley is the winner of this week’s taste test. This queso is good. Read more about it here. Have a nice day. And don’t forget to polish that reputation.

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