“Cheese—milk’s leap towards immortality.”
~Clifton Paul Fadiman
Okay, let me start out by saying I didn’t plan it this way. I promise. Don’t judge me. I didn’t plan to devote a whole post to queso… but it just happened.
Anyone who knows me knows I love cheese. I adore it. But when I came to Dallas, I was going to do one of my usual food roundups with my local favorites. BBQ, soul food, seafood, the works. But at every restaurant my buddy Leah took us to for our “taste of Dallas” tour we ended up having queso. Soon it became the central theme. So I decided to roll with it.
I do wish I had more time to sample more amazing cheese. I got more recommendations while there (people seemed a bit passionate about the subject). But alas, I ran out of time. But here are three 5-star quesos that speak to the Tex-Mex culture in Dallas.
Chili Con Queso
What Made This Queso Awesome: When we got to Gloria’s, we didn’t even look at the menu. We didn’t order entrees. Queso was the main attraction. That (and the drink below) was the whole reason for the stop. So what made it so fantastic? The richness. The cheese was thick and decadent, not to mention the peppers for added flavor. But the real game-changer: The seasoned ground beef we added. This took the whole dish to a whole another level, as it perfectly complimented the rich cheese. I was actually a little sad when it was gone.
Bonus: There is a drink called the Sangria Margarita Swirl. Sangria… Margarita… Swirl. And it packed a punch, too! They definitely didn’t go light on the tequila, which facilitated the chip munching even more.
Double Bonus: Complimentary with the standard chips and salsa (and the salsa was very good) is Gloria’s Black Bean Dip. I am typically not one to go overboard on a bean dip, let alone a black bean dip, but this was a pleasant surprise! And it comes with unlimited refills, with the chips and salsa. I ate way too much in one sitting.
What Made This Queso Awesome: White Cheddar. Period. White Cheddar changed everything. Admittedly, we didn’t even come here for the queso. But whoa, buddy, when it came out, we were delighted by the different take on queso. We were in decadent heaven! We had “picadillo” (read: pico de gallo) on top and that added acidity perfectly complimented the white cheddar. Pure perfection. I had never contemplated a white cheddar queso and now I don’t know why it isn’t done more often.
Bonus: The appetizers! We sampled a few. I am not the biggest fan of tomatoes and I definitely don’t like oysters, but The Ranch changed my perception on these items. The personal change started with the fried green tomatoes. Wow! Coupled with an avocado cream sauce, I would have that again for sure. Why doesn’t everyone serve FGT like this? Then, we had the Cornmeal Fried Texas Gulf Oysters, served with pico de gallo and a remoulade sauce. I admit I wasn’t sure how this was going to work (oysters fried?) nor how it was going to taste (because I don’t typically like slimy texture) but I was more than pleasantly surprised. They were delicious! Another couple of scores for The Ranch.
Double Bonus: Honestly, I am not really that picky… but I also don’t like potato salad. But once again, The Ranch changed my mind. They serve a Warm Roasted Marble Potato Salad with their entrees and man oh man was it different than anything I had ever had.
Triple Bonus: The food was amazing, but what also stuck out was the exceptional service. TJ, our server was more than attentive and friendly, and the manager came by our table and checked on us frequently. It was the type of service you forget exists because it is so rare. The type of service that makes a restaurant stand out from the rest. Kudos!
Green Chili Queso
What Made This Queso Awesome: Torchy’s catchphrase is “Damn Good Tacos.” Their catchphrase should be “Damn Good Tacos… and Queso… and Margaritas…Just Damn Good.” A few people said that Torchy’s has the best queso in town, so naturally I had to check it out. Their Green Chili Queso is the stuff of legends. The homemade chips compliment the green chilis and cheese. Oh, but there’s more. The queso is topped off with “Diablo sauce,” cilantro, and guacamole! Yep, guac on the queso. We got a second order.
Bonus: Torchy’s menu is actually overwhelming. Seriously. I was having sensory overload, and I checked out the menu ahead of time. There are entirely too many taco choices, and they all sounded amazing. But I managed to limit myself to two tacos: The Democrat and the Trailer Park. The Democrat was delicious barbacoa with cilantro, onions, queso fresco and avocado. It was such a rich, flavorful barbacoa. But my all time favorite: The Trashy Trailer Park taco. The Trailer Park features fried chicken, green chilis, cheese, pico, and a poblano sauce. How could you go wrong with a fried chicken taco, seriously? And to top it off, you could order it “trashy” and substitute the lettuce for queso. You know I did that… Why would someone pass that option up?
Double Bonus: The extras were amazing. I had the mango-strawberry margarita swirl and it was so smooth it was like a smoothie! And with sugar on the rim= added bonus. Also, we sampled the Lil’ Nookies, which is deep fried cookie dough. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Drool!
So those are my top queso picks. I think I may forever compare future quesos to these three, which may not be fair. It is Texas after. Tex-Mex is named for the state.
But sound off: what are your favorite Dallas, Texas, or anywhere-else quesos? Who knows, I may stop by when I am in that neck of the woods. J