There is a locally famous story about a server at a southwest-side taqueria who was waiting on guests who were—it’s fair to say—not especially experienced with traditional Mexican cuisine. They kept asking her for chips and queso, thinking it was a complimentary item, and clearly not knowing that taquerias typically don’t offer Tex-Mex specialties. She brought them nearly every cheese in the kitchen, and they grew more exasperated with each variety of unmelted cheese she brought. Finally, a bilingual guest intervened, and explained the (at this point) not funny mixup, much to the consternation of the diners. The story illustrates one aspect of the cultural-linguistic divide, the oversimplification of “Mexican food,” and the entrenched idea that modern diners have about what constitutes the basic experience of a Mexican restaurant: It includes queso.
Chile con queso has no authoritative origin story, but the 20th century versions were typically added to menus to attract Anglo guests in Tex-Mex restaurants from San Antonio to Dallas. The creamy dish finally made its way to surrounding states, and now appears on fast food menus as unlikely as Wendy’s all over the U.S. Near the end of the 20th century, complimentary queso became the industry norm for Tex-Mex concepts, but the costs associated with “free” items drove the quality down, so that now many versions are simply chicken stock with powdered cheese.
Rather than feature those sad, often gelatinous frauds, we’re offering a list of premium versions, made with real cheese, and served in portions that practically constitute a meal. Our love for Velveeta and Ro-tel will never die, but these 10 Quesos You Should Try Now are vastly superior.
Barrios – We’re still waiting for the half order of this one, but the full order of its Tex-Mex queso with chorizo is so hearty and delicious, you might find yourself eating the whole bowl. (1000 N Hudson, OKC)
Hacienda Tacos – Both locations of Robby Vernon’s New Mexico-style eatery offer delicious Queso Blanco made with Chihuahua cheese and green chiles, including Hatch when in season. (Multiple Locations)
Big Truck Tacos – OKC residents should know this by now, but just in case: Get the 8-ounce version of BTT’s queso and use it for the chips and the tacos, and then blend in some of your favorite salsa near the end for an even zippier experience. (530 NW 23rd, OKC)
El Huevo Mexi-Diner – The menu includes three modifications for its Queso Blanco. It’s delicious in its own right, but it never hurts to “make it fire queso.” Unless you’re spice-averse, in which case, add the taco meat or chorizo. (3522 24th Ave NW, Norman)
Mi Pueblo – This west-side Tex-Mex concept does many things very well, and its queso blanco is no exception. We love the little kick of heat from the green chiles. (3800 N MacArthur, Warr Acres)
Green Chile Kitchen – It’s been making great food in Yukon for a long time, and still doesn’t get all the love it deserves. Its green chile queso can be served hot or mild, and you already know what we’re recommending. (12 E Main, Yukon)
1492 – Both locations offer the House Speciality, which is essentially loaded queso with beans, beef, guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. 1492’s staffs make a few varieties of queso, so they’re essentially experts, and if you can coax them out of some cilantro queso, you’ll find your life changed. (1207 N Walker and 9213 N Penn, OKC)
Revolucion – They call it fancy queso, and they use it for a few things—including a magical picadillo when the loaded tots are on the menu, and on a burrito or two. Get it as part of the Stoplight, and enjoy the salsa verde and rojo with it. (916 NW 6th, OKC)
Oso on Paseo – This one sounds like a stretch, but its house queso with spinach and mushrooms is delicious, and vegetarian-friendly. (The chorizo version is not vegetarian-friendly, but it’s equally delicious.) (603 NW 28th, OKC)
Mexican Radio – Because the Plaza District was incomplete until this smoky, creamy, spicy dish showed up. It’s probably best just to get it with the Dip Trio so there will be no regrets. (1734 NW 16th, OKC)