Kerbey Lane Café (Austin)
Finally, it was time to make the pilgrimage to our first queso establishment. Kerbey Lane Café has several locations throughout Austin, and is known for its classic diner food, fluffy pancakes, and yes – bowls of melty cheese. I’d had a chaotic, stressful day at work (as a mental health professional, that just kind of comes with the territory), and I was looking forward to a cheesy tranquilizer. Amanda’s children and sister Katrina joined us for the experience.
The menu offered two different queso options, which filled us with inexplicable affection for the restaurant. We chose the Kerbey Queso, which came with dollops of guacamole and pico de gallo swimming right in the center. Neither the adults nor the kids wasted any time grabbing chips and dunking them right in.
Although Amanda and I were the only ones giving ratings (we’re judgmental like that), we were certainly open to suggestions and comments from the others. Everyone agreed right away that this queso deserved a good score – the consistency was creamy without being too thick, and the flavor was wonderfully cheesy and seasoning-y. With a bonus half-point added on for the guacamole, we gave Kerbey a solid 8.5 rating (Revised: 3.5).
Our quest was off to an excellent start!
By the way, I wish I could say that we later ordered healthy salads to balance out the meal, but we accidentally ordered a dish that involved eggs and bacon being topped with more queso. I have no regrets.
Maudie’s (Bee Cave)
Our second destination was to Maudie’s, a laid-back but lively Tex-Mex restaurant with numerous locations in Austin and surrounding cities. I had eaten at Maudie’s before and knew their enchiladas were pretty good, so I was eager to try the Chile Con Queso. We got a table on the outside patio and immediately demanded (and by demanded, I mean politely requested) margaritas. It was Amanda’s birthday, so we were in a bit of a celebratory mood, but to be truthful, we didn’t really need a reason to order them. We’re margarita people.
In appearance, Maudie’s queso looked very much like the standard queso you expect to see – yellow cheese blended with chilies. Amanda and I chewed our chips thoughtfully, making happy humming noises. The cheese level was on point, but we agreed that there was very little other flavor in there, despite the presence of chilies. We concluded that the queso tasted decent enough for us to keep eating it, but was not something to get really excited about.
Frankly, the ideal queso should taste so delicious that you become irrationally angry with the other people at your table – because they’re eating the queso too, and that means you get less of it. Maudie’s queso did not give me any ill feelings toward Amanda. We did notice that adding some salsa kicked it up a notch, but that seemed like cheating. Also, as the queso cooled, the previous liquidy consistency became quite thick and difficult to stab with a tortilla chip. A definite no-no.
After much deliberation, we gave Maudie’s Chile Con Queso a 5 (Revised: 1). For this and future ratings, we determined that a 5 would be a fair score for anyone whose queso is tasty “enough”, but is nothing really special. Probably no one will score below a 5, unless there are major problems. (I’m not sure what major problems could arise from a bowl of cheese, but you never know. Never challenge the cheese gods.)