Chili’s – Anywhere, U.S.A.
For anyone who may not know, my same-named cheese-friend Amanda and I taste-test chips and queso at different restaurants in the Austin, Texas, area. We judge the melty cheese on its consistency and flavor, and give it a score between 0 and 5.
We don’t usually go to chain restaurants, because what fun would that be? Our interests lie in the more creative, off-the-beaten path, regional bowls of melty cheese that represent Central Texas. We also realize that large chains are not the places to find unique and exciting new dishes. We are cheese adventurers, not tourists!
However, we noticed that when we discussed our queso journey with friends and coworkers, Chili’s name kept coming up. Some raved about its majestic deliciousness, and others strongly encouraged us to spend our money elsewhere.
We needed to venture to Chili’s in order to render a final opinion. To settle things once and for all.
We found seats at the patio bar and admired the pretty view while we sipped on margaritas and waited for our Skillet Queso to come out – unaware that the margaritas would be the best thing we ate that day.
When the food came out, we didn’t have our usual reaction of glee. Instead, we frowned a little. The queso was an unusual and rather off-putting color.
I’m just going to come out and say it – this “queso” quickly reminded us of the used diaper we’d seen in the parking lot on the way into the restaurant. In both color and texture. Clearly, we should have seen the yucky Pampers as a foreshadowing of the food we’d eat.
Trying to be open-minded, we brushed off thoughts of dirty diapers and tentatively dipped our chips into the queso.
Here’s the thing.
This stuff didn’t taste bad, but it was NOT queso. It was meaty and seasoning-y, and tasted a lot like the Wolf Brand Chili that you pour out of a can and dollop on top of hot dogs. But there lies the problem – that’s not normal (or desired) in a dish that is supposed to be mostly cheese! We love extra ingredients like guacamole and meat and peppers, but the cheese-to-other-ingredient ratio must be respected. Honored.
Devastatingly, this dish didn’t taste of cheese at all.
Let’s all take a moment of silence to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation.
This “queso” was not what it was claiming to be. It was an imposter. A brown, lumpy, cheese-less failure. As devotees of cheese we were not just sad or disappointed, we were betrayed. How dare this imposter promise cheesy gooey satisfaction and deliver a meaty mess!
Rating this one was surprisingly tough, because again – the taste was okay. Amanda and I agreed that if it were advertised as something else, perhaps called, “Skillet Meat Stuff,” we would have liked it just fine, and not made any major complaints (aside from the generic blandness of it.)
But my blog is called “Just in Queso,” not “Just in Skillet Meat Stuff.” That’d be a terrible blog name, anyway.
The point is, Chili’s is marketing this creature as a queso, so we’re going to judge it like one. Under our new scoring system, a 0 is supposed to reflect a queso that is so disgusting, we couldn’t continue eating it. That seemed a bit too harsh for this one, because it wasn’t exactly inedible swill. But for the reasons discussed, major points had to be deducted.
So we gave the Skillet Queso a .5.
And now, to our loved ones who raved about Chili’s queso – let us extend our deepest sympathies to you, because clearly, you must have lost all of your taste buds in some sort of horrific accident. Perhaps you drank acid by mistake one day. It’s the only way to explain why you would love this dish so much.
And to those poor souls who have never tried queso and have been looking for places to sample it – please, for the love of the Holy Swiss, don’t even consider Chili’s.
P.S. – We don’t typically order more than one queso per restaurant visit, but the Skillet Meat Stuff left us feeling angry and cheese-deprived, so we ordered the other kind of queso that they offer in order to give it a shot. Stay tuned for that review later this week 🙂