El Arroyo – Austin, TX
Last Friday, Amanda and I attended a training on adolescents, trauma, and substance abuse. Don’t lie, I know you’re jealous. The best part of the training was when a person in the audience started talking about Twitter, and the speaker responded with a confused, “I don’t have Tweet.”
(By the way, my blog totally does have “Tweet” now. If you’d like to read about more of my cheese-related shenanigans, follow me @JustInQueso88)
Anyway, after sitting and listening to speakers for a few hours, my friend and I were feeling somewhat droopy, and we needed a pick-me-up. A cheese-me-up, if you will.
We followed a winding, scenic road through a fancy-shmancy area of Austin and landed at a not-so-fancy-shmancy restaurant called El Arroyo. I could tell you about the big, spacious patio, the tasty margaritas, and the ambiance-ruining grackles, but let’s get down to business! We have dairy products to discuss.
Amanda and I were pleased to discover that the restaurant offers an option to “build your own queso” by choosing from a list of ingredients. That’s right – DESIGNER queso. Queso couture. This is truly brilliant on El Arroyo’s part, as you can constantly change up your cheese accompaniments, and therefore, never get bored.
After some raucous and intense arguing, we selected a queso with fajita chicken, serrano peppers, and pico de gallo. It’s important to note that, to date, not a single other queso that we’ve reviewed has contained chicken. There have been various forms of pig, and a little bit of cow, but none of our feathery friends. It was time to give the humble chicken a chance to shine.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate this bad boy:
Before our first bites, we noticed that the chicken and vegetables had been finely chopped, which earned an approving head nod from both of us. It’s difficult to scoop up large chunks of meat, no matter how sturdy the chip. The smaller ingredients really do make for an easier eating experience.
The fajita chicken turned out to be a very wise choice, as it was delicious. Easily the highlight of the dish. I wanted to order an entire bowl of those tiny spicy chicken pieces and eat it like a soup.
That’s not weird. Just go with it.
The serrano peppers were much spicier than we expected – probably because we confused them with their milder pepper cousin, the poblano. Nevertheless, it’s not El Arroyo’s fault that we’re pepper-challenged, so we’re not in any way holding this one against them. Plus, the peppers added lots of flavor to the dish – we just had to consume it in small amounts 🙂
Now for the not-so-good aspects of this meal. The consistency of the queso was quite a bit runnier than desired – liquidy, as opposed to creamy. Even more dreadfully, it hardened as time went by.
Also, the flavor of the cheese itself was completely unimpressive. With the other ingredients added in, it made for an enjoyable all-around dish, but on its own, it was bland and mournfully reminiscent of Velveeta. Use of the artificial cheese-like product is probably also why the queso hardened as it cooled.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Amanda and I like Velveeta. If we’re at home and want nachos, we won’t think twice about throwing some salsa or Rotel on a few spongey cubes of Velveeta, and then zapping it all in the microwave. We’re GOURMET, mothercheesers!
But if we’re at a restaurant and paying decent cheese fees, we do expect something a bit more complicated.
To put it another way, when we eat queso, we want to feel like we’re being run over by a giant, eighteen-wheeler-sized hunk of dairy. Then, just as we’re starting to peel ourselves off of the road, the cheese-mobile goes in reverse and slams us again.
To compare, El Arroyo’s queso only gave us an awkward pat on the shoulder.
When it comes to scoring, El Arroyo totally gets an honorable mention for allowing us to design our own queso. Really. That made us super happy. But as for the queso itself, we gave the restaurant a relatively average score of 3.2.
On a side note, I don’t normally comment on a restaurant’s service, because I write reviews of queso, not of general restaurant experiences. But it seems important to note that the service at El Arroyo was not good. Our server was friendly, and our orders were accurate, but the sheer amount of time spent waiting (and waiting and waiting) for things was pretty bad.
Side note #2, this was officially Just In Queso’s NINETEENTH review. That’s a lot of cheese! To celebrate the big 2-0, we’ll be doing something a bit different, but I’ll keep that a surprise for now 😉
If you’re new to my blog, click here to learn the reason for the cheesin’!