Queso Critique – Texican Café

Texican Café – Austin, Texas

On Valentine’s Day Eve, Amanda and I journeyed through 5 o’clock traffic to get to the Texican Café, an award-winning restaurant known for using spices and flavors unique to El Paso and Mexico. Interestingly, this café was located just down the street from our current queso front-runner, Sazón.

Neighbors in delicious competition.

The timing of our outing was perfect, as it was roughly a year ago that Amanda and I enthusiastically declared our affection for each other as “work wives” – to the slight discomfort of a few of our other coworkers. When you spend so many hours of your day at work, it’s comforting to have someone you can laugh with, vent to, and conspire with. And sometimes, these coworker relationships become strangely marriage-like in their level of support and camaraderie.

So basically, this dinner served as our work-wife anniversary celebration. Or at least the anniversary of our “engagement,” as there hasn’t been a formal wedding. Yet.

After toasting each other with absurdly large alcoholic drinks, the wife and I agreed to order the Queso Flameado, a blend of chorizo and white cheese broiled to perfection in a hot skillet – and then served with homemade corn and flour tortillas. Oh, yes.

 

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The restaurant’s low lighting makes this picture seem strangely sensual.

Right away, we learned a valuable lesson: this dish is not to be recommended for date night. As we used our spoons to scoop up the queso, long strands of cheese followed behind, forcing us to use our fingers to help the process along. At one point, Amanda accidentally dropped a dollop of cheese onto her napkin, and then proceeded to pop it in her mouth like nothing had happened.

I found it charming, but others may disagree.

Another less-than-romantic discovery was that the dish was very, very greasy in a way that previous broiled quesos have not been. Both of us ended up with small puddles on our plates, which we found a teensy bit…gross.

grease

Now, on to the good stuff: the Queso Flameado was intensely, deliciously cheesy. Months ago, we stated in our Queso Criteria that we wanted to be “punched in the face with cheese,” and this dish was certainly up to that challenge. Normally, I want to gobble down as much queso as I can get, but this was one of those cases where less was more – and not at all in a bad way. It was so rich and flavorful, that I could only eat a tortilla and a half before surrendering.

We also appreciated that the chorizo was cut into smaller pieces, which allowed us to more quickly and efficiently scoop it into tortillas. While we’re on the subject of the carb vehicles, Amanda expressed a preference for the corn tortillas, but I was a bit more fond of the flour ones.

Sometimes disagreements happen in a marriage.

When it came time for rating, we both felt that the Queso Flameado deserved a better score than a 9, but the greasiness held us back from giving it a 9.5 – which would have tied it with the current leader.

Therefore, we gave this one a slightly arbitrary fabulous 9.2 (Revised score: 4.2)

Texican Cafe’s website

Queso Critique: Super Taco

Super Taco – Marble Falls, TX

It’s official. All of the decadent, delicious quesos that Amanda and I have tried over the past few months have spoiled us, possibly beyond repair. I say this because our most recent queso, which I would have thoroughly enjoyed a year ago, left me a bit disappointed.

Super Taco is housed in an orange adobe building attached to a gas station. We are in the camp of people who do not need fancy digs in order to enjoy a meal – sometimes, the more ramshackle a place looks, the better! We also thought it was a promising sign that the restaurant was packed when we arrived.

Clearly, the locals approve of this gas station excellence.

The inside was fun and colorful, painted with different shades of yellow and orange – possibly to match the beautiful colors of tortilla chips and cheese. It actually felt a bit like we were sitting in a giant bowl of queso – which I did not consider a bad thing.

The downside to the restaurant being packed is that we had to wait pretty long to get our food. By the time it finally arrived, we didn’t have much time to eat.

I’ll keep this review short and sweet salty. The queso had a nice cheese flavor, but the consistency was a bit thinner than we like, and there was absolutely no spice.

This is what I mean when I say that other dishes have spoiled us – in the past, I likely would have found Super Taco’s queso to be quite tasty and easily scarfed it down. But now that I know what a queso CAN be – deliciously creamy and spicy, and chock-full of meat and other ingredients – I find myself a bit let down by a more lackluster version.

We gave this dish a ho-hum score of 5 out of 10 (Revised score: 1). As established in a previous review , a 5 is adequate enough to keep eating, but really nothing special.

On a side note, Super Taco is worth visiting for the tacos. Those things are both monstrous and amazingly cheap. And yummy, of course. If you want to eat something larger than your own head without breaking the bank, this is the place for you.

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Queso Criteria

 

Queso Critique: River City Grille, part 2

River City Grille (Marble Falls)

We heard through the grapevine (or the internet) that the River City Grille was offering a new queso on their menu. We had already tried their  Green Chile Queso a couple months ago and had given it a respectable rating, so we were willing to give the new one a shot – especially since it involved smoked pork. Because Texas.

Amanda and I showed up to the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon, which means that neither of us had on makeup or real pants. But it’s okay, because queso loves you no matter how you look. Queso never judges.

One of the things we had enjoyed about the  Green Chile Queso at our last visit was the creamy texture, though we’d actually found the consistency just a bit too thick. Keeping that in mind, it was surprising to us when the Smoked Pork Queso arrived looking much more…liquidy. And drippy.

Nothing says sophistication like cheese running down your chin.

After several bites of the queso, we realized that neither of us had gotten any pork yet, and we theorized that the meat had fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Amanda also wisely guessed that the juices from the pork might be the culprit of the thin consistency.

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We sent the chips on a diving expedition to get to the meat, and were saddened to discover that there was very little in the dish at all. The few bites of queso we managed to get with pork were delicious, but in agonizingly short supply.

We settled on a score of 6.5 (Revised score: 2.3) for the Smoked Pork Queso, which is actually a little lower than the rating we gave to the Green Chile Queso. This new one had good flavor, but an extreme lack of meat and a too-thin consistency unfortunately brought the score down.

River City Grille’s website

Queso criteria