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Liquid gold: Best places for chile con queso — the national snack food of Texas

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Molina's Cantina queso Jose's Dip with chips
Molina's delicious José’s Dip was allegedly created by a long-ago waiter named — what else? — José, when a diner asked him to add some meat to the cheese dip.  Photo courtesy of © Molina's Cantina
Mia's Table fish tacos snapper tacos with queso and chips
And there’s even queso — no chiles — at Mia’s. Mia's Table/Facebook
Beaver's Houston chips and queso with iced tea
There’s a darn fine version at Beaver’s, the icehouse cum barbeque joint from chef Monica Pope, made with smoked asadero cheese, green chiles and pico de gallo. Photo by Jen/Foursquare
Molina's Cantina queso Jose's Dip with chips
Mia's Table fish tacos snapper tacos with queso and chips
Beaver's Houston chips and queso with iced tea

In honor of Cinco de Mayo — a Mexican holiday co-opted by white, yuppie Americans as a day to drink massive amounts of tequila — let’s all raise a corn chip to chile con queso, the national snack food of Texas.

This gooey cheese dip has been around for decades, mostly as a Tex-Mex staple, but its deliciousness can now be found far and wide.

 This gooey cheese dip has been around for decades, mostly as a  Tex-Mex staple, but its deliciousness can now be found far and wide.

And why not? It’s cheese dip, usually with peppers and tomatoes, sometimes more. The classic American home recipe consists of a brick of Velveeta and a can of Ro✩Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles, nuked in a microwave. Simple, easy, fast. And good. Perfect game day food and a must have for Cinco de Mayo.

But some local eateries kick it up a notch. I like the one at El Real Tex-Mex. They serve up some good stuff, blending three different types of cheese, chiles and tomatoes and you can add fajita beef or picadillo — spicy ground taco meat — on top. Meat is a good way to go, particularly if you want to make a meal of chips and dip and margaritas.

Of course Molina’s Cantina, started back in 1941, claims to be the original meat and queso place. Their delicious José’s Dip was allegedly created by a long ago waiter named — what else? — José, when a diner asked him to add some meat to the cheese dip. As the story goes, he went back to the kitchen and saw the spicy ground beef for tacos and dumped some in. Makes for a good story anyway.

Maria Selma Restaurant makes a fine dip as well, it’s a little thinner than some and is mostly just melted yellow cheese, but ask for some chopped fresh jalapeños and dump those babies in there, seeds and all, and you have a perfect fiery dip. They also use the dip on their nachos that I really like. Better than the thicker, melted cheeses on most nachos.

And here’s another good one: Pistolero’s. This cool looking spot with the Mexican art and artifacts has a queso that’s a touch on the thin side but that’s because it’s made with beer. That’s right, Jack cheese, pico de gallo and cervazo, baby.

And there’s even queso — no chiles — at Mia’s, a Carrabba family eatery probably better known for its chicken fingers, burgers and smoked meats. But it’s well worth ordering as a side with a basket of hot chips.

In fact, you can find queso and chile con queso pretty much everywhere. There’s a darn fine version at Beaver’s, the icehouse cum barbeque joint from chef Monica Pope, made with smoked asadero cheese, green chiles and pico de gallo.

I’d like to say something about the chile con queso at the new inner loop Pico’s Mex-Mex. I ate it but I hardly remember it. I know it had picadillo on top and it was more yellow and not as spicy as some dips. But I also had a margarita with it. When you order a margarita here the wait staff asks if you want a small, medium or large.

Um, medium?

The medium is a 24-ounce glass that you have to lift with both hands. I actually walked over to the bar and asked to see the large glass. It was a 48-ounce fish bowl! Radio personality Lanny Griffith explained to me that this drink is for three people. Okay, grab some friends and extra straws and go for this Cinco de Mayo.

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Did Marene miss you favorite place for queso? Let us know in comments section below.

 

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