Our annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards celebrates the best of food and drink in Dallas, with returning categories such as best neighborhood restaurant and best chef.
Every year also has a wild card category that reflects a popular dish or trend of the day. For 2020, that wild card is queso.
Queso is one of those hot topics that people love to debate. Maybe because there are so many ways to do it. Do you give it the foodie treatment and use "real" cheese, or do you just go straight Velveeta? Do you make it spicy or keep it mild? Do you stay pure or doctor it up with additives like ground beef?
These 10 restaurants serve the best queso in town. From these finalists, one winner will be announced on July 30, when we unveil all of the winners at our Virtual Party.
Here are the top 10 quesos in Dallas:
E-Bar Tex Mex
East Dallas Tex-Mex has been open for six years but in some ways, it still feels like a treasured secret. Owner Eddie Cervantes used to run the show at Primo's for many years and has a Dallas old-timer following. Now he's recreated the old Primo's vibe on Haskell Avenue. He offers queso standard or E-Bar style with ground beef, guacamole, and sour cream.
HG Sply Co
Paleo classic first premiered on Greenville Avenue and now has locations in Fort Worth and Trophy Club, as well. They were one of the first to do the now-popular bowls, and accommodate all of your special diets including vegan and GF. Their queso is vegan and is a standout, with an impressively creamy texture and cheesy flavor. They serve it with a hunk of guacamole in the center, and thick house-made tortilla chips. It's so good, the non-vegan diners order it, too.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Austin chain pioneered better burgers in Texas; was an early craft beer proponent; and also the first in Texas to offer the plant-based Impossible burger. Many notches on its belt. No question, that includes their queso, easily one of the best out there. Rich and creamy, it's fortified with green chiles in a perfect proportion: just enough to warm up your lips. They offer it as an option with their also-excellent hand cut fries. So to get the green chile queso, you gotta order fries. There are worse problems to have.
Supercreamy and golden, Hugo's queso is a blend of Mexican soft cheeses with organic almond milk, fresh corn, and roasted poblano peppers, garnished with toasted almonds and tomatoes. It's an off-menu item, so only those in the know would know to order it.
Matt's Rancho Martinez
Tex-Mex restaurant chain has a venerable history, spun off from Matt's Famous El Rancho in Austin and with a thumbs-up back in the '90s from no less than Julia Child. No less legendary is their famous queso, named for a politician who requested something extra in his queso, and got one with taco meat and guacamole. Adding stuff to your queso has become more common but Matt's was the first.
Upscale Tex-Mex sibling to El Fenix takes a nontraditional route with its queso poblano with 3 cheeses: chihuahua cheese, the soft white cheese that's easy to melt; pepper Jack, mild and sweet; and queso blanco, a simple white cheese. The resulting flavor is delicate by conventional queso standards, but with an extra-creamy texture. They add in roasted poblano peppers, nopales, and corn, and for an additional $2, brisket.
Primo's MX Kitchen
This is Primo's 2.0, now owned by Refined Hospitality Concepts (RHC), a subsidiary of Centurion American, the company belonging to developer Mehrdad Moayedi, with two locations, at the original McKinney Avenue address in Uptown and also downtown at the Statler Dallas Hotel. Theirs is a white queso, pale and creamy, with a rather hushed flavor profile, but served in generous proportion in a broad flat dish, sprinkled with pico de gallo and cilantro.
Cheerful restaurant in downtown Dallas is part of the Headington family (Joule, Commissary, Forty Five Ten) and does Tex-Mex combo plates, tacos, and fajitas. Its queso is white — classier than the Velveeta yellow, this is Tim Headington, after all — which you can get in a "classic" (unadorned) version or compuesto-style with added chorizo, guacamole, and green onion. It comes in a little bowl which forces you to consume it in a civilized manner, but for a nice twist their chips are dusted with chili powder.
TNT Tacos N Tequila
Hipster Blue Mesa sibling does their queso blanco-style which you can get in classic style, or else with a scoop of ground beef-chorizo, made with ground beef, chorizo, onion, roasted chiles, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, and both guajillo and ancho peppers, which they roast and puree, to lend the full rounded, earthy flavor of the chiles.
Beloved Austin-based chain has legions of fans for its signature green chili queso, one of the most popular quesos across the entire state of Texas. It's a rich, creamy yellow queso with a spicy undertone, studded with bits of green chile and a tomato shred or two, then topped with guacamole. As if that's not enough, you can also order it "hillbilly style," IE, with diced chorizo.