Queso is a quintessential Austin food. It’s a melty, gooey, shareable dish of cheese + various toppings, and it’s always served with crip, salty tortilla chips (some are better than others…more on that later.) Visitors always want to know where to find the best queso in Austin, so here’s a roundup of 7 great options for you to try.
Sometimes queso is vegetarian (or even vegan, like the cashew queso at Picnik Austin.) But most of the time you’ll find that this melted cheese dish is served with chorizo, beef, or even smoked brisket, and various savory toppings like onions, cilantro, peppers, and guacamole.
What is this about the chips? Well, kind of like the importance of tortillas when you’re considering breakfast tacos, the chips make a big difference in the quality of the queso experience. Some places have great queso, like Taco Deli, but serve room temp chips in a pre-sealed plastic bag. The best queso is one you can enjoy with hot, freshly fried tortilla chips. And ideally it can be enjoyed outdoors on an Austin patio with a pitcher of margaritas and a few good friends.
Honestly...it's pretty hard to screw up queso. It's just freaking delicious, no matter how it's served. But since you asked 😉 here are 7 iconic queso spots in Austin:
7 Absolutely Iconic Queso Spots In Austin
1. Torchy's Tacos
No surprise here, Torchy’s has one of the best and most iconic queso dips in Austin. With locations around the country, this Austin original is the most consistent, craveable queso around. (For real…try it once, and you’ll be craving it every time you sit down on the couch to watch Netflix…)
It’s a secret combo of melted cheese topped with guac, cotija, cilantro, and their bright orange diablo sauce. Since Torchy’s has locations all over Austin, it’s pretty easy to try this queso at any point during your weekend visit. But their South Congress flagship location is really fun because there’s a big sidewalk patio where you can rest your feet after an afternoon of shopping.
2. Matt's el Rancho
Ok, this queso is probably the most famous and popular queso in the entire city of Austin. Queso snobs sometimes pretend that it’s not all that fabulous…but look around at the hundred of diners at Matt’s El Rancho, and almost every table will have an order of that famous Bob Armstrong Dip.
Wait, famous? Yep. The rumor is that former land commissioner Bob Armstrong asked restaurant owner Matt Jr. to make something special just for him, and that’s how this queso was made. It’s actually pretty well known all over the country…Bon Appetit has even featured it in their magazine
3. Magnolia Cafe
Right next to Torchy’s on South Congress is an old-school eatery called Magnolia Cafe. It’s an OG in the Austin dining scene, and everyone who’s lived in Austin for at least 10 years has tried their iconic queso, the “Mag Mud.” It’s called mud because it’s made with black beans on the bottom. Give it a stir, and that gooey, melty queso turns into a dark and delicious “mud.”
4. El Alma
If you want a fun ambiance to enjoy your Austin queso, you need to check out the rooftop bar at El Alma on Barton Springs Rd. (Psst: it’s a great place to go after taking a summer dip in Barton Springs pool!)
Their queso is extra thick and creamy, served with hot and fresh tortilla chips. El Alma has excellent margs, too! Go during happy hour for a $6 classic marg and a $6 queso.
WEBSITE | 1025 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
5. Kerbey Lane Cafe
There are few things more satisfying than Kerbey Lane’s queso.. It’s always served quickly, it’s always the same at any of their locations around Austin, and it’s always a popular menu item. This is a super kid-friendly restaurant, so the Classic Queso doesn’t have a lot of frills…it’s just a standard (and delicious!) gooey, warm, cheesy yumminess.
If you want to step up your queso game, try the Kerbey Queso, made with fresh guac and pico de gallo. (Add some chorizo, if you want.) And of course, their delicious Cowboy Queso is similar to the mad mug at Magnolia Cafe: it has black beans in it.
6. El Chile
There are few better restaurants in Austin for happy hour deals (it’s on our list of best happy hours in Austin!), but whether you’re stopping by for a happy hour or not, El Chile has some of the best queso and margaritas in Austin.
It’s a creamy queso Blanco (white queso) made with super thick-cut, freshly fried tortilla chips. They offer a discount during HH if you want to keep things low cost, or they have add-ons if you want to make this the most super-deluxe queso you’ve ever tried: add in poblanos, onions, mushrooms, chorizo, or beef fajita for an additional cost.
Polvos has a cult-like following for their amazing tacos, beef fajitas, giant breakfast tacos on homemade flour tortillas, and (of course) delicious queso appetizer. If you’re in Austin for the weekend, try to squeeze in a visit to this small, no-frills Mexican restaurant on South First St.
It’s pretty standard as far as queso goes: melted cheese + toppings. But they serve it with ALL the toppings (they’re on the side so you can add them in yourself), offer a salsa bar with lots of flavors of housemade salsa, and keep those chips coming nonstop during your meal. Polvos will probably have fun Tejano music playing with lots of basses turned up really loud and they have big and inexpensive pitchers of margaritas, and it’s just an all-around fun vibe.