Now's the perfect time of year to trade those summer-friendly chips and salsa for a warm, filling cheese dip. And these five spots offer refreshing takes on the common appetizer. From queso topped with chorizo and avocado to others mixed with corn and cotija, these five picks are sure to satisfy.
Queso Fundido at Barrio Café
Though more famous for its pomegranate-laced guacamole, Barrio Cafe serves up a mean queso, too. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's colorful creation — by far the most aesthetically pleasing on our list — features Oaxaca, queso fresco, and goat cheeses, which have been blended in a sauté pan with a little buttermilk and then topped with pico de gallo, cilantro, sausage, and avocado. Each bite offers a burst of dynamic flavor that's best experienced with the spot’s extra crunchy deep-fried chips.
Queso Guillermo at El Encanto Dos
Up north, just off the I-17, you’ll find El Encanto Dos. The romantic outdoor patio with stunning views gives way to a casual atmosphere and sort of divey bar area inside. But no matter where you’re seated, you’re bound to enjoy the presentation of this spot’s signature queso. The staff will warn you that it’s hot, but you’ll be able to see that for yourself since the blend of cheeses, yellow chilies, onions, and tomatoes comes out sizzling. After it’s cooled off, you could eat it the traditional way with the basket of complimentary tortilla chips, or you could use those chips to scoop out the queso and wrap it up in the provided tortillas and pico de gallo to make your own tacos
Street Corn Queso at Diego Pops
Located just off Scottsdale Road in the Old Town area, Diego Pops provides a charming, tropical setting. The bright interior, complete with a painted white bricks and an accent wall decked out in neon yellow and pink pineapples, makes for a neat retro feel. The queso here comes served on a metal tray — like the kind a high school cafeteria would use. This restaurant’s take features esquites, a blend of queso fresco, and Oaxaca and cotijia cheeses making for a warming and texture-rich dish that's particularly perfect for chilly temperatures.
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Queso Blanco at TQLA
The queso at this surprisingly sleek restaurant — think a black bar with a red wall that’s lined with house-infused tequila jars — in a mall in Mesa is the most simple creation in our list. But who says simple is a bad thing? The blend of Jack, cotija, and American cheeses topped with finely minced chiles keeps this rich and just flavorful enough. Each bite delivers a tantalizing mixture of smooth, thick cheese with just a hint of spice. It’s perfectly balanced and what you’ll want if you like to keep it simple.
Chili Con Queso Dip at Ajo Al’s
Located in Central Phoenix, Ajo Al’s is a laid-back Mexican joint that’s been in business since 1986. Inside you’ll find a warm, dimly lit atmosphere complete with wooden floors, a dark bar, and a colorful mural. What make this queso stand out it is the pimento cheese, which makes the dish pop alongside the blend of pepper jack cheese mixed with diced jalapeños. The hot spinach and tomato in this dish also make for an interesting texture. This is the most spicy queso on our list, but if you want it even hotter, try dicing up the large jalapeno pepper that’s placed inside in the dish.