Margaritas and queso as a combination work 12 months out of the year … this is a fact. The perfection of the salty rim, the sweet drink and burn of tequila partnered with the salty chip and savory melted cheese is enough to make many consider this their “cheat meal” practically each week. Add pretty weather, ideally with a patio, and you just don’t get much better.
Nashville has many restaurants with queso and cheese dip on the menu. The difference between each is a blurry line, but we all know that while the spinach and cheese dip at J. Alexanders is delicious, it is not queso. But, add some spinach to your queso at a Mexican spot, and it remains queso. Yes, the lines are blurred and we even have another term at our house, cheese soup, which is what my son used to call queso/cheese dip as he would rather bypass the chips and attack the bowl with just a spoon.
We have gathered some of our favorite quesos from locally owned (which is why Chuy’s is not on the list, but we all think their chips should be cloned … so yummy!) spots that keep us coming in, as there are days when the queso is really the main meal and the entree is dessert! What we looked for is queso full of flavor that sticks to a chip well — nothing too runny. Add-ins like chilis and chorizo are just fine with us.
- Rosepepper Cantina: Beloved for margaritas, queso and more. With the recent passing of owner Ernie Chaires, we take a moment to salute this fabulous place that opened in 2001, far before East Nashville was as trendy as it is now. Along with culinary trail blazers such as Margot Cafe, Rosepepper Cantina has been tempting patrons for over a decade to embrace the foodie east side. Their fondue-style queso comes topped with chorizo and is served with flour chips.
- Satco: For anyone who says the Satco queso is questionable, as no one can quite figure out what its ingredients are, we say they’re missing the boat. It is not ours to question, but to ingest with gladness of heart. This queso is proudly served up in a styrofoam 8 ounce container and is not supposed to be fussed over or taken too seriously. We’re pretty sure the words “natural” and “organic” can’t be used to describe this bowl of goodness that has Nashville ex-pats asking to have it shipped to them. Beware of the addictive properties, pass me another chip and add a bucket of beer!
- Baja Burrito: Located in 100 Oaks, this fast and fresh take on Mexican food has been luring patrons in for over a decade. The employees are so nice and the food is fabulous. Their queso stands out and we see many a “healthy” eating person pouring just a bit of queso on their salads, and we do the same thing too! Tip: arrive early to beat the lunch line, especially on the weekends.
- Chago’s Cantina: The queso with chorizo is so yummy and the perfect way to start your meal at this spot, which is part of the Arnold Myint family of restaurants. The $5 Bloody Mary Bar on weekends from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., filled with garnishes such as pickled okra, celery, green olives, sausages and more, is the perfect accompaniment to the bowl of hot queso with sausage!
- Nuvo Burrito: Once found in three locations, Nuvo is now housed under one central location, in SoBro. The queso with assorted chopped peppers is delish. Pair with their Margarito, made with fresh fruit juices, tequila and mint, sit back and smile.
- Local Taco: Both the Brentwood and Nashville locations have very fun patios with a vibe that works equally well for a family or a purely adult outing. In Brentwood, you can choose the “order, grab a number and find your table” service, or full service. In Sylvan Park, it’s purely counter service. Both have a menu that accommodates many as vegetarian and salad offerings are plenty along with more indulgent options like the Southern Fried Tacos and yes, queso. We like the queso with added peppers and they offer it with chorizo as well. Embrace spring on the patio at Local Taco and you can’t go wrong.
- 12 South Taproom: Queso this good should be expected at this little gem on 12South known for great and fresh food. The queso is just as good as the rest of the menu. While everything on 12South is getting lots of press these days, don’t overlook this gem that has been providing amazing food to the neighborhood for 8 years and counting. YUM!
- Saint Anejo: While this new go-to favorite in the Gulch has several quesos to choose from, it’s the spicy crab queso that has grabbed our attention. Whether late night or for lunch, the salty chips and spicy crab queso will call you back time and time again. Add a blood orange margarita and some freshly made guac to round out the perfect moment in time.
- Las Maracas: This may look like a typical Mexican joint, but the food is a step up from your run-of-the-mill spot. The queso and chips are so delicious that you may find yourself ordering nachos for your main meal just to have some more of the creamy, melted, white cheese progress into your next course!
- Garcia’s: If you do not live in Franklin or Murfreesboro, next time you are there, bank on a great meal by heading to Garcia’s. While we wholeheartedly recommend the Shrimp Tacos, served with black beans and rice, you must start your meal with the Queso Fundido that arrives literally in flames at your table. Add chicken or shrimp to make it even heartier.
- ML Rose: A place for seriously good sports bar food, ML Rose obviously gives a nod to the southwest with a menu that extends beyond the guac, salsa and queso on the menu. Think Ranchero Fries, a variety of quesadillas and the brunch menu’s Mexican Sunrise BLT. When you go, the queso will not only satisfy, but elevate your expectation for everything thing else headed to your table from this well executed menu.
- Sopapillas: Based in Franklin, Sopapillas has expanded to Hendersonville, and we hear rumors of another expansion … and we’re hopeful it’s closer to our SB offices! In the meantime, when tracking down stories in Franklin, we do like to place to-go orders because it’s easy (online ordering) and the food is fab. The salsa is perhaps the best in middle Tennessee and the queso is worth every calorie. Add a cucumber margarita on their outdoor patio, and let your troubles fade away.
And remember, queso calories don’t count. This is also a fact, at least when you eat it after midnight or standing up, according this post from SB Louisville.