Side Dish

Lessons in Queso from Oaky’s Tex Mex

When it comes to the melted dip of cheese and chiles, the road to mediocrity is paved with artisanal ingredients.

By Allecia Vermillion March 26, 2019 Published in the April 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Queso—unlike flowers or intelligence—is better when it’s artificial. Namely in matters of cheese. The dip that melds cheese and chili peppers, a Tex-Mex signature, relies on the plush texture achieved only with Velveeta or one of its processed brethren. Extensive R&D for Oaky’s Tex Mex in Interbay confirmed what owner Matt Davis first learned on a research foray from Austin to El Paso: Fancy queso is mediocre queso. “Either we do it with cheap cheese or we aren’t doing it.”

That’s why Oaky’s version gently resists when you plunge a chip into its sunny depths. Suspended in perennial meltiness, it delivers that sodium high inherent to decadent appetizers—swiftly followed by heat from a confetti of smoked jalapenos. Most customers order it Bob Armstrong–style, which involves smoked chorizo, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a legend about a Texas land commissioner who preferred that his queso masquerade as layer dip. The stuff has proved surprisingly versatile, says Davis, garnishing everything from fries and chimichangas to brisket chili. Customers order so much, he says, “I programmed a button in our POS system that just says ‘put queso on it.’”

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