Are chips and queso an authentic Mexican delicacy? No. But are they a staple of Amarillo’s Tex-Mex culture? Absolutely. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos or enchiladas or more traditional entrees like tamales or carne asada, a queso starter remains one of the most classic appetizers in Amarillo restaurants.

And as any home cook can and should attest, delicious queso involves thinking beyond a block of Velveeta and a can of Ro-Tel. (In fact, let’s just leave shelf-stable cheese products out of this altogether.) 

Almost every Tex-Mex option in Amarillo offers its own take on queso, from family-owned dives to regional chains like Torchy’s. So we picked a few favorites from across the city for a QuesoFest taste-test. Our samplers definitely had a few favorites, but our intention isn’t to crown any winners. Instead, think of this as Brick & Elm’s local queso tour. 

Grab a chip and let’s dip.

If you crave spice:

Taqueria El Tapatio: Definitely the spiciest we sampled, this smooth, well-blended queso is just the right consistency, with a flavor you notice from the first bite, and a slow burn that builds in intensity. We taste habanero peppers, which explains the heat. (3410 S. Coulter St., 806.331.6248,

El Manantial: Don’t call this Tex-Mex. El Manantial’s menu is authentically old-country—but they do make a concession and serve a standout queso. This smoky, peppery dip includes chorizo, which adds to its spicy flavor. (3823 E. Amarillo Blvd., 806.383.1852,

Flamingo’s Latin Bar & Grill: Leave it to this family-owned Amarillo Boulevard joint to introduce a Latin twist to this Southwest dish. Deliciously cheesy and slightly sweet, we noted the presence of savory, crumbly bits of cotija cheese—and perhaps a little cumin. Flavorful and creative. (701 E. Amarillo Blvd., 806.367.7304,

Torchy’s Tacos: Yes, Torchy’s is a chain based in Austin, but we had to include it because the green-chile queso is SO good. Maybe it’s the kicky dash of diablo sauce. Or the guacamole topper. Or the shredded cotija. We can’t quite explain it but we want more. (3562 S. Soncy Road, Suite 101, 806.398.1111,

If you love thick and cheesy:

Pancho Villa Restaurant: This humble, mom-and-pop River Road dive is everything you want it to be, right down to the wood-paneled walls. The queso is just as nostalgic. It relies on a thick, cheesy base and just a hint of onion flavoring. (4601 River Road, 806.381.0105,

The Brunch Truck of Amarillo: Parked downtown behind the Greyhound station, Paul Olivarez’s food truck is a consistent delight. He admits to using slightly tweaked versions of family recipes (which will be familiar to patrons of El Camino in Tulia). This thick, five-cheese queso is so good we wanted to repurpose leftovers for mac-and-cheese. (213 SW Seventh Ave., 806.373.4199,

La Frontera: There’s something about the fresh-grated cheese at La Frontera—there’s so much of it—and maybe that’s why we love the queso, too. Honestly, it’s close to what you’ll make at home, but pairs perfectly with their peppery salsa. Pro tip: Just drizzle some of the salsa into the queso and stir it all up. You’re welcome. (1401 S. Arthur St., 806.372.4593,


If you prefer a lighter flavor:

La Fiesta Grande: An institution in the Amarillo Tex-Mex scene, La Fiesta Grande doesn’t disappoint with its white cheese-based queso. It’s thick and savory and ideal for topping a burrito, or double-dipping with their salsa. (2200 S. Ross St., 806.374.3689/7415 SW 45th Ave., 806.352.1330,

El Charro Mexican Restaurant: This family-owned gem isn’t exactly hidden—it’s on I-40—and the homestyle food is always fresh and flavorful. The white queso is thick and appropriately cheesy, with a subtle citrus flavor we are convinced derives from tomatillos. (4207 I-40 East, 806.373.4555,

Mac Joe’s Kitchen & Cellar: Yes, we know this is an Italian place, but no Amarillo Queso Tour is complete without the beloved Mob Queso from this local restaurant. The banana peppers, shrimp and Italian spices make this an appetizer to remember—as does the fiery presentation. (1619 S. Kentucky St., Suite 1500-D, 806.358.8990,

Margarita Magic

Few drinks pair as well with chips-and-queso as a margarita. This tequila-based drink—which also includes lime juice, triple sec or orange liqueur, and a salted rim—adds refreshing zest to most Mexican or Tex-Mex meals. 

Heather Bragg, the Line and Spirits Manager at Budweiser Amarillo, is a former bartender with two decades of experience at places like O.H.M.S Cafe & Bar. She’s mixed her share of margs, and says the secret lies in fresh-squeezed lime juice and choosing a good tequila.

Bragg suggests a reposado tequila. Reposado means “rested” or “aged” in Spanish, and this liquor has been aged in oak barrels as it matures, giving it a deeper, more refined flavor compared to unaged blanco or silver tequila. “I believe that a margarita should use at least a reposado so you can actually taste the tequila,” she says. Bragg’s favorite tequila for margaritas is Dos Rios, produced in New Braunfels, Texas. “To be a true tequila, it’s supposed to be made in Jalisco, Mexico,” she explains. “Dos Rios is made there and then imported into New Braunfels.”

She also prefers margaritas on the rocks, rather than frozen. “Frozen waters down faster,” she says. “Ten minutes later, you’ve got water at the bottom. It’s not as good of a cocktail.”

And while she loves a standard margarita, Bragg also encourages experimentation. “A spicy margarita is kind of my jam,” she admits. During her tenure behind the bar at O.H.M.S., she used tequila infused with jalapeños and cilantro. You can also muddle jalapeños in order to add spice. “That, to me, is the best way.”

Try this: For margarita lovers who want to branch out, Bragg suggests a Paloma. Combine one part tequila with three parts grapefruit soda—preferably the Mexican soda Jarritos—plus fresh lime juice and a salted rim. “It’s super simple and super refreshing,” she says. “A Paloma is one of my favorite summer drinks.”