Ahhh, chile con queso, that hot, melted bowl of deliciousness that is a staple at most Mexican restaurants in the U.S. It tastes great whether you dip a chip in it or add it to your fajitas or tacos. You would think that making delicious queso is pretty simple. Put cheese in a bowl with some chili peppers and melt it. As Chipotle found out recently, however, there is much more to it than just that.
The quality of the cheese, the type of tomato you dice and put in, and the amount of spice and jalapeño bits you add, all combine to give chile con queso its beloved flavor and kick. Good queso is hard to come by, and, unfortunately, Chipotle’s new queso, which was recently rolled out nationwide to its restaurants, is unsatisfying.
My gold standard for chile con queso comes from one of my all-time favorite restaurants: Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant, formerly known in our area as Rio Grande. For me, Uncle Julio’s queso offers the perfect mixture of quality cheese, tomatoes, onions and jalapeño peppers. Chipotle’s queso fails miserably by comparison.
Most of the issues with Chipotle’s queso relate less to its flavor than its texture. It definitely doesn’t taste great, but it’s not terrible either. That texture, though? That’s where the real problems start. Several words are appropriate for the texture of Chipotle’s queso — thick, grainy, gritty, chunky, paste-like — but none of them are positive.
Chipotle’s issues with food-borne bacteria and resulting illnesses created a major problem for the chain starting last year. Even though most stores had no issues, they were required to put up signs about the possibility of bacteria in their food. This turned many people away, and Chipotle’s business (and its stock price) suffered significantly.
The introduction of queso was supposed to be Chipotle’s way of bringing back the people they lost and capturing even more customers. For years, Chipotle’s customers had been asking for queso, and the restaurant was finally delivering. The results, however, haven’t been positive. People trashed Chipotle’s queso on social media from the beginning (one infamous Tweet referred to it as “dumpster juice”), and the overall reaction from customers was poor. For a restaurant that had been known from its earliest days for the quality and freshness of its food and ingredients, the queso seemed to leave almost everyone disappointed, myself included.
Reasons still exist to enjoy a meal at Chipotle. The over-stuffed burritos and bowls are still tasty, and the price is reasonable for what you get. The restaurant’s chips and guacamole are also some of the best around, especially for a fast food restaurant. When I need to get my queso fix, however, I’ll be heading to Uncle Julio’s and skipping the new offering from Chipotle. If Chipotle wants to lift its business and fix its reputation with quality chile con queso, it needs a new recipe.
Students packed the fallsgrove Chipotle when the queso came out hoping that it would be as good as their competitors. Their claim is that the queso would be “natural” and therefore more healthy, but when they made it more healthier, they sacrificed good taste. “I am not a fan,” freshman Danielle Berman said. “I was hoping that the debut of queso would be a good thing for Chipotle. I thought wrong.”
Chipotle’s new addition to their menu disappoints to a great extent due to the excellence of their other menu items. “Everything about Chipotle is good… except their queso,” senior Trent Folk said “I still go there all the time, but I just don’t get queso.”