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Dear Eater PDX,
Where can I find legit queso in this town?
— Tommy Tweed
Queso — Tex-Mex in general — is incredibly tough to track down in Portland. Luckily, a few restaurants have started dipping toes into the molten cheese world, which means there are a few options here in Portland. Before we dig into what’s available here, let’s get down to semantics. When we talk about “queso,” we could be talking about two specific dishes: Chile con queso or queso fundido. The former is a Tex-Mex staple, almost always made with processed American cheese — the old-school, 1940s recipe combines Velveeta with Ro-Tel canned chile-and-tomato mix, though countless other versions have popped up across the United States. Queso fundido, on the other hand, is often made with queso oaxaca, paired with things like chorizo or mushrooms.
Autentica’s queso fundido is a personal favorite — it’s made with queso oaxaca, so it has that serious cheese pull. Eater PDX contributor Joy Church is partial to the version at Xico, which is made with chorizo and salsa verde. Contributor Nick Woo enjoys The Goose, which serves its queso — a combination of cream cheese, blue cheese, queso oaxaca and havarti — with green chiles and chorizo. Others in the know dig the straight-out-of-Texas green chile queso at La Taq on NE Killingsworth — pros make sure some brisket is on there. As for a straight-up, no joke chile con queso, there’s always Matt’s BBQ — a more daring diner may get it as macaroni and cheese, as well.
For something that feels a little more quintessentially Portland, Nuestra Cocina’s queso fundido con hongos combines baked Oaxacan cheese with oyster mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers, and epazote sauce. Still, that dish is a far cry from what people may expect when they think about light-orange queso of, say, Torchy’s Tacos. For the real deal, a plane ticket is your best bet.