When Chipotle announced earlier this week that it would be giving queso a trial run at one of its locations, a collective "finally!" could be heard throughout the newsroom. It's something people have asked about for years, and naturally, it prompted an immediate test test. But this wouldn't be any ordinary sampling and review. Oh no. We knew we needed to slate it against the queso at Moe's Southwest, the longstanding purveyor of melted cheese.
Of course, a mere three days after Chipotle's news broke, Moe's issued a tongue-in-cheek "public warning" that's honestly a little salty. In it, the brand says it's alerting consumers of "alleged 'queso' dishes posing as cheesy authentic goodness" and even asks people to "report the queso copycats" using a hashtag. Well, if they were going to call it fake and inferior, we decided we'd be the judges of that. Here's an up-close and personal look at each restaurant's cheesy dip.
We wanted to give Chipotle the first go because it's the new kid on the block. The rich orange color is eye-catching for sure, but our first observation - which made us scratch our heads - was how thick the cheese mixture was. It looks more like the bottom rung of a seven-layer dip than a typical saucy queso.
After tasting, we all agreed that the slightly spicy pepper flavor was great but the queso oddly lacked any compelling cheese flavor. However, that's not even the biggest of its problems. Every single one of our taste-testers took issue with its texture. "It's more of a gritty bechamel than what you expect from queso," one said. Another noted that it was "gloopy and not smooth at all."
Our chip dip test proved this correct:
Maybe Chipotle is still working out the kinks? Maybe it's struggling with its strict ingredient guidelines? CEO Steve Ells explained that " because we refuse to use industrial additives, added colors, flavors, or preservatives in our food, it's very difficult to make queso that meets our standards." Welp, not sure this one meets our standards. Sorry, Steve-o.
As a disclaimer, some tasters had tried Moe's queso before and knew they liked it. However, there were just as many who had never tried it. Still, we asked everyone to be honest and all-encompassing in their reviews. Overall, first impressions of this cheesy dip were positive: Its smooth texture and light, "natural-looking" color resonated well with our taste-testers. We also liked that, even after sitting and cooling for the length of a subway ride, it hadn't congealed or gotten unappealing at all.
It also helped that Moe's chips are much less salty than Chipotle's, which messed with the flavor in the first taste-test. Of course, the insanely velvety consistency alarmed some: "What is in this that makes it so perfectly smooth? This can't be real!"
Indeed, dipping a chip gave us a pretty sexy cheese drip:
After everyone's first bite, we realized this was a case of you vs. the guy she tells you not to worry about. "Moe's queso is everything it should be - cheesy, silky, with a nice fiery kick at the end. There's nothing gloppy about it," one reviewer wrote. Even with a fresh jalapeño flavor, the creamy cheese flavor still comes through. It's quite honestly liquid (white) gold. And we could no doubt eat the entire dish in one sitting.
We hate to say it, but Moe's accusations - "texture is grainy, devoid of the velvety queso goodness you've come to know and love," "no magical cheese pulls" - were true. Chipotle's queso wasn't the worst we've had, but we wouldn't seek it out with the same fervor that drives us to wait in monstrous, lunch-rush lines for its carnitas tacos.
In the end, we have to hand this one to the brand that's been shilling cups of melted cheese for more than 17 years. But we'll still give Chipotle another chance should it decide to tweak the recipe ... because its burrito bowls are still bae.
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