A Tex-Mex classic is taking the fast-food industry by storm

Chipotle Test Kitchen 2Hollis JohnsonChipotle added queso to the menu at the chain’s new test kitchen.

The mere mention of chile con queso can trigger a Texan to recite a monologue praising the cheesy treat.

Ted Cruz called it a “visceral, powerful, family bond;” Lady Bird Johnson was rumoured to serve the dip at White House events; and a duo of Austinites have devoted an entire podcast to the food. 

“Few reversals of fortune cannot be salved with a molten bowl of queso (our shortened term of endearment) scooped up with fistfuls of crisp tortilla chips,” Alison Cook wrote in the Houston Chronicle. “Job loss, breakup, writer’s block, what have you: all seem smoothed and softened as the magical potion coats our gullets, slicking down the day’s rough edges.” 

Now, fast-food chains across the US are ready to get in on the goopy action. 

Wendy'sWendy’sWendy’s Bacon Queso Fries

On Monday, Chipotle announced that it was testing an all-natural queso after years of customer demand for the dip. On Tuesday, Wendy’s launched three limited-time queso offerings — the Bacon Queso Burger, Bacon Queso Chicken Sandwich, and Bacon Queso Fries. And, these innovations are on top of chains such as Moe’s and Taco Bell that already serve queso. 

So, what makes the cheesy dip so special?

First, the basics. Chile con queso, or queso, is made with a mix of chilli peppers and melted cheese. Since processed cheese tends to provide the necessary melty and pleasingly gooey texture, queso is often made using Velveeta.

For years, Chipotle argued it would be impossible for the chain to serve queso and stick to its all-natural mission. 

“Queso has to be made with artificial stabilizers to keep its shiny liquid form. Ever heard of all-natural goopy cheese? Do you think there’s a magical cow that squirts queso out of its udders?” Chipotle said in a snarky 2016 video explaining the cheesy elixir’s absence from the menu.

However, customers’ demands finally forced Chipotle to change its tune and convinced non-Tex-Mex chains like Wendy’s to add queso to the menu.  

But, why do people like queso so much? And, why are chains jumping on the bandwagon?

The answer isn’t that deep — it’s melted cheese. Even when it’s made with the cheapest cheese you can find or doesn’t quite hit the prime, goopy target (like Chipotle’s slightly mealy version), it’s going to be pretty damn good.

And, for a fast-food chain, adding something to the menu that can be slopped on top of pretty much any menu item and improve its taste — or at least add a bunch of calories — is a home run. 

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