Monday, October 20, 2014

Cheese Dip: Dip Your Chip All Over Arkansas.

In Arkansas, a single item of food connects all corners of the state.  Created by a man named Blackie Donnelly, originally credited to his restaurant Mexico Chiquito, cheese dip has become a Southern staple.  The great Ark-Mex restaurants of fame, from Pancho's in West Memphis to Glasgow's in Bentonville, all carry their own odes to this marvelous emulsion for chips and fries.

The simplest version marries Velveeta and Rotel together, two simple ingredients that dance well together.  The recipes for the more complex recipes are hoarded away.  Restaurateurs and families alike keep the secret to their cheese concoction to themselves.

Need a recipe for cheese dip?  Click here to check out some great recipes from fellow Arkansas bloggers!

Want to learn about the history of cheese dip?  Check out Nick Roger's film In Queso Fever.  Want to follow the Arkansas Cheese Dip Trail?  Click here.

Where can you find the best cheese dips in Arkansas?  Here's a starter for you... which by no means can completely cover every great restaurant to serve the dish.  Be sure to add your own in the comments!

Abuelos.  This is an alphabetic list, but Abuelo's deserves mention, even if it's a chain.  Abuelos' Chili con Queso is blended with Anaheim and Poblano peppers for a hint of heat.
4005 West Walnut * Rogers * (479) 621-0428 *
Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy on Urbanspoon

American Pie's non-traditional white.
American Pie.  A non-traditional white, Kyle's Spicy Chicken Cheese Dip is an emulsion of roasted and spiced chicken chunks in a white queso.  America Pie does gluten free evenings, by the way.
9709 Maumelle Blvd. * Maumelle * (501) 758-8800
American Pie Pizza on Urbanspoon
4830 North Hills * North Little Rock * (501) 753-0081
American Pie Pizza on Urbanspoon
10902 Colonel Glenn * Little Rock * (501) 225-1900
American Pie Pizza on Urbanspoon
Arkansas Burger Company's white queso.
Arkansas Burger Company.  Known best for its burgers, ABC's cheese dip is consistently ranked among Central Arkansas favorites.  It's a white queso flaked with green jalapeno pepper bits, smooth with a bit of heat and well salted.  It's served up with thick yellow tortilla chips; alternately, you can use the Lay's potato chips that go with your burger.
7410 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 663-0600 *
Arkansas Burger Co. on Urbanspoon

Yellow dip and chips at Atkinson's Blue Diamond Cafe.
Atkinson's Blue Diamond Cafe. The popular Morrilton diner and ice cream shop also serves a smooth yellow dip great with chips or fries.
1800 East Harding * Morrilton * (501) 354-4253 * Facebook 
Atkinson's Blue Diamond Cafe on Urbanspoon

Balcony Restaurant's yellow dip.
Balcony Restaurant.  The chips and queso at this restaurant inside Eureka Springs' Basin Park Hotel is smoky, a little salty and quite yellow -- and it's accompanied by homemade salsa. Within the 1905 Basin Park Hotel is at 12 Spring Street, right next to (you guessed it) Basin Park.
12 Spring Street * Eureka Springs * (479) 253-7837 * website
The Balcony Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Buffalo Grill.  One of Little Rock's classic dips, the yellow dip is calm and mild and served up with big round yellow tortilla chips.  For some reason they now serve the dip on the signature Tortilla Flats instead of cheese... but that's all right.  Perfect for dipping that quesadilla.
1611 Rebsamen Park Rd. * Little Rock * (501) 296-9535 *

Buffalo Grill on Urbanspoon

Cactus Jack's white queso.
Cactus Jack's.  This average white dip comes close to white Velveeta, but somehow it's gained a following.  Mild, creamy, completely expected, at least Cactus Jack's serves up thin and crispy yellow tortilla chips to go along with it,
4120 East McCain, * North Little Rock * (501) 945-5888
Cactus Jack's on Urbanspoon
11414 West Markham * Little Rock* (501) 227-7556
Cactus Jacks on Urbanspoon
755 Club Lane * Conway * (501) 730-0022
Cactus Jack's on Urbanspoon

Capers.  This cilantro-enhanced white cheese dip carries great flavors of roasted peppers. You really need to get it with the fresh veggie-packed salsa for the full experience.
14502 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 868-7600 *
Capers on Urbanspoon

Casa Manana.  Casa Manana's reliable thick and creamy white dip has nice friendly notes of queso anejo and queso Chihuahua.  It's also good poured over Huevos Rancheros.  Served up with fresh-fried-daily corn tortilla chips and a salsa redolent of red bell pepper and cumin.
6820 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 280-9888
Casa Manana Restaurant on Urbanspoon
18321 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 868-8822 
Casa Manana Resturant on Urbanspoon
Oppenheimer Market Hall at the River Market * Little Rock* (501) 372-6637
Casa Manana Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Casa Mexicana.  Sherwood's cheap eats spot for Ark-Mex food offers a slightly spicy white cheese dip that goes well on anything.
4091 E. Kiehl Avenue * Sherwood * (501) 831-2787
Casa Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Cheddar's yellow Velveeta-style dip.
Cheddar's.  Velveeta meets Rotel plus ground beef, served on thin yellow tortilla chips, with a side of fresh, cumin and onion laden salsa.
3907 Phoenix Avenue * Fort Smith * (479) 649-5959
Cheddar's on Urbanspoon
400 South University * Little Rock * (501) 614-7578
Cheddar's Casual Cafe on Urbanspoon
2123 Stadium Blvd * Jonesboro * (870) 934-0223
Cheddar's Casual Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cheers in the Heights.  Deep yellow, sharp and smooth dip usually served with tricolor chips.  Get the chili with it.
2010 North Van Buren * Little Rock * (501) 663-5937 *
Cheers in the Heights on Urbanspoon

Chip's dip is full of spices.
Chip’s Barbecue.  Chip's used to put smoked meat in their cheese dip, which was pretty good.  They stopped doing that, but that's all right.  It's a Mexico Chiquito style dip with lots of cumin and paprika and strong Cheddar flavors, with good cling for the house-fried thick tortilla chips served with it.  I adore the fresh tomato salsa that comes with each order.
9801 West Markham * Little Rock * (501) 225-4346 *
Chip's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Go for the Chip & Dip trio for best value at The Cow Pen.
Cow Pen.  I don't know what's the better deal -- the cheese dip, the bean dip or the salsa that comes in the Chip & Dip ($6.95) at The Cow Pen in Lake Village.  The yellow cheese dip is a Velveeta-Rotel blend but has an additional dairy element that makes it creamy.  Spice is just right. 5198 Highway 82 * Lake Village * (870) 265-9992 *
The Cow Pen on Urbanspoon

Dizzy's dip is deep.
Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro.  The restaurant's three-part dip won the first ever World Cheese Dip Championship; it went over so well, they replaced their old dip with it.  It's a yellow dip chunky with onions and peppers and it's served up large.
200 River Market Avenue #150 * Little Rock * (501) 375-3500 *
Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro on Urbanspoon

Don Jose.  The cheese dip here is very mild, very white and somewhat runny.
200 Holiday Drive * Forrest City * (870) 630-9884
Don Jose on Urbanspoon

E.J.'s Eats and Drinks.  Yes, there's a cheese dip.  Startlingly, I have yet to try it.  I have to rectify that. Watch this space.
523 Center Street * Little Rock * (501) 666-3700 *
EJ's Eats and Drinks on Urbanspoon

El Porton.  Smooth, white constantly the same mild cheese dip.
12111 West Markham * Little Rock * (501) 223-8588 *
El Porton Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

El Sol's pale yellow dip with salsa and chips.
El Sol.  The prices are fantastic at this Pine Bluff restaurant, and the food is consistently good.  The cheese dip is pale yellow, and the salsa is drinkable -- I mean, you probably shouldn't drink it, but when they bring it out in those little carafes, it's hard to resist.
3801 South Camden Road * Pine Bluff * (870) 879-2820 * Facebook
El Sol Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Faby's steak-lade queso fundido.
Faby’s.  The dip at Faby's is so thick, it almost doesn't qualify as cheese dip.  Instead, what you get is a queso fundido, thick enough to eat with a fork, the sort of hot cheese sauce you want on a cold day.  It's a blend of white Mexican cheeses that stands well on its own but is even better when ordered as fajita queso with chunks of beef or chicken.
2915 Dave Ward Drive * Conway * (501) 329-5151
Faby's Restaurant on Urbanspoon
1023 Front Street * Conway * (501) 513-1199
Faby's Restaurant 2 on Urbanspoon

Flying Burrito.  There are actually two cheese dips at the Flying Burrito - white and yellow - but forget just getting the dip and get the Flying Cheese Dip, which comes with your choice of dip, ground beef, rice, salsa and refried beans IN THE DIP.  Great thin chips, too.
540 West Dickson Street * Fayetteville * (479) 521-3000
Flying Burrito on Urbanspoon
7022 West Sunset * Springdale * (479) 419-9400
Flying Burrito Co on Urbanspoon
1401 S. Walton * Bentonville * (479) 715-6590
Flying Burrito Co on Urbanspoon

The Fold.  Thick, creamy white cheese dip served with equally thick chips.  Hearty.
3501 Old Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 916-9706 *
The Fold on Urbanspoon

Glasgow's Mexican and American Food. Thick classic yellow cheese dip with medium-thick chips.
411 SE Walton Blvd. * Bentonville * (479) 273-9958 * Facebook
Glasgow's Mexican and American Food on Urbanspoon

Godsey’s Grill.  Godsey’s sells a traditional Rotel and Velveeta dip, along with about eight other dips.  The Drunken Chicken dip includes smoked chicken -- and the Chicken Enchilada dip that comes so heavy on the spices you won’t be able to tell there’s Velveeta under the surface on those homemade potato chips.
226 South Main St. * Jonesboro * (870) 336-1988 *
Godsey's on Urbanspoon
Traditional Velveeta and Rotel at Hamburger Barn.

Hamburger Barn.  The Arkadelphia mainstay still serves up the same sort of cheese dip you'd come to expect at any backyard barbecue -- the traditional straight-up Velveeta and Rotel dip.
2813 West Pine Street * Arkadelphia * (870) 246-5556 * Facebook
Hamburger Barn on Urbanspoon

Hog Haus. White. BEER. Cheese. Dip.
430 West Dickson Street * Fayetteville * (479) 521-2739 *
Hog Haus Brewing Co‎ on Urbanspoon

Get your tamale covered with cheese dip at Izzy's.
Izzy’s.  Packed with white Cheddar, fresh tomatoes and spices, still manages to be pretty light.  Get it with the Big Tamale and salsa.
5601 Ranch Road * Little Rock * (501) 868-4311 * 
Izzy's on Urbanspoon

Jose's. The "famous" chile con queso is pretty good... the white poblano cheese dip with chorizo is purportedly better.
324 West Dickson Street * Fayetteville * (479) 521-0194 *
Jose's Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Blue Mesa style cheese dip at Juanita's.
Juanita’s. Remember that great white cheese dip from the Blue Mesa Grill?  You can get it at Juanita's... it's almost as good as it was at Blue Mesa.  Of course, Juanita's has its own yellow Chili con Queso... which is decent.  Just beware -- service at Juanita's sometimes seems to take a backseat to the venue's other attraction -- live concerts.
614 President Clinton Avenue * Little Rock *(501) 372-1228 *
Juanita's Mexican Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon

Loca Luna.  The Roasted Green Chile Con Queso is starting to gather a real following.  It's sharp, spicy, fresh and served up with tricolor chips that somehow aren’t as colorful as that great queso flavor.
3519 Old Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 663-4666 *
Loca Luna on Urbanspoon

The original Taco Kid cheese sauce at Local Lime.
Local Lime.  Marvelous Queso Blanco dotted with corn, tomato, peppers and onion... and on the first Tuesday of the month, the original Taco Kid cheese sauce in all its yellow-orange glory.
17809 Chenal Parkway * Little Rock * (501) 448-2226 *
Local Lime on Urbanspoon

Main Cheese. The lovely flavor of well-roasted chipotle peppers comes out so well in this southwestern-style dip.
14524 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 367-8082 *
The Main Cheese on Urbanspoon

Maria’s. The smooth mild creamy Queso Blanco is the best cheese dip I've had in Fort Smith, with lovely complex flavors of Queso Asadero and Monterrey Jack.  Just a tiny bit better than the Chile “Coin” Queso they also do.
8640 Rogers Avenue *Fort Smith * (479) 452-2328 *
Marias Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

MarketPlace Grill.  Here, they call it "grilled queso" and set it on fire, but it's still cheese dip to me.
600 Skyline Drive * Conway * (501) 336-0011
Marketplace Grill on Urbanspoon
1636 S, 48th Street * Springdale * (479) 750-5200
Marketplace Grill on Urbanspoon

Marlo's Taco Shack.  Ridiculously cheap and good yellow cheese dip.
1192 N. Garland * Fayetteville * (479) 521-4211
Marlo's Taco Shack on Urbanspoon
Smoked Queso with beef brisket at Mean Pig BBQ.
Mean Pig BBQ.  The barbecue joint best known for its Shut Up Sauce has one of the better quesos in the state -- a deep yellow dip inundated with shredded smoked beef brisket throughout, served with a zip-top bag of tortilla chips on a big plate.
3096 Bill Foster Memorial Highway * Cabot * (501) 941-5489 *
The Mean Pig BBQ on Urbanspoon

Mexico Chiquito.  Of course, it's the standard by which all other cheese dips are judged, the first and still the most elusive to pin down.  Created after a visit to Mexico and based on real American and Mexican cheese, the deep spice mix marks the uniqueness of its flavor with lots of paprika, cumin and heaven knows what else.  Still as addictive as always.
13924 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 217-0700
Mexico Chiquito on Urbanspoon
1135 Skyline Drive * Conway * (501) 205-1985
Mexico Chiquito on Urbanspoon
4511 Camp Robinson Road * North Little Rock * (501) 771-1604
Mexico Chiquito NLR on Urbanspoon

Classic yellow dip at Nick's Barbecue and Catfish.
Nick's Barbecue and Catfish.  A slightly sharp yellow dip best with the matching cumin-infused salsa and thin and crispy tortilla chips.
1012 S. Bankhead * Carlisle * (870) 552-3887 *
Nick's Bar-B-Q & Catfish on Urbanspoon

Pancho's.  The only restaurant on my cheese dip list that serves their queso at room temperature.  The
Pancho's cheese dip is served cold.
creamy  dip is extraordinarily mild; "hot dip" (a pepper sauce laced salsa puree) is brought to the table to add to get the right consistency.  The hot dip is as spicy as the cheese dip isn't.  Served up with tortilla rounds; you'll also find Pancho's cheese dip sold in original and white versions in some grocery stores.
3600 East Broadway * West Memphis * (870) 735-6466 *
Pancho's on Urbanspoon

Papa Joe's.  A good hearty yellow dip that goes very well with the burgers served at this Humnoke secret.
12295 Highway 165 * Humnoke * (870) 275-8001
Papa Joe's on Urbanspoon

Patron.  There are several restaurants around the state with the Patron name, but my favorite is on Towson in Fort Smith.  Cheese dip is good but the three salsas served with complimentary chips are even better.  Mix and match.
4416 Towson Avenue * Fort Smith * (479) 648-1130
Patron Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Purple Cow.  Yes, Purple Cow has cheese dip.  What, you didn't know?
8026 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 221-3555
The Purple Cow Restaurant on Urbanspoon
11602 Chenal Parkway * Little Rock * (501) 224-4433
The Purple Cow Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Villages at Hendrix - 1055 Steel Blvd. * Conway * (501) 205-4211
The Purple Cow Restaurant on Urbanspoon
1490 Higdon Ferry Road * Hot Springs * (501) 625-7999
The Purple Cow on Urbanspoon

Riviera Maya.  Impossibly smooth white dip that goes well on EVERYTHING at the restaurant... fajitas, guacamole, even the sopapillas.  You think I'm kidding?
801 Fair Park * Little Rock * (501) 663-4800
Riviera Maya on Urbanspoon
1217 Ferguson Drive Suite 1 * Benton * (501) 776-4140
Riviera Maya on Urbanspoon

Rodney's Handlebar and Grill.  If it's at a motorcycle enthusiast hangout, it has to be good, right?  This dip is three cheeses melded together with sausage.
9110 Interstate 30 * Little Rock * (501) 562-1144 * Website

Rolando's queso fundido makes marvelous strings.
Rolando’s.  The Queso Flamado at Rolando’s is not only thick and hot, it’s on fire.  As in, it's served flaming.  With or without chorizo, this Monterey Jack cheese confection has amazing pull -- not just for its fabulous flavor but for the lengths you can pull the stringy cheese.
210 Central Avenue * Hot Springs * (501) 318-6054
Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante on Urbanspoon
223 Garrison Avenue (Fort Smith), (479) 573-0404
Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante on Urbanspoon
224 South 2nd St. (Rogers), (479) 621-1002
Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Santo Coyote.  Thin but packed with flavor, Santo Coyote’s light cheese dip matches its light and crispy housemade tortilla chips.  And you can get your dip full of stuff, like the El Santo Dip that's full of shrimp, chicken and beef chunks.  You'll need a fork with that. They also have about 100 tequilas on board.
11610 Pleasant Ridge #110 * Little Rock * (501) 225-1300
Santo Coyote West Little Rock on Urbanspoon
2513 McCain Blvd. * North Little Rock * (501) 753-9800.
Santo Coyote Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Senor Tequila.  This cloying, almost sticky queso likes to grab your chip.  With excellent cling, it’s the perfect pungent dip for mixing with the restaurant’s lightly spicy cilantro-heavy salsa.  Also good on the enchiladas.  Multiple locations.

Smokehouse BBQ's dip includes pulled smoked pork.
Smokehouse BBQ.  Newport's own serves thick yellow cheese dip with smoked pork in it.  Great on the Lackey's Tamales.
601 Malcolm * Newport * (870) 217-0228
Smokehouse Barbecue on Urbanspoon

There's a lot of great spices in Sparky's Queso Rojo.
Sparky’s Roadhouse CafĂ©.  You can’t really call Sparky’s dip a yellow dip -- it’s actually Queso Rojo, a blend of cheese and spices so concentrated it actually appears an orangish-red, even redder the longer it sits.  Sweet, salty, cheesy, complicated, it’s just about my favorite cheese dip in the state.
147 E. Van Buren * Eureka Springs * (479) 253-6001 *
Sparky's Cafe and Ultra Lounge on Urbanspoon

Stick with classic Stoby's yellow dip.
Stoby’s.  The restaurant’s eponymous yellow cheese dip is a smooth, creamy blend of cheeses that’s almost sissy mild but also heavily addictive.  It's so dang famous, American Idol star Kris Allen did a big call-out on it on that show -- and got free cheese dip for life.  The newer white dip is spicier, with a long-growing heat from jalapenos under its smooth deceptive surface.  Served on big round yellow tortilla chips.
805 Donaghey * Conway * (501) 327-5447
Stoby's Conway on Urbanspoon
405 West Parkway * Russellville * (479) 968-3816
Stoby's Russellville on Urbanspoon

Taco Mama. This excellent made-from-scratch white sauce cheese dip is heavy on the mozzarella and slyly hints at cilantro, cumin and chipotle peppers.
1209 Malvern Avenue * Hot Springs * (501) 624-6262 *
Taco Mama's on Urbanspoon

Taco Pronto.  The cheese dip, a thick yellow goo, hasn't changed since this restaurant has opened in the 1960s.
4350 Central Avenue * Hot Springs * (501) 525-7309
Taco Pronto on Urbanspoon

Cover your taco burger with cheese dip at Taco Rio.
Taco Rio.  Great yellow dip, better on a taco burger.  I'm not joking.
1713 Paragound Plaza * Paragould * (870) 236-8307 * Facebook
Taco Rio on Urbanspoon

Taco Villa.  This smooth yellow cheese dip has a strong garlic flavor; thick tortilla chips are always on hand for dipping.  Also good on the apple sticks, strangely enough.
420 East 4th Street * Russellville * (479) 968-1191
Taco Villa on Urbanspoon

Tarasco's  The former food truck eatery is now in a shop on Front Street, and serving up silky white cheese dip.
217 North Front Street * Dardanelle * (479) 477-3108 * Facebook
Tarascos Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Taylor's Steakhouse.  The dry-aged steaks are new, but folks have been coming to Taylor's Grocery, the establishment this restaurant was born from, for decades.
14201 Highway 54 * Dumas * (870) 382-5349 * Facebook
Taylor's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Terri-Lynn's.  Yellow, smooth, best served with chili over tamales.
10102 North Rodney Parham * Little Rock * (501) 227-6371 *
Terri-Lynn's Bar-B-Q & Deli on Urbanspoon

Fries are served with cheese dip at Tidwell's Dairy Bar.
Tidwell's Dairy Bar.  Smooth and yellow, this dip was SPECIFICALLY meant for dipping French fries.
511 Front Street SW * Lonoke * (501) 686-2812 
Tidwell's Dairy Bar on Urbanspoon

Trio's Restaurant.  Capi Peck's amazing goat and Jack cheese queso fundido with honey drizzle is only on the Sunday brunch menu, but it is SO worth it.  Trio's also offers a Cowboy Cheese Dip on its catering menu.
8201 Cantrell Road * Little Rock * (501) 221-3330 *
Trio's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Judy's White at U.S. Pizza Co.
U.S. Pizza Company.  Judy’s White Cheese Dip isn’t just great on the thick tortilla chips that regularly accompany the bowl.  It’s also popular with some customers served over salad instead of dressing.  Creamy, mild and inoffensive -- it's a great white dip .  Multiple locations.  Check for them all on the website.

West End Smokehouse.  This bar's Chili con Queso really is what it sounds like -- cheese dip blended with black bean chili.  Pretty good!
215 North Shackleford * Little Rock * (501) 224-7665 *
West End Smokehouse and Tavern on Urbanspoon

Hungry?  Want to make your own?  Check out these great cheese dip recipes from fellow Arkansas bloggers:

Creamy Sausage Cheese Dip from Razorback Britt

Texas Best Cheese Dip from Burlap & Beestings

Skinny Spinach Dip from Enticing Healthy Eating

Queso Blanco Dip from Sugar Spice and Spilled Milk

And here's a photo of my cat eating cheese dip.