In the fast-casual burrito chain wars, Chipotle always had one point against it from the get-go: no queso. Unlike its competitors Moe's and Qdoba, at Chipotle, your cheese options are limited to the shredded cheese that, delicious as it may be, lacks the ooey-gooey warmth and mouth feel of a bowl of queso.
That is, at least for now.
Chipotle has recently begun experimenting with queso at its test kitchen in Manhattan. Cheese lovers' reactions have varied from "It's about time!" to just getting down on their knees to thank a higher power.
We were definitely included in that group of cheese lovers who couldn't wait to try it. And, on Friday, we got to.
After the chips arrived, we escorted it back to our desks like we were carrying diamonds. A small crowd gathered as we snapped the obligatory social media pics and prepared to sample it. Could it ever live up to the expectations we had for it in our minds?
In short, no. Made free from additives, it lacks the creamy mouthfeel of traditional queso dips we are used to. Instead, it tasted more like a spicy bechamel. Most restaurant-style queso is made with melted American-style cheese, which gives it a creamier, and ultimately more "cheesy" experience. So Chipotle, it seems, has attempted the impossible: cheese that lives up to all our expectations without the extra stuff that makes it the thing we already love so much.
While it doesn't taste as cheesy as the queso we're used to, several people remarked the dip (especially with its spicy kick) would still add a nice creaminess when added to a burrito. We might not necessarily order it on the side, unlike the delicious guac, but we'll definitely look forward adding it to a burrito or bowl should the recipe be deemed successful enough to become available nationally. And, if anyone can eventually figure out how to reverse-engineer the perfect natural queso, we have no doubt Chipotle is up to the task.