Austin, “A little piece of heaven”: Torchy’s Queso

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Street music at Guero’s on South Congress in Austin.

Austin is Houston’s cool, younger brother: there’s SXSW, the bats on Congress Bridge, Barton Springs pool, music everywhere, audiences that clap on the backbeat, and an endless array of great restaurants—I could go on. The Sweetie and I are linked to Austin by one degree of separation, both his brother and my nephew live there, sooo a trip north was a sure thing. 

Once we were past Houston’s 610/49/59/10/71 nightmare, iconic images of Texas were everywhere: sprawling ranches, beautiful, wide-limbed oak trees, a horizon that stretched from East to West, hay sheds gone to rust, and lots of cows. 

Outside Ellinger


Texas longhorn 

Charolais cattle

As I am a recent Kolache convert, when I spotted a billboard along the road advertising “Hruśka’s“,  I whooped, grabbed Sweetie’s leg, and yelled, “Turn, turn, turn!”, which he did. We lined up like real Texans and chose two cherry, one strawberry cream cheese, two basil and sun-dried tomato, one sausage and jalapeño, and two custard-filled Kolaches—all warm from the oven, plus one small bag of ranger cookies and one small bag of peanut butter cookies. Now don’t diet-shame—we did share and even managed to save a few Kolaches for breakfast the next morning and cookies for the ride home.

Austin traffic was no dream, but once at Norm’s, we polished off a few Kolaches and caught up on the latest news, then met Andrew and Ashley for dinner at Torchy’s. After too many chips and tacos, we strolled along South Congress luxuriating in the unseasonably warm, balmy air, enjoying the comfort of being with family, listening to exceptional street music along the way—always remembering to clap on the backbeat.

Austin’s cool older brother

Austin’s cool younger brother

Street musician

Uncommon Objects

Evening on South Congress

Torchy’s Queso, yields 4 cups or so

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 diced jalapeño
  • 2 tsp. Lawry’s Taco seasoning
  • 16 oz. Velveeta
  • 10 oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled chipotle sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 oz. grated Cotije cheese 

Brown hamburger, half of the raw diced onion, and the diced jalapeños in a skillet. Add taco seasoning. 

Cut Velveeta into chunks and place in heavy-bottomed pot on low heat. Add remainder of raw onion and can of Rotel tomatoes and chili.
Melt Velveeta slowly, then add hamburger/onion/jalapeño mixture, and chipotle sauce. Thin with milk or cream if you want the Queso thinner. Once Velveeta is completely melted, add chopped cilantro. Garnish with crumbled Cotije. 
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