Webb Report: Why no queso at Chipotle? Mystery solved, Texas

12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 9, 2017 Austin360
Want some queso? Don’t go looking for it at Chipotle. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Listen, you’re just not going to win any hearts in Texas by not having queso on your taco joint’s menu. That hasn’t stopped Chipotle Mexican Grill from maintaining a presence in the Lone Star State, however. Their guac is famously extra. Queso? Invisible.

Now, we know why the burrito chain hasn’t added liquid gold to their arsenal of toppings and side dishes.

“Queso is something that we do get requests for from time to time, but it’s very difficult to do it in a way that is consistent with our food philosophy,” Chipotle communications director told Vice’s Munchies food website last month. Arnold went on to explain that making queso fit for a service line requires artificial ingredients like stabilizers to keep the consistency, well, consistent.

Fine, guys. Fine.

Chipotle also answered the question last month in a YouTube video, holding firm to the line that adding queso to the menu would necessitate the use of food stabilizers that are not the chain’s jam. “Do you think it’s a magical cow that squirts queso out of its udders, Larry?” a character in the video asks a hapless, cheese-seeking, fictional marketing brainstormer.

As Munchies pointed out, Chipotle has had a rough foil-wrapped go of it lately, including a PR-disaster E. coli outbreak, dropping carnitas from their menu for failing to meet animal-welfare standards and declining sales. Nothing wrong with sticking to your guns. But even Chipotle would have to admit: A famous queso recipe on the menu sure hasn’t hurt restaurants like Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos in the pocketbook.

So, no molten cheese on the menu at Chipotle, gang. But as you well know, your queso options in Austin are nigh limitless, anyway.

Peak college

Texas: home to weird food combinations galore. You’ve got your doughnut milkshakes. You’ve got your brisket kolaches. Heck, you’ve even got your brisket ramen. And now, you’ve got your ramen-flavored beer.

This summer, Fort Worth brewery The Collective Brewing Project unleashed Cup O’ Beer upon the world, which is exactly what it sounds like. The Gose-style beer is brewed with 55 lbs. of ramen noodles, lime, lemongrass, ginger and a seaweed-cured sea salt.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the beer can be purchased at the brewery’s taproom, with some distribution around Texas. In June, Collective Brewing Project hosted a release for Cup O’ Beer, with bottles going for $7 each. Before the beer’s release, the brewery heralded its arrival with a cryptic Instagram post of enough Maruchan to feed all of the University of Texas’ Jester dorm.

Beer lovers seemed ready to slurp it up, if the brewery’s Facebook fans are any indication. Comments ranged from “I NEED THIS” to “It’s probably a pain to brew, but please keep making it.”

If you thought ramen and beer are a strange pairing, think again. On July 18, the brewery will team up with two Fort Worth restaurants for a private dinner pairing beers with Asian dishes. Cup O’ Beer will be paired with a shrimp hiyashi tsukemen ramen, a cold dipping ramen. A little light googling also uncovers some tasty-looking ramen dishes made with beer in the broth.

Will this noodle oddity whet your appetite like, say, Ramen Tatsu-Ya? Probably not. But Cup O’Beer definitely deserves points for creativity.

Bury the hatchet and bottoms up

Need a way to work out some pent-up frustration? Austin’s newest bar is giving you the opportunity to throw around giant wooden axes — no, seriously.

According to CultureMap Austin, Urban Axes is set to open in East Austin later this summer. Urban Axes’ website says Indoor Competitive Axe Throwing is a sport that’s taken off in Canada and it’s played similar to darts, except you’re throwing 1.5-pound hatchets at wooden targets.

And yes, it’s safe, they say: Each person gets his or her own throwing lane and is paired up with a coordinator or throwing coach who will help keep score and ensure safety protocols.

The Austin location is set to open at 812 Airport Blvd. with five ax-throwing arenas. Groups between eight and 20 people will be able to register in advance for a 2.5-hour time slot, which costs $35 per person. Walk-ins, which are reserved for set times during the week, will be $20 per person.

The best part? It’s BYOB. Drink (and throw axes) responsibly.

— Katey Psencik, American-Statesman staff

McDreamy dreams of pies

Patrick Dempsey, aka McDreamy of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame, reportedly bought a home on Lake Jacksonville several years ago. He’s been splitting his time between Texas and California ever since. He’s not immune to Texas’ charms, falling in love with a little restaurant in Jacksonville called Sadler’s Kitchen. In particular, he’s fallen in love with their pies.

Dempsey posted a photo on his Facebook page last week with Jan Godwin, the woman who bakes the pies at the East Texas restaurant. Dempsey wrote in the post that Godwin’s creations were “the best pies in Texas.”

While we’re talking McDreamy, let’s talk about another “news” story you may have seen about him lately: a post claiming that he’s moving to New Braunfels. It’s been posted online by a satire website masquerading as a local news site and shared widely on Facebook. The article says Dempsey told an unnamed magazine that he’s “tired of the L.A. lifestyle” and has decided to move to New Braunfels because the people are “genuine for one and… real. They’ll tell you what they think and I honestly find that refreshing.”

Sorry, folks, Dempsey never said that, and he’s not moving to New Braunfels. But he still loves Texas, and isn’t that all that really matters, anyway?

— Katey Psencik, American-Statesman staff

Green, without the gills

You don’t have to choose between conservation and an entree at New Braunfels restaurant the Downtowner. In an effort to help protect coral reefs, the restaurant has started serving invasive and venomous lionfish, KSAT reports.

The Downtowner’s new dish is part of a growing movement to “eat our way out of a problem” by keeping the lionfish population in check. Chef Chad Niland told KSAT that “pretty much they’re going to be everywhere unless we start eating them.” Fortunately, the white, flaky fish “take to many different styles of cooking very easily,” he told the news station.

According to the National Ocean Service, lionfish are non-native to the U.S. coast and the Gulf of Mexico, and they are most likely introduced to those areas by humans dumping their home aquariums. Because they aren’t native to the area, the species, which eats numerous species of reef and commercial fish, has very few natural predators.

Minus some hungry Texans, that is.

— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff

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