Food News

How Dallas Could Help Spread Cheese Dip Love

The recent purchase of a Little Rock institution by the restaurant group that owns Burger Girl and Lemon Bar could help push cheese dip into the national mainstream.

Steve Davis, who partnered with Jast Partners to re-open Browning's after a short hiatus, last week told the Arkansas Times that the Dallas firm "is taking on the Heights restaurant with an eye toward franchising."

Browning's has been serving Ark-Mex cuisine for more than 60 years, carrying on the cheese dip tradition pioneered in the 1930s by the Mexico Chiquito café. If Browning's opens additional locations, cheese dip -- widely considered Arkansas' state food -- is likely to remain a menu staple.

Cheese dip isn't the same thing as queso, the director of the World Cheese Dip Championship insists.

"It's a lot more detailed," John McClure says. "People get more involved with spices and peppers."

The first cheese dips were a mix of Velveeta cheese and Ro-Tel tomatoes, but -- as McClure had to explain to disappointed representatives from Kraft and Ro-Tel in advance of this weekend's dip-off - a few contemporary recipes don't use either ingredient. Judges at the contest sampled five-cheese, crawfish and vegan versions of the state's favorite snack.

"The variety is just unbelievable," McClure says.

According to McClure, more than 80 locally-owned restaurants in Little Rock serve cheese dip. He'd like to see that sort of dip saturation replicated across the country.

"We want to build the popularity of what we think is the best comfort food out there," McClure says. "Especially in Wisconsin."

The winner of Saturday's competition, which drew more than 7,500 cheese dip fans, will serve his dip at next year's Roadfood Festival in New Orleans, another McClure production.

"I have a feeling that once people sample the winning cheese dip, they'll be wowed," McClure says.

McClure isn't counting on Browning's cheese dip to sway cheese dip skeptics:

"I'm not a fan and have never been a fan," he says. "Too much cumin for my taste."

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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin

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