Torchy’s Tacos Queso Pop-Up, Ink Lounge
Only a Texas transplant truly appreciates the rarity of good queso north of the homeland.
Though many I know judge – and harshly – the quality of a restaurant based solely on the mastery of its salsa offerings, I tend to lean toward queso as a barometer of success instead. To reach the Tex-Mex ideal of a golden, molten, not-entirely-natural bowl of mildly spicy cheesy heaven, viscosity is key. The mixture should be not so thick as to support a standing chip, but not so thin as to drizzle miserably off a wanly-coated one, either. It should be just spicy enough to light a fire in your mouth, but not so much to make you suffer before your inevitably delayed water refill, and I prefer mine to be festooned with some mixture of the south of the border goodies – pico de gallo, cilantro, jalapenos and yes, even more cheese in the form of queso fresco or cotija.
Settle in with a toasty bowl of lightly salted tortilla chips (not from a bag, please and thank you), or better yet, a few hot griddled flour tortillas for dipping, and tell me you’ve never eaten your fill before the entree arrives.
Alas, good queso is scarce in Denver – Rio Grande’s is the closest I’ve found, and (secret shame) On the Border will work in a pinch, but by and large, the real stuff just isn’t out there. This is why I’ve been watching the progress of Denver’s first Torchy’s Tacos with eager anticipation. The Austin-based taco house is known not only for its brash and tasty tacos, but particularly for its heavenly green chile queso, sent directly to unworthy mankind from the gods of cheese above.
And those clever little minxes over at Torchy’s Denver knew exactly how to lure me out prior to their Feb 2 official opening – Queso. Pop-up.
The quickie queso buffet was set up in a totally original venue that spoke to the punchy, graphic street-art style of design popular in the taco chain’s logo and stores – Ink Lounge, a few blocks off Broadway in Baker, is a screen printing studio that hosts printing workshops, parties and individual studio time. Splashy, graphic posters glowing with vivid pigment and striking lines adorned the stark, industrial walls of this open creative space, boasting a bar and patio out back for lounging.
Clearly not alone in my queso enthusiasm, Texas expats and Coloradans alike poured into the space, lining up for queso and refreshing Jarritos and Topo Chicos, nestled cozily in galvanized tubs of ice. Friendly smiles assembled queso and chip boats with care, adorning each tiny tub of charred green chile-studded queso with a dollop of creamy guac, a sprinkling of queso fresco, a few leaves of cilantro and a squeeze of habanero-based Diablo sauce for added kick (the sauce is available for purchase in-store and online if you’re inclined).
It was like the backyard get-together of my hipster dreams.
A bonus for showing up, revelers were able to screen print their own shirts under the guidance of workshop craftsmen. By some miracle, I did not ruin mine immediately with drips of queso falling from chip to mouth. Finishing off my Topo Chico, I perused the reasonably priced works of art sold in the gift shop entrance of the lounge
INK LOUNGE IS A GREAT PLACE TO BUY AFFORDABLE, ORIGINAL SCREEN PRINTED ART GIFTS
My queso-loving soul was sated enough to endure until the grand opening Monday night (February 1) from 6-9 pm. After that, it’s a taco/queso free-for-all beginning February 2.
Broadway at 11th Ave
1085 N. Broadway St.
Denver, CO 80203
I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.
Torchy’s Tacos Queso Pop-Up, Ink Lounge
The Ink Lounge space boasts screen spring printing craft rooms for workshops and independent art, as well as a bar and back patio.
Torchy’s ambassadors slinging green chile queso.
Fast hands topped each queso cup with queso fresco, guac, cilantro, and a squeeze of Diablo habanero sauce.
The main event. Take a moment to drink in that cheesiness.
Local artist and entrepreneur, Cecile Elliott of www.OneCreativeBird.com, digs in.
Screen printing and queso aftermath, complete with grapefruit Jarritos and TopoChico (not pictured, but key).
Elliott drags the ink over the screen to create the #torchysdoesdenver special logo shirt under the guidance of workshop craftsmen.
Bonus: The Dillery, tucked a few blocks west of Broadway in the Baker neighborhood next to Ink Lounge, serves as a shared workspace for local gourmet favorites Real Dill Pickles, Red Camper Preserves, Elevation Ketchup and Backyard Soda Co.