Obscure Foods in Unexpected Places: Chili con Queso at Mable’s Smokehouse


Chili con queso, a Texas staple, served with corn chips.

When I was a student at the University of Texas, everyone knew how to make chili con queso, and did. This Tex-Mex staple is arrived at by opening a can of Ro*tel chilies, ripping open the silver foil surrounding a brick of Velveeta, melting the Velveeta in a sauce pan, and then dumping in the chilies, brine and all.

Everyone I knew ate it once a week, scraping every last bit of trans fat out of the corners of the pan with tortilla chips. I hadn’t had it since. Until a couple of nights ago at Mable’s Smokehouse, a new Texas-style barbecue in the ‘Burg. The skin on the back of my neck prickled as I downed one well-laden chip, and then another, and another. Excellent beyond my memories of the dish, lovely with its saturated yellow color — almost like a taxicab — and flecked with red tomatoes and green chilies that conferred more flavor than heat, it was memorably good.

And chili con queso (which the restaurant calls “Velveeta and Ro-tel queso dip”) isn’t the only delectable bar snack available there. Another Lone Star fave is Frito pie — but don’t look for the crust. The “pie” is just a bag of Fritos torn open, with chili con carne and shredded cheddar cheese dumped unceremoniously within. Yes, it’s salty, and yes, the taste is more addictive than meth. Either of these treats is $3.95, and you can wash it down with a Lone Star Beer.

Mable’s Smokehouse
44 Berry Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The interior of Mable’s means business, and the ‘cue is great.