Recipe: Republic Cantina’s Queso Dip

Let’s get this party started right.

Photograph by Scott Suchman

Since the demise of Austin Grill, good Tex-Mex has been hard to come by in this area—until the arrival of Republic Cantina (43 N St., NW). Our must-order is this melty queso that’s heavy on the chili powder. (If you’re feeling ambitious, do like the restaurant and make your own.) It’s sized for a party, but you can easily cut the recipe in half for a smaller group. Get the frozen margs going while you make it.

Directions: Add vegetable oil to a large saucepan and place over low heat. Add the onion, poblano, jalapeño, garlic, and salt. Allow the vegetables to soften, not singe or caramelize. Add the milk; bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. While stirring constantly with a whisk, slowly add the American cheese; wait until the cheese is incorporated into the mix before adding more. Repeat with the cheddar. Season with cumin, salt, and chili powder and stir. Garnish, if desired, with fresh pico de gallo or jalapeño slices. Serve with warm tortilla chips.

Serves 12 to 15

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2½ pounds American cheese, small-cubed (preferably Land O’ Lakes Extra Melt)
  • ½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought chili powder*
  • 1 bag tortilla chips (several area Safeways make restaurant-quality tortilla chips in-house)
  • Optional: pico de gallo and sliced jalapeños

*Republic Cantina makes its own chili powder using a three-to-one mix of guajillo and ancho chilies. The chilies are toasted in the oven, then seeded and pulverized in a spice grinder. Dried chilies can be found at specialty and Latin grocers.

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.