Against the advice of professors, the voice of reason in my head, and my friends both here and back home, I ventured to Cancun Mexican Bar & Grill in downtown Waterville. Going two months without good Mexican food had left me delirious and prone to making rash decisions, and the thought of chips and queso was a siren’s call beckoning me onto the downtown shuttle.
The end of October had officially seen me get a severe, dare I say, life-threatening case of TMW: Tex-Mex Withdrawal.
Partly because it was an unplanned, rash decision and partly because I always get the same thing on my first visit to any Mexican restaurant, I neglected to view the menu before my arrival.
My order has been the same for years: an unsweetened iced tea (fellow Southerners please don’t kill me), chips and queso, and chicken fajita quesadillas. It’s the perfect order and a fantastic baseline for my ranking of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to. Currently, Cancun is dead last in the ranking from the queso alone.
I wasn’t expecting it to end up at the top of my list or even in the top 15, but with the tagline “A superior Mexican restaurant in Waterville, Maine,” I predicted Cancun would at least better the Tostitos glass jar queso from the bookstore. Alas, I was wrong.
Let it be known first that I really did try to enjoy it, and I knew going in that it wouldn’t be incredible. But, after being reduced to bookstore salsa and the rare Bob’s queso, I needed something, anything that could help me trick myself into thinking Tex-Mex had found its way back to me.
The Dana “flatbread melts” and “Colorado-style quesadillas” were a slap in the face and to the taste buds every time I ate them thinking they would be a little better than the last time. No matter how hard I tried, however, the second I saw “cheese dip” on the menu, my hope and appetite vanished.
I wished that it was some sort of sick prank, that everyone who told me queso is called cheese dip up north was pulling my leg. I mean seriously, cheese dip? That is an egregious and frankly disrespectful name for quite possibly the greatest invention of mankind. I still can’t believe it, and honestly, there is a deep anger simmering inside of my over-dramatic self after the meal.
Putting my anger aside, I moved down the menu to find “queso fundido,” which improved my mood considerably. The Pioneer Woman introduced me to this dish on the Food Network, and for those of you who don’t know, queso fundido is loaded queso in a skillet. Seems like the perfect dish and is really hard to mess up.
I thought that this was my ticket to success and a full stomach, but I should know by now to stop making predictions, especially when it comes to Mexican food.
Unsweetened iced tea and chips ready, I watched my server place the skillet on the table and almost asked if Ashton Kutcher was hiding under the mountain of toppings disguising the queso. I hope the Pioneer Woman never has to look at that skillet of queso fundido because I never want to look at it again, and I’m just a college student desperate for some melted cheese.
The ratio of queso to toppings? Outrageous. There were about four tablespoons of queso under a mountain of ground beef, onions, and pico de gallo. I was shocked. Did I do something to deserve this? Was I supposed to order it with extra queso? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m going to need to freeze queso from home to keep in my freezer after Thanksgiving break.
My heart breaks for everyone who thinks “cheese dip” is anything but wrong and who has yet to experience real queso. I’ve been spoiled my whole life with easy access to it, and now I’m paying the price for taking it for granted. It’s unfortunate and feels torturous, but I’m sure it’s only going to make the first chips and queso I have when I get home taste that much better.
~ Kathryn Stone `26