For better or worse cheese dip and Arkansas are a marriage made in culinary heaven…or hell…depending on your perspective and the status of your health.
People around here love cheese dip. We crave it, make it, debate it, vote on it, argue about spices and ingredients and types of cheese, defend our favorites, and protect our secret recipes. We proudly claim it as our own. It is part of our culinary and social history.
It’s serious stuff, y’all.
Cheese dip is a local phenomenon that you can’t imagine until you visit. It is a local phenomenon that many locals don’t even realize is a local phenomenon until they go somewhere else and are shocked to find that restaurants in other states have a disappointing lack of cheese dip on the menu.
The Birthplace of Cheese Dip
Central Arkansas lays claim to being the birthplace of cheese dip. The famed Mexico Chiquito restaurant was the first to serve the melty, gooey goodness on a tortilla chip starting way back in 1935. Mexico Chiquito was an event for locals and a must-stop place for people driving through the state even though in it’s early incarnations it was located in a dirt floored building in Protho Junction.
Documentary about Cheese Dip in Arkansas
A few years ago Local film-maker Nick Rogers did his research and created a documentary about cheese dip which went viral. It is funny and really captures the mystery and charm that is the cheese dip culture in Arkansas.
World Cheese Dip Championship
The World Cheese Dip Championship is an annual event held in Little Rock which ironically benefits the Harmony Health Clinic.
Do You Only Find Cheese Dip at Mexican Restaurants?
There is no doubt that central Arkansas is the epicenter of the cheese dip phenomenon.
It is ubiquitous in these parts. You might think of cheese dip as a Mexican food, but in Central Arkansas it is an appetizer served everywhere! Of course the Mexican restaurants serve it, but so do the greasy spoons, the barbecue joints, the pizza places, and a few of the fancier restaurants as well.
I managed to break the worst of my addiction a few years ago, although my research for this post might have pushed me off the wagon.
Oh, who am I kidding. I am definitely off the wagon.
I have tried every single one of the cheese dips on the list!
I couldn’t just write about them from memory now could I?
So here we go, my list of:
Where to get the best cheese dip in Little Rock
Let’s start with the OG.
Mexico Chiquito is still around although it is no longer a sit down restaurant. There is a drive-through Mexico Chiquito in Little Rock and it still serves some of the best cheese dip in the area. They have a yellow cheese version with lots of spices. It is not too spicy, but definitely not bland, and has lots of great cumin flavor.
Some people claim that it is made with real American cheese. (Wait, is there such a thing?) All I know is that this cheese dip is perfectly melty and just the right consistency. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but many people have tried to copy it. This is the version I see the most often as the closest duplicate. Mexico Chiquito cheese dip is one of my favorites to this day.
One quick personal story: My husband’s family used to live in Jacksonville, Arkansas and learned to love the Chiquito during their time in the area. After they moved to Florida they had no way to fulfill their cravings. We were living in Little Rock and every time we made the drive to visit them our car would be laden with coolers filled with gallon jugs of cheese dip. Yes, gallons. A party would ensue upon our arrival, not to celebrate us, but to celebrate the arrival of the Mexico Chiquito cheese dip.
Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro
The cheese dip at Dizzy’s is my number one. You’ve got to try it. Seriously. If I am having a craving this is the cheese dip that I want. I’m not the only one who loves Dizzy’s cheese dip…they have won awards for the stuff.
Dizzy’s is a fun downtown bistro with colorful decor and a warm atmosphere. They serve salads and sandwiches and pasta dishes and great soups. Hint: try the tomato basil soup.
Everything is good, but you must start your meal with the cheese dip!
Their dip has a perfect, creamy, béchamel texture. A server told me once that they mix some of their Alfredo sauce into their cheese dip concotion. I don’t know if this is true. All I know is that Dizzy’s cheese dip is amazing. The portion is large so come prepared to share. It is served with tricolor chips which are strong enough for you to really dig into the dip. Positively addicting!
Heights Taco and Tamale
Or maybe this is the best cheese dip in Little Rock! The Heights Taco and Tamale people say that their cheese dip is inspired by 5 of the most famous original cheese dips in the city. This one is a winner! It is a yellow cheese dip with just the perfect amount of spice.
When locals name their favorite cheese dips this one is consistently on the list.
Why, yes, locals do regularly name their favorite cheese dip. Don’t they do that where you live?
Heights Taco and Tamale is a fun and noisy restaurant that serves slightly upscale and delicious Mexican food. The decor is happily instagrammable, and they have some delicious cocktails to go with your cheese dip and meal. Try the frozen mojito. But be careful! Those suckers taste like a delight but pack a punch.
Cheers in the Heights
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Little Rock. It is a great little neighborhood place. They have excellent salads and sandwiches and pastas and many of the dishes have a bit of a cajun spin.
I love their outdoor patio. It is the perfect place for an al fresco lunch on a nice day.
Their cheese dip is super creamy with an excellent consistency, it has a teeny bit of heat and is served with tri-color chips. They used to serve the cheese dip with chili which I loved, but sadly, they no longer do the chili. Despite that disappointment I think that the cheese dip at Cheers is one of the best.
Cheers has a great dinner menu as well.
Lost Forty Brewing
Lost Forty is a local and very popular brewery. It is named after the last 40 acres of virgin forest in the state located in Calhoun County. The atmosphere of their restaurant taproom is fun and convivial with long communal tables and a large variety of ice cold beers to choose from.
I had not tried the cheese dip at Lost Forty until I began to do my research for this post and it was such a surprise. They serve some of the best cheese dip in town! It is a yellow cheese dip served in an iron skillet and topped with jalapeno. Delicious!
Lost Forty has a small but yummy menu with bar bites and some sandwiches. I recommend trying a beer flight with your cheese dip!
Izzy’s is a west Little Rock local’s favorite that is always good and always consistent. They serve great salads, pasta, pizza, tamales, and sandwiches. This is a place where you can bring a vegetarian and a meat lover and they can both leave happy.
Izzy’s has a large menu which I think causes their cheese dip to get overlooked. It shouldn’t be overlooked. Their yellow cheese dip has chunks of tomato and lots of flavor. Their homemade salsa also has chunky tomatoes and lots of cilantro. I don’t know for sure but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they mix some of their salsa into their cheese dip.
If you are going to get the cheese dip at Izzy’s you really, really need to get a tamale to go with it. They have some of the best tamales (both meat and veggie) in town and with the cheese dip on top they really can’t be beat!
Is it a white cheese dip or a yellow? The cheese dip at Local Lime is the perfect combination of both. It has a great texture and just the right amount of spice.
Local Lime is a busy and noisy hangout in the Promenade on Chenal Parkway in West Little Rock. They have great tacos, but I love their enchiladas, especially the Dixon Chicken Enchiladas although I will warn you that these are spicy!
An added bonus is that Local Lime serves the best frozen margarita in town.
Cheese dip with your upscale burger? Yes, please.
Big Orange is a popular burger joint with a variety of burgers. My favorite is the hickory smoke burger. They also have an excellent veggie burger and some addicting homemade potato chips.
The cheese dip at Big Orange is pretty traditional. Not too bland, not too spicy, but just right. It is a bonus that Big Orange has a great patio at their location in the Promenade. You can enjoy your cheese dip while watching the world go by.
Cheese dip with your down scale burger? Yes, please.
Buffalo Grill is one of the best old-fashioned burger places in town. I love their location in a slightly shabby building on Rebsamen near the river. They have some deck seating for when the weather is good. The burgers are delicious as are the fries.
The cheese dip at Buffalo Grill is an all-round basic cheese dip served with thick chips. Sometimes a good greasy burger with cheese dip as a starter is all you need in life.
Tacos 4 Life
Tacos 4 Life is a fast food restaurant. It started not too many years ago with one location in Conway, Arkansas. They now offer franchises and are a chain spreading quickly across the south.
We don’t usually include chains in our restaurant reviews but Tacos 4 Life is special. Not only are they committed to fresh and delicious food, but for every meal purchased at Tacos 4 Life a meal is donated to a needy child.
Oh, and their cheese dip is really good. It is well seasoned and served with warm chips which are also sprinkled with spices. I’m a little bit addicted to their cilantro rice as well.
Hope you enjoy hearing our recommendations for some of the best cheese dip in Little Rock!
Here is our list of what we think are the best restaurants in Little Rock.
Here is our list of what we think are the best sandwiches in Little Rock.
And here is our list of the best breweries in Little Rock.
Let us know which are your favorites!
Thanks for stopping by.