Southern Agenda

Let the Chips Fall

Legend has it that Arkansas’s love affair with gooey, peppery melted cheese dip dates back to 1935, when Blackie Donnelly and his wife, Margie, concocted a spicy recipe for dippable cheese at their Mexico Chiquito restaurant, then in Hot Springs. Plenty of riffs followed over the years, as well as homages, including In Queso Fever: A Movie about Cheese Dip, a 2009 documentary by the Arkansas native Nick Rogers that spurred the creation of downtown Little Rock’s annual World Cheese Dip Championship (October 30). In professional and amateur divisions, restaurateurs and home cooks whip up their closely guarded versions—most with a base of Velveeta and Ro-Tel, some heavy on the veggies, others flavored with beef, chicken, or bacon. Each ticket holder gets a bag of chips and a voting token. “Last year, I took three five-gallon buckets of cheese dip and I left with none,” says Dominique Greer, the general manager of Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, the Little Rock spot that claimed the top prize last year (and a few years before that, too). “I won’t give away any secrets, but ours utilizes a grill, has a lot of different peppers in it, and is the perfect consistency to coat a chip.”