A lawsuit filed last week alleges that Fort Worth chef Grady Spears’s Horseshoe Hill Cafe has ripped off one of Austin’s most iconic dishes — Bob Armstrong dip.
A lawsuit filed in the United States District Court based in Austin claims that Horseshoe Hill Cafe is infringing on the trademark dish created by Matt’s El Rancho in the 1980s, according to Austin’s KXAN. According to a patent certificate submitted to the court, the dip, named for a Texas politician, was trademarked by the restaurant in 2017. The suit claims that Horseshoe Hill Cafe has been using the “Bob Armstrong” name for its queso dip since at least February 2018.
Further, the lawsuit includes a copy of a cease and desist letter allegedly sent by legal counsel for Matt’s El Rancho that indicates that the Austin-based company would have preferred to keep the matter out of court. “Matt’s will consider this matter resolved if you will agree to phase out all use of [Bob Armstrong Dip] within 60 days of this letter, and to permanently refrain from using the [name] or any confusingly similar name without Matt’s prior authorization,” the letter reads. The letter also says that Matt’s El Rancho will “consider” licensing the name to Spears’s restaurant.
A screenshot of the Horseshoe Hill Cafe website indicates that its take on queso was formerly listed on the menu with the Bob Armstrong name, though it has since been updated to a new moniker, “Famous Lawsuit Dip.” The chef hasn’t publicly responded to the suit, but did share a Dallas Morning News article about the “dip that caused a lawsuit” on Facebook over the weekend, sans commentary.
This lawsuit isn’t Spears’s first brush with legal troubles in the past year. Last July, the chef was arrested in Fort Worth on charges of family violence after allegedly assaulting his wife. A few months later in September, Spears’s ex-wife Wendi Mann obtained a protective order against the chef, claiming that he assaulted her “almost daily” and she feared for her life.
In the suit, Matt’s El Rancho seeks unspecified monetary damages from Spears, along with permanently barring the chef’s company from using the “Bob Armstrong Dip” trademark in the future. Court records do not indicate that Spears has officially responded to the lawsuit, and a trial date has not yet been set.