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Headed to Waco for 3 months

  • d

I'll be in Waco from February through April, and welcome suggestions on places to eat, including restaurants in smaller cities and towns that are worth a day or weekend trip. I am armed with the Texas Monthly 50 Best Barbecue issue and much, much more information about the Austin, Houston, D-FW and San Antonio areas than I know what to do with. I'm also interested in good local markets within easy reach of Waco.

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  1. I think it makes a big difference to know where you're coming from. My personal recommendations would be much different for someone coming from, say, a small town in the middle of Iowa than it would somebody from San Francisco, for example.

    And also, what types of foods/restaurants/etc. most interest you? Upscale? Asian? Mexican? Steak and potatoes and home cookin'?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Jaymes

      Good question. I'm coming from the Washington DC area, which is strong on upscale restaurants. I enjoy almost all types of food, and care much more about taste than presentation. As a rule, I like to eat local specialties. In the South I tend to eat at meat-and-three and barbecue places, and in Texas I've gravitated toward Mexican and barbecue (and Vietnamese in Houston). I've been disappointed by the limited number of chicken fried steaks I've had, but I'm game to try again. I'd be very interested in places opened by New Orleans refugees. I love very fresh seafood.

      1. re: dcbbq

        First, welcome to Texas. The greatest state in the USA!
        Second, unless someone can say differently, fresh fish is definitely, OUT OF THE QUESTION! But, your only an hour (or less) away from the Central Texas towns that are noted for the best BBQ in the state of Texas.
        There are enough blogs on "Texas Chowhound" that will discuss them all. You should search them out.
        I'm not familiar enough with Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Waco to advise you. Other than say, stay away from the chains if you can.
        I'm sure some Waco residents and travelers will comment here on their favorite Mexican places.
        The best of luck and, enjoy yourself in our great state where, our people are our greatest resource!

        1. re: twinwillow

          Thanks! I'm looking forward to my time in Texas.

          1. re: dcbbq

            Although, not on the level of the bbq joints in Central Texas, the Rusty Star, on Highway 6 across the lake, serves some very good bbq and is only about 15-20 minutes from downtown Waco. This place was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations where he visited Ted Nugent. FYI, this place is not open on weekends. While in Waco, try the Dr Pepper made with pure cane sugar. However, you need to make a Saturday trek to Snow's bbq (#1 by Texas monthly). Truly a unique small town Texas experience. Make sure you get up early. And no stay in Waco is complete without a eating a hamburger and shake at Health Camp on the circle.

        2. re: dcbbq

          If you have been dissapointed by the lack of chicken fried steaks you have had, there is a great place just north of Waco in Elm Mott called Heitmiller's. Now this is normally just a great steak house, but they also have great CFS. Also about 30 miles to the south in Temple, there are two really GREAT CFS spots on S 1st street Jody's Family Restaurant (Old Jody's) and Jody's Restaurant (New Jody's). They are both on the east side of the street, and both have great CFS but the Old Jody's is just slightly better. Great food you will love it, Hope you enjoy!

          1. re: iam1bigtxan

            Just to clear something up about the two Jodys The original one is "Old" Jody's while the newer one is Jodys Restaurant. The food is great at the "Old" Jody's. Joey is the best cook around. Anything you try will be good. To many things to mention.

            "Old" Jodys
            1219 So 1st St, Temple, TX 76504

          2. re: dcbbq

            Just got off the phone with a friend that lives in Waco. Asked him specifically about seafood. He says he goes to D&J Restaurant for seafood. Says that they specialize in dishes made with fresh, never-frozen, seafood.

            He likes it. Might be worth a try.

        3. You definitely must go to Taylor for Louie Mueller's BBQ. One of the legendary Texas 'cue joints. Go early - for lunch. These places are not dinner restaurants. Another interesting spot for a road trip is over to Fredericksburg. See the LBJ Ranch - well worth the visit. In Fredericksburg, I like the Hill Top Cafe, but there are several restaurants there that get good reviews. You can plan to spend a weekend in Bandera at a real working ranch, or at a famous dude ranch. Good fun and great country cooking. San Antonio is always a hoot. And for another experience you won't get in DC, take a weekend and go to Del Rio. It's not that far - about 5 hours or so over good roads. You can plan to duck out of work a couple hours early on a Friday and head for the border around 1 or 2 in the afternoon, you're in Cuidad Acuna in time for dinner at the famous Ma Crosby's, and then drinks at the equally famous Corona Club. On Sunday, head for home around noon or so, and you'll be back home in time for dinner.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jaymes

            James, vu_man --

            Many thanks. These look like great suggestions

          2. I really enjoyed the Elite Circle Grille, and recommend their meaty and delicious french dip. I searched to see how other 'hounds felt about it, and found a recommendation for their CFS: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531139

            1. There's at least 1 other thread on Waco ... maybe more

              I've met friends @ Buzzard Billy's ... and was not displeased.

              Also tried the ClayPot (VietNamese) ... www.claypotcuisine.com ... it was also decent food if not fancy. (Nothing like Mai Que in Houston ... VietNamese/French royal family level of cooking ... too bad they moved to Florida!


              Louis Mueller's IS good BBQ ... more pepper than most BBQs in Central Tx. The Taylor Cafe also has decent Q but it's not on the top of my list of best BBQs.

              Head N of Waco to Greater Metropolitan West, Tx & try the Czech Stop for pastries ... there's also a Czech butcher next door for your sausage needs ... both right off the freeway. IF you go E about 1-2 mi into West TX, (across the RR tracks) there's another, better bakery on the Lt (N) side of the street. Great Poppy Seed Kolaches.

              Try hitting the Tx Wine Trail (google it) ... take some good BBQ & cheese w/ you ... picnic w/ a bottle of wine @ each place

              3 Replies
              1. re: EdLagniappe

                West is a good suggestion, although personally, I very much prefer the kolaches and sausage wraps at Gerik’s Ole Czech Bakery over the Czech Stop (which mainly has the great location going for it, in my view). And a block or two into town, over the railroad tracks and then turn north, is Nemecek Bros Czech butcher shop. Great old-fashioned ring baloney.

                Also good for a fun afternoon (even if it is a little cutsie and girly) is Salado. There are interesting art galleries and antique "shoppes" and tchotchke joints and one restaurant that's supposed to be pretty grand (although I can't say personally as I haven't tried it), The Range Restaurant. http://www.therangerestaurant.com/

                A few other interesting ways to wile away a Waco afternoon are the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Dr. Pepper Museum, and the Mayborn Museum (part of Baylor University complex).

                As far as barbecue goes, after sampling Louie Mueller's, one of the consensus best in the state (although there's been some gossip to the effect that it hasn't been as good since Lance left), you can head the other direction, west to Llano for Cooper's. Again, plan to get there early. It seems to appear and disappear from the Texas Monthly "Best BBQ" lists, but it's equally famous as Louie Mueller's, and if it's late April, there's a chance that the bluebonnets might be in bloom. If so, it's an especially pretty drive.

                Austin has several good "meat & three" restaurants, and several excellent New Orleans-themed restaurants, too. There's excellent sushi at Uchi, and wonderful Italian at Vespaio.

                All in all, you shouldn't be bored if you're willing to do a little homework. And drive, drive, drive - just like the Texans do.

                1. re: Jaymes

                  I concur with "Jaymes" on Gerik's in West. Much better than the "touristy" Czech Stop.
                  I've also heard some frightening reports about Louie Mueller's BBQ in Taylor. And it's always been my supreme favorite! Too bad. I've heard Lance is opening his own place somewhere nearby.
                  I also concur with Vespaio (Italian) in Austin. And, lot's of really good (authentic) Mexican places in Austin, too.
                  And, there is a First Chinese BBQ in the Chinatown shopping center. A branch of the wildly popular (authentic Cantonese) First Chinese BBQ from Dallas, the food is just as good and, they take credit cards unlike the Dallas branches which are cash only. They're BYOB as well. Also, really good in Austin is T & S Seafood for fantastic Hong Kong style dim sum.
                  No trip to Texas would be complete without a visit (or two) to Austin.

                  1. re: twinwillow

                    Yeah T&S is the place to go for dim sum in Austin.
                    Musashino's also has very good sushi.

                    I prefer the more casual Enoteca Vespaio, it's fun to kick back on their patio while enjoying some mussels and fries as well as the prosciutto pizza - the one topped with egg! I haven't gotten to try the salumi there, but it looks good too.

              2. It looks like I'll have my work cut out for me! I may have to conduct a kolache survey in addition to the barbecue survey.

                I really appreciate the day/weekend trip suggestions. They are a big part of the fun of a lengthy visit to a new city.

                I'm kind of surprised I'm not hearing much about Mexican restaurants

                4 Replies
                1. re: dcbbq

                  It is interesting that you haven't heard all that much about Mexican restaurants in this thread. That's probably because there are so many and everybody seems to kind of have several favorites - oftentimes different favorite restaurants for different dishes. And I don't know about anyone else, but personally, I don't usually recommend TexMex restaurants because, second only to barbecue, that's a great way to start an argument. Actually, I shouldn't say 'second only to barbecue.' Trying to determine which Mexican restaurants are "the best" is undoubtedly even more difficult than reaching some sort of consensus about barbecue. But Austin has its own forum on Chowhound, and they'll go into considerably more detail over there.

                  I will say that two Austin Mexican-themed dishes with which you should become intimately aquainted are migas, and breakfast tacos.

                  However, you should know that regardless as to which Mexican restaurants get recommended, and whichever ones you wind up trying, the one "do not miss" in Austin is Fonda San Miguel. But it's not some cheap Mexican dive. It's an expensive, beautiful, upscale restaurant featuring interior Mexican food. They've got a cookbook out that you can drool over. http://www.amazon.com/Fonda-San-Migue...

                  For your New Orleans-style restaurant, try Gene's http://www.genesrestaurant.com/

                  There's also Gumbo's (which I haven't tried, but it's gotten good reviews). And Nubian Queen Lola's.

                  Meat & three - the "granddaddy" is Threadgill's. If you go, be sure to go to the one on North Lamar - it's the original. And I should add that a lot of people think it's gone severely downhill over the last ten years or so, but it's still a good time and kind of fun to go there and imagine how it was back in the 60's and 70's when Janis Joplin was a fixture at "Open Mic Night."

                  However most Austinites will tell you that Hoover's has better food.

                  Not sure if this is helpful, but my favorite "home cookin" place in Austin was Dot's. It burned down a while back, but somebody told me that she has rebuilt. I don't know for sure (I don't live there anymore), but I'd strongly suggest you make an effort to find out. In my view, home cookin' didn't get any better than what Dot was slinging out.

                  And since you're going to be in Central Texas for three months and you say you've already done some homework, you've undoubtedly heard the name "Lockhart" - the small town with the big nickname - Barbecue Capital of the World. You should know that it's only about a half-hour or so south of Austin. And you absolutely should not miss it. There are three places there that get a lot of buzz, and are continually the subject of the most heated arguments in Texas when it comes to who turns out the best 'cue: Smitty's Market, Kreuz Market, and Black's. The most common thing to do on the "Barbecue Trail" is to go to each one and get about a half-pound or so of the brisket to share (exactly how much depends upon how many tasters are traveling with you), a rib or two per person, and a hot link. You can also get whatever other kinds of meats you'd like to try - pork chops, prime rib, sirloin, etc. And you taste a bit at each place. The trick is not to fill up at any one place. Then, if you're up for it, and you want to complete the tour, drive another half-hour down to Luling for their City Market.

                  Lexington (which was recommended above) has also recently vaulted itself into the "don't miss on the Barbecue Trail" list. But it's more east, and Lockhart and Luling are south of Austin. And Snow's, in Lexington, is only open on Saturday mornings and you have to get there early. If you're a sausage (and in Texas, we call them "hot links") fan, you can combine a trip to Lexington with a visit to Elgin and a stop at the two famous sausage places: Meyer's and Southside. They do sell brisket, etc., but most folks consider it to be pretty average stuff and not the reason to go to Elgin.

                  And what the hell -- while you're rambling around Central Texas noshing on 'cue and hot links, stop in at Shiner and take a tour of the brewery.

                  I mean, why not? Yee haw, pardner.

                  After all, yur in Texas now.

                  1. re: Jaymes

                    Ditto, Hoovers! Have the smothered pork chops. But, call and ask when they have them on the menu.

                  2. re: dcbbq

                    30 minutes to the south is Temple, Tx. If you go west on HWY 53 about 15-18 miles, you'll be in Zabcikville, home of Greene's sausage. I think the kolaches and sausages are better than anything you can get in West, and they also have an attached restaurant serving same smoked treats. You will not be disappointed.

                    1. re: LeroyT

                      Greene's is great......you go EAST out of Temple on Hwy 53 to get to Zabcikville.

                  3. So most of these responses have you leaving Waco to get good food. Not necessary. I have lived here 9 years and have found that the best kept secret about Waco is it's hole-in-the-walls. You eat out every meal at a different place for weeks and not exhaust all the possibilities. Here are my suggestions--

                    Mexican (Especially for Breakfast)-- Go to Lolita's on Franklin Avenue and get the Elephante. Adriana and Jeanette's on Waco drive is also good. For lunch or dinner try Mi Tequila on Valley Mills or La Fiesta on Franklin.

                    Burgers-- Do not leave Waco without visiting two burger places, make that three-- Dubl R on Herring is astounding, and you will leave smelling like grease. Not too far from that on 19th street is Kitok's, an Asian place that makes phenomenal burgers. Finally, try Health Camp on the circle (near the Elite bar and grill.)

                    BBQ-- Two words-- East Waco. Find Elm street, and go down it. There are two places that are really good on that street-- Tony Demarias and Jaspers. For a more smoky feel, try Michna's on Franklin Avenue. For great sauce, Uncle Dan's on Lake Air.

                    Another great breakfast place is Cafe Capucinno downtown. They have great pancakes but unless you are someone who regular eats 72 oz. steaks for sport, I would suggest just ordering one. They are large. Also downtown, if you have no budget constraints, is Diamondbacks, an amazing steak place-- When W. was president this is where all the White House bigshots ate.

                    Enjoy your time here. It's a great place.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: clocktower74

                      Let me see ... three months, 270 meals. So many places, so little time

                      1. re: dcbbq

                        The chicken bulgogi at Kitoks is also worth a try. And Waco now has a Chuy's, a "local chain" that started in Austin. Get the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom enchiladas. And ask for the creamy jalapeno dip. As for sights - you have to go check out the Waco Mammoth Site. Really amazing that this is in Waco!!

                    2. To recommend TexMex places I need to hear more from you as to what you like to eat Mexican-wise. Personally the only dish I tend to order (though I taste whatever my wife orders) are the Fajitas (and usually beef or a mixed platter with beef). So my following reviews relate to their Beef Fajitas, as anything else I order usually tends to disappoint. Bare in mind they tend to be large portions and I am a largish guy who does a lot of exercise and thus eats large portions.

                      My top Fajita place is La Tapatio's as you can order their beef fajitas with a cream chipotle sauce that is great and the beef is well flavored. Portion size is good for one person with a healthy appetite but not ridiculously large. Consistency has been an issue but unfortunately I have found that to be the case at every TexMex restaurant I have visited. Prices are average by Texan standards. The beans that come as a side are superbly done and are the best I have had at any TexMex restaurant period, a hint of bacon and perfectly seasoned. Cannot remember whether or not the flour tortillas are homemade but I don't remember them being bad.

                      If I want a change then I am also happy to have Beef Fajitas at El Conquistador. The beef is well season and flavorful. Portion size is smaller than most places but still a good size and should be adequate for any but the most obese or hungry of individuals. Prices are average by Texan standards. Sides are solid and I believe the flour tortillas are home made and fresh.

                      The next place worth recommending (for Fajitas) is La Fiesta. I have heard complaints about the decor being tacky (most TexMex places are, so I don't notice it) but my one decor complaint is that the booth seats are very soft cushions which I sink into and the edge of the table is too far from the seat back so I have to lean forward a fair way. Anyway... portions here are huge, in fact at many TexMex places Fajitas for one are enough for one hungry person and their normal portion eating partner. The mixed Fajitas (beef, chicken and pulled pork in BBQ sauce) are worth trying for the pulled pork alone but consistency has been an issue and then it isn't very 'Mexican' and becomes more 'BBQ'. Beef is flavorful. Prices are above average but portion sizes more than make up for it.

                      Finally if you are happy to pay more for a 'fine dining' type TexMex restaurant then you can try La Cucina in the downtown portion. They make a rump steak cut Fajita which is very flavorful and perfectly cooked but cost is double your typical TexMex but still reasonable for what you are served.

                      Before anybody criticizes my lack of adventure in ordering TexMex (i.e. almost solely ordering Fajitas) everything else seems to be heavy on the cheese and light on anything else. A good example are the Spinach Enchiladas at Ninfas, taste great but almost all cheese. I prefer the mix of flavors that is the great beef fajita with all the trimmings.

                      Diamondbacks and The Green Room are both very very very good fine dining restaurants and I am surprised such a small town has two restaurants of such quality. The former is best known for its steaks, which are divine, and the latter is at least French inspired. Both are of course thus expensive, certainly by Texan standards. Highly recommended. What surprised me is that Diamondbacks serves large portions, odd for fine dining. The Green Room portion sizes are more what I've come to expect from fine dining.

                      I cannot believe nobody has mentioned this: Bangkok Royal (or Royale). Great Thai food. Not just by Texan standards, as good as anything back home in Sydney (Australia) except for maybe the top Thai restaurant in arguably all of Australia (Sailors Thai). Well sized portions and some interesting twists to dishes I thought I knew. For example their sweet and sour dish (sauce) has a noticeable tomato base that I never tasted in any sweet and sour dish of any Asian cuisine back home, and it works. Highly recommended, average Texan price and highly highly recommended.

                      Fresh seafood in Central Texas though? Stick to the beef. Seafood is for very well stocked cities like Vegas or seaside towns/cities.

                      I have eaten at a few TexMex (admittedly none were fine dining) places in Austin (recommended here on CHOW) and none are worth leaving Waco for.

                      Being foreign I was keen to try BBQ brisket and everything I tasted was frankly crap. Until I tried Snow's in Lexington. Well worth the approximate 1.5 hour drive (each way) from Waco on a Saturday morning. I now love brisket, but only THEIR brisket.

                      Somebody above mentioned Michna's for BBQ, personally it looked rundown (decor wise) and the food was even worse than the place looked.

                      Question for anybody: many of the 'simple' american food restaurants leave me with a stomach ache and some bad indigestion. Is there something unique to food here in the US that may be responsible? Elite Circle Grille is a good example, food tastes great and is admittedly rich (burgers, ribs etc) but even with just a small portion (by my standards anyway) I will undoubtedly wind up with indigestion.

                      Yet I can safely polish off a couple of large steaks that I prepare myself with no trouble, or a large portion from any quality restaurant (diamondbacks say) or any TexMex or Asian. I know I overeat on occasion but even taking that into account I can safely eat a large home cooked meal (even of heavier less healthy food) without a fraction of the discomfort.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: SydneytoWaco

                        This is helpful. I've been away a couple of weekends and am way behind on my Mexican food. I plan to make a fairly detailed report at the end of my stay, but one thing: Waco seems to be a great place for ice cream. Kate's Frozen Custard may be the best frozen custard in the world, and while the burgers at the Health Camp are very good, the milkshakes are really outstanding.

                        1. re: SydneytoWaco

                          SydneytoWaco: You say that you don't order anything but fajitas at Mexican restaurants because "everything else seems to be heavy on the cheese and light on anything else"?

                          I just find that so puzzling.

                          I have a dear friend that is lactose intolerant and has a difficult time with cheese. Mexican food is her very favorite and we go to Mexican restaurants all the time.

                          Mexican dishes without cheese far, far outnumber those with. If I took a little time, I'll bet I could come up with hundreds of typical Mexican dishes that are either completely cheese free, or that have just a little bit crumbled on top, which easily could be left out.

                          Not a comprehensive list by any means, but here are some off of the top of my head that often appear on local Mexican menus:

                          Enchiladas Verdes con Pollo & Salsa Tomatillo
                          Camarones en la plancha
                          Carne asada
                          Carne guisada
                          Chiles rellenos con picadillo en salsa ranchera
                          Chiles en nogada
                          Seafood tacos
                          Cochinita pibil
                          Beans - de olla, charros, borracho, refritos, etc.
                          Huachinango a la Veracruzana
                          Camarones al Mojo de Ajo
                          Beefsteak a la Tampiqueña
                          Arroz con pollo

                          And that list took me, what, 60 seconds to come up with? And it doesn't include many dishes with simply-cooked pork chops, chicken, lamb, seafood, etc. Or vegetable dishes. Or soups, for which Mexico is so rightly famous.

                          Given time, I could list many, many more cheeseless dishes. In fact, like I said, hundreds and hundreds.

                          Obviously, it's all a matter of personal preference and if you don't really like Mexican food much and that's why you order fajitas (my absolute least-favorite thing to order), that's fine. I mean, let's face it...everybody doesn't have to like the same thing.

                          But to blame it on cheese is, in my opinion anyway, just wrong.

                          And regarding seafood - the state of Texas has 370 miles of coastline, and that coastline is only a few hours drive from Waco. You can easily get excellent fresh seafood dishes if you stick with the local bounty from the Gulf, like shrimp, crab, oysters, grouper, snapper, etc.

                          1. re: Jaymes

                            I should have been more specific, my experience is with TexMex as opposed to straight Mexican cuisine. Having said that, most of the 'home made' Mexican restaurants have been average at best. I think the problem is that food in general is so cheap here in Texas that they have to charge a competitive (and low) amount and thus cut corners.

                            I don't know where you are in Texas but here in Waco people are generally poor and they eat garbage so that is what most places cater to: food high in fat (since overly sweet wouldn't work with the rustic nature of Mexican). Cheese is high in fat and is tasty. I love cheese, but if I want some beans drowned in cheese then I can do that at home.

                            And whilst I agree that every item in your list can be served without cheese, the fact is that many of those items are served with cheese.

                            Let me go through your list:
                            Carnitas - Best I have had came with a 'mixed' fajita dish, rest have been forgettable (bland or greasy)
                            Tacos - Not sure that I have often seen these served without cheese here in Waco (though on once occasion I can remember they were ok, but very greasy). I prefer making these myself.
                            Ceviche - The last time I had ceviche was at Nobu in Las Vegas and it was forgettable. I can drown the flavor of a dish in lemon/lime juice by myself.
                            Enchiladas Verdes con Pollo & Salsa Tomatillo - I haven't by any means tried every enchilada there is but all the ones I have tried have had cheese.
                            Camarones en la plancha - Never seen this on the menu, had to look it up online, will eventually try making this myself.
                            Mojarra - A specific kind of fish that I have never seen on a menu.
                            Mole - I haven't had the bravery to try this because I hate ordering something just to find out that I don't like it and as I have said with TexMex here (outside of fajitas) it happens often. But I should try it, you're right. Nothing worse than a bad meal when you know there is something good available though.
                            Carne asada - Had it in tacos and none have impressed, not bad but not good either.
                            Carne guisada - Stewed meat that has been a let down every time I have tried it.
                            Chiles rellenos con picadillo en salsa ranchera - Haven't seen this particular variation on a menu but chiles relleno are drowned in cheese here. You're in Austin or some big city aren't you?
                            Chiles en nogada - Never seen this on a menu but I looked it up and it looks very good. Wish I knew where to find it!
                            Albondigas - Another interesting dish I will have to look out for.
                            Seafood tacos - Always disappointed with these, seafood used is pretty much always drowned out by the vibrant flavors used in Mexican food.
                            Flautas - Yet to see these without cheese.
                            Tamales - The best I have had were at Mesa Grill (by Bobby Flay) and they were pretty good. The rest have been dry and bland.
                            Cochinita pibil - Never heard of this let alone seen it on a menu. Would love to try this.
                            Beans - de olla, charros, borracho, refritos, etc. - I do enjoy good beans (see above) and I enjoy these as a side but to go out to eat just beans; probably not going to happen.
                            Posole - Mexican stews have always disappointed me.
                            Cabrito - Never seen this on a menu but would give it a try.

                            I'm running out of time. I am not slandering the Mexican cuisine, I am simply stating that what is available to eat in a restaurant here isn't all or even much of the above. Let me know where you are because it's clearly not Waco.

                            Problem with seafood is that I don't know what is local and what is worth eating. I was raised on beef, it wasn't until late in my teens that I had eaten any pork outside of sausages, ham, and bacon. So it may be largely a function of that. I wasn't disparaging Texan seafood. But if you want to stack up Texan seafood to Texan beef there is a clear winner.

                            1. re: SydneytoWaco

                              As you say you didn't have pork other than sausages, ham and bacon until your teens, it sounds as though you may have been raised on a cattle station. If so, it's no wonder that you prefer beef. And it definitely is popular in Texas as well, no question. But personally, I don't know that I'd agree that there is always a "clear winner" when comparing "Texan seafood to Texan beef." A nice fresh red snapper from the Gulf is pretty darn tasty, especially when prepared in one of Mexico's most famous dishes: Huachinango a la Veracruzana, or "Red Snapper Veracruz Style" - an utterly sublime red sauce, sometimes featuring olives along with the more expected tomatoes, onions, chiles, seasonings, etc. I often see it on Mexican restaurant menus. And I'm a pretty big fan of Texas shrimp, crab, oysters. In fact, I'd usually rather have them than beef. Like most things, it's really all in what you like, isn't it?

                              But, regarding Cochinita Pibil, you might enjoy this little bit of popular culture trivia. Not sure if you saw the film, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," one of a trilogy of movies by Robert Rodriguez. It starred Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, Salma Hayak and Johhny Depp, and was filmed down on the Texas/Mexico border. Wiki has this to say about the opening sequence and Cochinita Pibil:

                              "In the movie 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico,' puerco pibil [the same thing, but 'cochinita' refers to the whole pig] is a favorite dish of antihero Agent Sands [Johnny Depp], and the character's obsession with the dish is the feature of several scenes. He feels so strongly about the food that he murders any cook who makes it too well (in order to 'maintain balance' in the country). A recipe for puerco pibil appears as a bonus feature on the DVD edition of the film. The director, Robert Rodriguez, provides a recipe and instruction on how to cook the dish."

                              So, STW, there's a bit of fun local Texican lore. And the movies are a hoot, if you haven't seen them. It's also fun to go to Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, where they were made. It's a pretty easy weekend trip from Waco.

                              And, PS...

                              Although I've eaten at the Original Ninfa's in Houston and think it's pretty good, I've never been to the one in Waco. I have heard that the Ninfa's not run by Mama Ninfa's family are not as good as the original. I did, however, just out of curiosity, do a quick menu search online and see that they offer many of the dishes I've listed. Although again, since I've not eaten there, don't know how well these dishes are executed.

                              But look, if what you're doing works for you, what the hell, eh? Maybe if it ain't broke...well...you know. As we say in Texas, "Evs, mate."

                              Some people never like Mexican food and maybe you're one of them. All I was trying to point out is that this shouldn't be just a cheese issue.

                              1. re: SydneytoWaco

                                Thought about you last night, Syd (if I may be so bold as to call you that). Had a delicious Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (shrimp in garlic sauce) at a local TexMex joint. I'm pretty sure I saw it on the menu at the Ninfa's in Waco, but don't have time right now to double-check. I'm practically positive, though, that I saw Camarones a la Plancha (or Parilla - both of which mean "grilled") on that menu, and they can be terrific as well (although I'll grant you that many Mexican restaurants seem to have a tendency to overcook shrimp). My tablemate had the snapper Veracruzana, and it was outstanding.

                                But the main reason I've returned here is to suggest to the OP (or anyone else interested in things to do in the Waco area) that should he/she be in the mood for a road trip some evening, you might drive the hour or so south to Walburg, and the German food at the Walburg Restaurant. Should add that on popular evenings, the place does fill up and you'll need reservations. Can be irritating to drive an hour only to discover you can't get in.

                                I've had some really great meals there. And they have a biergarten out back that can also be a lot of fun, especially as the weather improves and evenings outdoors have more appeal.


                            2. re: SydneytoWaco

                              I've yet to travel around the world, but I have to admit, some of the best seafood I have ever had was in Sydney.
                              As for the stomach ache, carry Tums and eat on............

                            3. DCBBQ - it's the middle of April. Any chance you could get back with us and let us know what you've found, and what you think of it?

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Jaymes

                                I certainly will. The short version is -
                                A pleasant surprise has been Rudy's. I normally avoid barbecue chains except for the flagship, but whoever runs the pit at Rudy's really knows what they're doing. They also had Dogfish 60-minute IPA for $2.50, which must have been a mistake. Tied for best barbecue is Uncle Dan's. Vitek's highlight was the Dublin Dr. Pepper. Michna's was pretty good, but the portion was very skimpy.
                                Katie's Frozen Custard may be the best frozen custard in the world - seriously.
                                The milkshakes at the Health Camp are really, really good. Good burgers, too. Also good burgers at Kitok's, although I wasn't impressed with the oriental fries, which seem to have a big following, I haven't been to Double R
                                Another very pleasant surpise - Siete Mares has good fresh seafood -- and you bring your own wine or beer, so it's very reasonable.
                                We didn't eat much Mexican - my wife lacks my utter disregard of cholesterol and weight gain, and brisket was a priority.
                                I all , Waco is a city of hidden gems. we've enjoyed our time here. Baylor is a lovely campus and a great place to be in basketball andbaseball seasons.
                                Further afield, the kolaches in West are great. They are great everywhere in West. It's wrth driving to Dallas just so you can stop in West for loaches.
                                I haven't been to Taylor yet, but so far Snow's has the best barbecue (brisket) in Texas, followed very very closely by the City Market in Luling. Kreuz MKt was not as tender, but was very flavorful, and their jalapeno cheese sausage is sensational - best sausage in Texas, whcih is saying a lot. Smitty's was a real disappointment - the highlight was the blue bell ice cream cone for a dollar. Off the Bone in Ft. Worth is much, much better than Angelo's. The best ribs I had were at Virgie's in Houston, which also has very good brisket. Bubba's in Ennis - not so good. Probably best to get a steak there.
                                Also, the arboretum in San Antonio is great. The Kimball Art Museum in Ft Worth is a must-see. (I really liked Ft Worth). this spring the widlflowers have been breathtaking. Texas is a great state.

                                Kitok Restaurant
                                1815 N 18th St, Waco, TX 76707

                                Health Camp
                                2601 Circle Rd, Waco, TX 76706

                                Katie's Frozen Custard
                                602 S Valley Mills Dr, Waco, TX 76711

                                City Market
                                633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                                1. re: dcbbq

                                  What a wonderful post! I must admit I even got a little choked up when you got to the part about the wildflowers. I really appreciate your taking the time to let us know how it all worked out.

                                  1. re: Jaymes

                                    I am surprised that no one here mentioned D's Mediterranean at all. Great greek food! off of 15th and Colcord. Small family run place. Also, Viteks off of speight great bbq. Last for coffee, common grounds off of 8th street great place for lots of coffees and teas

                                    1. re: bedeezy

                                      I did eat at D's once, and thought that the Greek food was ok but not great -- although in fairness the backlava looked really, really good and I've heard great things about the fried chicken -- but there's only so much one man can do. I hd lunch today at Schmaltz's downtown, which serves sheated sandwiches on really good bread. There's a new place on Franklin above 5th -- the Barnet Pub -- that knows how to draw Guiness properly The Thai restaurant on Franklin is also a good place to eat. Waco has some variety -- a bunch of places that are good for a change of pace, but which I would not put in the same class as Greek Thai etc restaurants elsewhere -- part of a well-balance diet, and good places to eat if it's time for a meal anyway. (I am not a Vitek's fan, but then I didn't try the famous Gut Pack, and I understand that barbecue is highly personal, like religion, and I try to be respectful of all faiths.) Waco also has places that are well worth a detour -- Katie's, the Health Camp and the local Rudy's and Uncle Dan's come immediately to mind. Driving thorugh Waco and not stopping at at least one of those is like driving through West without stopping for a Kolache or three, or driving through Lockhart and not stopping for some brisket and sausage whether you're hungry or not.

                                      All in all, Waco has been a great place to sepnd a few months.

                                      Health Camp
                                      2601 Circle Rd, Waco, TX 76706

                                      Kolache Cafe
                                      555 N Carancahua St, Corpus Christi, TX 78478

                                      1. re: dcbbq

                                        I hope you also got to some hole-in-the-wall Asian markets and restaurants. It's been my experience through the years that anytime you get close to a US military base, there are lots of Asian wives running excellent small markets and eateries.

                                        They're definitely worth seeking out.

                                        1. re: Jaymes

                                          Just wanted to apologize to you Jaymes, I got busy and lost track of time. I have printed off your list of recommendations and it will be accompanying me each time I dine out now. The least I can do is be fair after the clear effort you put into your posts.

                                          I tried Five Guys today (for the first time) and it's definitely a burger chain worth trying. It's on Valley Mills cross of Waco Drv I believe.

                                          1. re: SydneytoWaco

                                            Wow, what a standup guy. I'll be watching for reports!

                                            Who knows, maybe you'll stumble into something that you like and after you return back down under, you'll even open a TexMex joint in your absolutely gorgeous home town.

                                            I've heard they could use a good Mexican restaurant down there, although I can't say from experience. When I was there, Mexican food was about the last thing I was in search of.

                                            Thanks for getting back with me, and I'll be watching this thread faithfully.

                              2. Waco native here who has lived in Austin for about a decade, got to live in NOLA for a while, and travels and eats quite a bit. Lots of good food in Waco that non-Wacoans often don't recognize. Others have done a good job of hitting most of them, and I won't wear you out with many more. You only have so much time, and it looks like you may be gone already.

                                Noticed you said you haven't been to Dubl R. Owe it to yourself to get a double/double and people watch all stratas of society in one place sitting down for a great burger. Neat place. Go back to Vitek's for the gut pak. Vitek's BBQ is only okay (*ducks and runs*), but the Gut Pak is a self-glorifying creation worth eating. El Charro on LaSalle for more hole-in-the-wall Mexican -- you might see Willie Nelson in there for Saturday breakfast or Ann Richards back when she was still kicking. I trust you threw down some Big O's and chicken fried steak at George's just for the sake of your soul.

                                Glad you enjoyed Waco and Baylor. Lots of beautiful places along the Bosque Rivers, the Lake, the Brazos, Cameron Park, and Baylor campus. They are also places with a surprising amount of unique character and history that too often goes unnoticed by the urban dwellers who have just blown by on I-35.

                                Big O's
                                1116 N Brooks St, Brazoria, TX 77422

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: gaspergou

                                  I've got two meals in Waco coming up.

                                  Great thread but need a little help. Meal one is breakfast, not Mexican, get lots of that here in Austin.

                                  I need a Deep South style breakfast with country ham, biscuits, grits and fried eggs. All other things being equal I'd like a place that's old, preferably with counter seating near the griddle.

                                  Meal two: Old school Texas diner or burger joint. Old. Been there forever. Waitresses call you "sugar dumpling" and chew gum while they take your order. Chicken Fried Steak, Bacon Cheese burger, milkshakes and what have you.

                                  Hope to dine in the old, downtown section of Waco if possible.

                                  Thanks y'all.

                                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                    The old downtown section is pretty much gone. It never recovered from thte 1953 tornado. I highly recommend the Health Camp (on the Circle) for an outstanding burger and a world class milkshake. Iy is more of a drive in than a diner, but it shoudl suit your purposes nicely
                                    Also on the Circle is the Elite, which has a good breakfast, at least on Sunday. Elvis used to eat therere during his army service. They also are touted for their chicken fried steak, which is indeed good if you like deep fried chicken fried steak (As opposed to pan fried, the way the good Lord intended it to be cooked)
                                    Bu all means have a vanilla frozen ciustard at Katie's. It is the best frozen custard in the world.

                                    Health Camp
                                    2601 Circle Rd, Waco, TX 76706

                                    1. re: dcbbq

                                      Thanks for the response dc. What's your favorite source for pan fried cfs in Waco? Indeed this is how the good Lord intended this dish to be prepared.

                                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                        I have to admit I gave up on chicken fried steak research pretty early in order to concentrate on barbecue and sausage. Also, some people reacted pretty negatively when I asked if they pan-fried or deep fried, as if I'd questioned their mother's cooking or something.

                                        Maybe we can get a grant from the Ford Foundation to do research. It would be a real service to humanity

                                        1. re: dcbbq

                                          If they reacted negatively it meant that they breaded the steak and tossed it in the deep fryer with nary a care in the world.

                                          If they reacted positively it meant they took the time,energy and effort to cook the steak in a pan; the way God intended.

                                          Dug this up: http://www.wacotrib.com/wacotoday/STE...

                                          Good reading. Made me interested in

                                          Lone Star Tavern and Steakhouse at 4713 Bellmead Drive

                                          Trading House Bar and Grill at 4553 Lake Felton Parkway


                                          Lake Brazos Steakhouse at 1620 Lake Brazos

                                          I'll report back when I get back down to Austin.

                                          Lone Star Tavern
                                          4713 Bellmead Dr, Waco, TX 76705

                                          Lake Brazos Steakhouse
                                          1620 N Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Waco, TX 76704

                                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                            Scrolled through this whole thing looking for those two restaurants to see if someone mentioned them. Glad you found them before your trip, enjoy a mason and sit on the patio at LakeSteak for me.

                                    2. re: scrumptiouschef

                                      Apologize if this is too late to help.

                                      Old school breakfast place - try Harold Waite's. Bring cash (they are old school - maybe they finally started taking other forms of payment but I wouldn't guarantee it), but they do it up right.

                                      Meal 2 - I'd hit the original George's (and don't go to the newer adddition). Good burgers and CFS, and the original portion is old school. Otherwise, Heitmiller's specifically for CFS and Dubl R specifically for burgers (get the Dubl Dubl).

                                      Seen the references to Health Camp. Great old school feel and great shakes, but the burgers are just ok.

                                    3. re: gaspergou

                                      You would remember Waterworks on the Brazos?