bypopcprof, September 22, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
While I'm not an expert on Vietnamese food or dim sum, I've had a fair amount of experience in my past 15 years of serious eating. These cuisines have never steered me wrong when I've been traveling and need a fresh and affordable meal in places that are not on the main drag. Because of my positive experiences, I must say that I was more than a little excited about Pho Cafe Saigon. Sadly, it did not live up to my, perhaps inflated, expectations.

When I think of both Vietnamese and dim sum, I think of freshly made and handmade. Both of these attributes show a care and attention to the role that food can play in life beyond just fuel for the machine-body. This attention and care was not present consistently in my recent trip here.

On the positive side, the bahn mi was well flavored in terms of the meat's spiciness and tenderness, and the sub roll was filled with the freshness of crisp vegetables. The pho broth was delicious, and the noodles, while pedestrian were not over or under done. Sadly, the beef was overcooked, and the tongue was much too thick to chew efficiently. This resulted in much of the bowl left untouched.

On the dim sum menu, there existed a great deal of disorder. I feel like much of this might have been due to biting off more than one could chew (both from my and the restaurant's perspective). Dim sum requires a large enough customer base that the restaurant can make dumplings and steamed bao fresh. It does not seem to be the case for Pho Cafe, and they've filled in with pre-frozen products that line the freezers of Asian groceries. I would much preferred to have a small dim sum menu of 5-10 GREAT items than a list of 30-40 meh to ugh items.

Even in the street-side dim sum and pho stands that I've patronized in certain neighborhoods in cities abroad of Texas, I've seen customers take their time and linger, talking to friends and strangers, but nothing at Pho Cafe Saigon made me want to linger this time...at least not yet. I hope that Paul will step it up and prove me wrong because I relish the day when I can get my fix in town rather than driving or flying somewhere else.
bypopcprof, September 8, 2011
Upon stepping foot in Waco, I was advised to not pass go, not collect $200, and head straight to Vitek's. It took me a while, but I got there. And, now I'm not leaving any time soon.

As with other successful and quality eateries in Waco, I argue that the best of them know what they do well and stick to it. Vitek's does not represent the BEST BBQ in any way, but the Gut Packs and other offerings always provide an experience that is fulfilling. The balance of salty, sauce, smoke, and spice touches on every part of the tongue.

As far as recommendations,I began on the large Gut Packs, I have transitioned to the smalls (homemade sausage, wheat, pickles/onions/peppers), choosing to savor and enjoy the perfection in that little cubic box of love. The drink must be Dublin Dr. Pepper, and the group should be early if they hope to have seats and eat in a timely way.

Now, if they could just get the line/ordering deal worked out since the remodel, or if certain new freshmen could be educated by their Baylor brothers and sisters BEFORE they step in line, then I would be a happy, happy man.
bypopcprof, September 8, 2011
Cafe Homestead
Those of you who read my reviews (because I'm so important and interesting, right?) know that I'm picky. I'll eat anything, but then I feel free to critique it ad nausea, like the famous anecdote about the patron trying to get a refund:

Patron: "I demand my money back!"
Manager: "What seems to be the problem?"
Patron: "My dinner was horrible! None of it had any taste really, and the flavors that were there evoked mud more than anything else."
Manager: "Anything else?"
Patron: "Oh, the worst thing of all was how small the portions were."

Fortunately, this will NEVER...never...never ever ever EVER be a set of complaints that you will hear about Cafe Homestead.

The portions are perfectly sized, not too big and not too small, and the food is phenomenal! That is not to say that it is intricate or fancy or elevated in some particular way. Instead, the quality comes from the fact that it tunes so closely and deftly to the heart and soul of the dishes being served.

I don't know if the quality lays solely with the abundance of locally produced ingredients, but everything tastes more of itself than elsewhere.

My only complaint would be that I can't seem to find a babysitter when they do the Farm to Table dinners!
bypopcprof, September 8, 2011
The Olive Branch
I have a hard time rating coffee-shop/lunch places. I worked at my share in the past, and it's a thankless task in many ways. People want them to be perfect. They want comfortable seating and ambiance but don't want to have to wait behind others and hunt for seats. They want THEIR favorites on the menu done the way THEY like them.

I don't want to be that guy. Personally, OB is not my cup of tea. I have nothing to complain about. The food is good. The service has always been courteous and as efficient as possible. This means that for a luncheonette/breakfast place that caters to serving large quantities of primarily groups, it is perfect. They have fantastic baked goods. Their coffee is always fresh and tasty. My son always eats everything on his plate with aplomb, but...

It's just never felt comfortable, and I can't escape that a place like "The Olive Branch" is just crying out to be comfortable. Or, maybe, I'm one of those people who just wants everything for nothing.
bypopcprof, August 22, 2011
As some you you who follow my reviews might notice, I like to eat Chinese.

It's true, and I must admit that the Magic China does NOT look like much from the outside. A friend who I trust assured me that I should try it, particularly the Hot and Sour Soup (a favorite of mine) and Sesame Chicken. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I went to Magic China the other day.

Following my friend's advice, I ordered Hot and Sour Soup and Sesame Chicken (extra hot). While waiting, I found the atmosphere soothing and pleasant, just what I like in a restaurant. This was true even those there were several large parties of families at bigger tables (with those fun spinning lazy susans in the middle!).

Sadly, the food failed to fully fulfill the hype (which is why I should never become hopeful). The sesame chicken was overcooked slighty, which with smaller pieces, makes it harder to eat and bit without shoving all the way in your mouth or chawing on the side. The Hot and Sour Soup was good, with the appropriate amount of spice and vinegar quality. The corn starch thickened the soup without overpowering the soup. The veggies tasted a bit odd, like they had just been thrown in (I've never hat H&S Soup with carrots), and there was not as much tofu as I like. Still, when I reheated it a couple days later, it was still tasty.

All in all, it has potential and deserves another shot, but it was not really exciting.
bypopcprof, August 11, 2011
American Chinese food is a pretty tough genre of cuisine. One needs to have the perfect mix of what the masses want with touches here and there of quality and identity. If your sweet red sauce is from a huge jug of "Sweet Red Sauce," then who cares to go to you versus Panda Express or some other local take-out place. I must admit that Cathay House provides a mix of positives and negatives.

The menu takes me right back to childhoods of special nights out at "Wing Wah". It has all the old favorites: generic hot tea, fried wontons, sweet and sour plates of thick, gooey sauce and deep fried whatever, egg drop soup (actually pretty fresh and light tasting), even a Puu Puu Platter (which I have not had the option to try yet).

Of the things that we tried, the best of the bunch were the appetizers and soups (dumplings and egg drop). Both tasted like they were recently made and had distinctive flavor apart from generic "Oriental". I wish that I could say the same of the entrees. My pork dish was not spicy in the least, and the roast pork was old and overcooked. My wife's beef dish was a significant improvement, as the meat was tenderized and seasoned well. In both dishes, the veggies were fresh and properly cooked to meld flavors and soften just a bit. Sadly, they were coated with LOTS of sauce that did not show the distinctive palate that the soup and wontons showed were potentials within their kitchen.

The ambiance is not much to talk about and can feel a bit awkward depending on the day and time that you arrive. If the dining room is near-empty, it feels like you're out of place at times, even if it IS dinner time. I'm told that attending when the buffet is up and rushing provides more variety and quality than dining as "normal". I have to say that we'll give it another shot.
bypopcprof, July 19, 2011
Having come from far to the north and east of Waco, "deli" seems to have a VERY different meaning, involving fresh breads and meats that are individual to each deli.

That said, when the family and I went by McAlister's last week, I was pleasantly surprised that the sandwiches there were fairly tasty. The bread seemed to be more than the conveyance of meat, and the meats were well balanced in proportion to all the other toppings.

It was what a sandwich should be...a meshing of ingredients that is more than the sum of the parts. Although some have placed it akin to Panera's, I found the experience more laid-back, with friendlier staff, and better attention to basics than Panera.
bypopcprof, June 22, 2011
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
When I first moved here, I was super excited to go to Crickets. The food was pretty affordable. They had interesting choices of beer (and a lot of them), and the service was always very friendly.

Over the last two years, I've been consistently disappointed with all three of these aspects of Cricket's. The menu has changed to become cheap. (Really?! I order 'Nachos' and get six to eight chips with mediocre toppings on them. That's what you call 'Nachos'...in Central Texas...Really?!) The burgers are not as consistent in quality of preparation or ingredients. The beer lines are not cleaned regularly, and the staff often does not have any information about the beers on tap.

Furthermore, I've found the general service to be in decline...That is unless you are a larger group of Baylor dudes or babes who flash your cash. Enough money or good looks, and the server will ALWAYS be there when you need them. If you just go in with your family or a couple friends, prepare to wait or feel like you are infringing on the server's REAL job.
bypopcprof, June 22, 2011
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Waco does not have the customer base for a "real" or "good" sushi place. (Although I've seen smaller college towns support better sushi, but whatever.) However, the service and general consistency of Teriyaki Park make it a good choice for a quick, light-ish (depending on whether one gets the Waco Roll), and affordable meal.
bypopcprof, June 22, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Tony Demaria's
With a wide variety of quality BBQ in Waco, I must defer to label any ONE place THE best, but Tony D's consistently makes me happy EVERY time that I go there.

Yes, there is often a line. Yes, the seating and comfort is limited. Yes, there is only counter service and no dinner service. Yes, the selection is not huge, but what they do is done with an eye to perfection and excellence that cannot be matched by some more-lauded BBQ places in the region.

The simplicity of ordering, service, and eating makes Tony D's a staple in my dining life.

if you are going for lunch, though, get there early. I can't express the disappointment that one feels when they get out of their car and see the sign change over from "Open" to "Sold Out".
bypopcprof, June 22, 2011
In a town with a significant dearth of Chinese food, Happy Wok provides very solid American-style Chinese fare. Their specials actually are sometimes special, and their They are always very friendly and prepare all the standards and accompany them with very tasty, if sweet, sweet-tea.