(The smiling face of Kitok's, Kyung Brendemuehl, shows off a basket of Kitok's famous oriental fries before serving them to a table of happy patrons.)
I enjoyed a bit of a revelatory conversation during lunch with the UBC gang today at Kitok's.
During these lunches, it seems, I get to sort of play the Waco restaurant expert as new friends pepper me with questions whether this place is adding a location or that place is closing.
Today my friend Beth McCarty asked a bit of a loaded question.
"What is your favorite restaurant in town?" she asked. "Like if it was your last meal in town, where would you go?"
I didn't have a great answer. So I did what so many cornered interviewees do. I bounced the question right back to her.
"You know," she said, "my favorite restaurants probably have more to do with the memories I have at those places."
Bingo. That's the perfect answer. Because at some point, the love of a restaurant stretches beyond the quality of food and service. Your favorite restaurant is probably the place that feels most like home. Your Cheers.
As fate would have it, we were dining at one of the places that would fit in that category for me. Whether with my family or the Webb family, I've been eating at Kitok's for longer than I can remember.
Once upon a time, I drank a Frostie Root Beer at Kitok's and I fell in love with that glass bottle, the cartoon elf on it and, to a lesser degree, the root beer. That's because I wasn't old enough to care much about the root beer after I had seen the cartoon elf. Now I still enjoy a good cartoon elf, but for that to have captured my attention the way it did back then, I must have been under the age of 8, which automatically puts that moment in the early 1980s.
I would love to see a roster of people with whom I've shared a meal at Kitok's through the years. One of my fondest recent memories was taking my friend Tara Gitau there for her first time back in 2008. Tara had just graduated from Baylor and had so far failed to dine at Kitok's. A few days before she traveled home to Kenya, we feasted on lip lockers. Pretty great.
I ate a lip locker again today, which is actually kind of a rarity for me. I usually go for either beef or chicken bulgogi. Here's proof: I asked proprietor/our server Kyung Brendemuehl to put both mustard and mayo on the burger.
"Chad, you know better," she said. "It's on the table."
That's the other wonderful thing about Kitok's. If Kyung is on hand, she's going to make you feel like your right at home. I don't know how she knows so many of her customers by name, but it's one of the things that makes her good at her work and makes Kitok's a fun place to eat.
So is Kitok's my favorite place in town? It's one of them.