byninjacoco, November 25, 2012
Most of the other local joints were closed today, so I decided to try out Trailhead. 'Twas a good idea.

First of all, it's in Outdoor Waco--essentially, a toy store for grown-ups. Tons of bikes. Canoe rentals. Outdoor gear. Sweet. I see bike shops like this all around UT, and it's about dang time Waco got one of its own.

Trailhead isn't just a counter in the store, though--it's got its own little nook with seating areas for patrons to sit and mingle.

Most importantly, dude, this is some smooth brew. The "Choo-Choo" was chocolatey without being overwhelmingly sweet, and allowed the coffee flavor to shine through. Me gusta.
byninjacoco, November 25, 2012
Quaker Steak & Lube
I must admit--I don't usually expect much from theme restaurants. Even more so for chain theme restaurants. There's a lot of effort being expended into things besides the food, and honestly, I'd just like to experience my food. Call me a curmudgeon, but you've got to go out of your way to grab my attention if you're going to expend a lot of effort on decorations and such that aren't directly related to filling my belly.

Enter the gearhead-themed Quaker Steak and Lube. You're going to hang what from the ceiling, now? And you're claiming to have wings so hot that I need to sign a waiver? Well then, that's worth a try.

One caveat: I'm a motorsports geek, but more of the squiggly line variety. Cars that turn in both directions. Crazy people who'll drive for 24 hours straight on some roads in France. Cars with engines in the trunk--where they belong! Total nutters with balls the size of Jupiter who'll race along dirt roads where trees or a cliff await them if they get it wrong. And of course, there's that funny little single-seater series that just ran around a nice, new, shiny squiggly line of pavement down in Austin. And, I, of course, can't freakin' wait to drive said new squiggly line. I am a geek. It's what I do.

So, with all the focus on Harleys and roundy-round cars, I'm probably not Quaker Steak and Lube's target audience. Regardless, I was still pleasantly surprised at the variety of stuff on the walls. An entire Legends car greets you when you walk in the door--hung upside-down from the ceiling. (It's so cute!) There are a billion TVs, making the bar a decent enough place to watch a game or two. At no point did I feel as if Ricky Bobby wanted to pick a fight with me for having made too many right turns in my life.

But of course, you can leave the walls bare for all I care as long as you get the food right. BWW's wings blow goats, so Waco's needed a good wings, beer, and TVs-type joint for quite some time.

Lo and behold, they've nailed it here. I tried the boneless triple atomic wings, and they were pretty tasty. The fry coating is just thick enough to hold the wings together while absorbing a fair amount of sauce, becoming a perfect, almost gelatinous mass of saucy batter goodness.

The bleu cheese that came with it could have been a little thicker and had larger chunks of bleu cheese, but it still tasted like tangy, cheesy deliciousness, so it did the job.

I could order carrots instead of celery, too, which was great because celery = ick.

There is a very lengthy list of sauces to choose from, which was awesome. The triple atomic sauce itself was more vinegary than most, which probably bumped up the heat a little. It was just a little sweet, like it may have been habanero or ghost chile based. Overall, it's not the spiciest sauce I've ever had, but loosened up my sinuses a bit and left me with a pleasant tingle in my mouth. And of course, signing the waiver apparently means I get my name on the wall. Tee hee.

I often get annoyed with wings places that try to dissuade me from trying their hottest sauces. "Yes, I'm sure I want the Nuclear Death Wings of Ultra Doom. No, I don't mind farting flames for the next week. Yes, I understand what I'm getting into." Here, I was actually grateful to be greeted with a waiver instead of a bunch o' whining. No attempts to dissuade me--just a waiver and my noms. Perfect.

I only had one dry spot on one wing, and it was in a bend where the chicken folded in on itself--chicken cleavage. That's hard to reach, so I'll give it a pass. The others were all adequately sauced without being soggy or drippy.

Not feeling up to fried food today? They'll sauce up grilled wings, too. I like that.

When it comes to washing down the wings, the beer selection wasn't expansive, but they have a handful of additional taps in addition to the usual suspects. Glasses come in regular, ludicrous, and 'MERCUUUUH! sizes.

Service lagged at times from the "EHMAHGERD A NEW RESTAURANT IN WACO" phenomenon, but I feel like they'll get it down in time. My wings came out pretty quickly after ordering, so that was good. (COCO HUNGRY.) The location next to I-35 is pretty dang convenient for those of us just passing through.

The entree names on the menu can be a tad groan-inducing. Madre de Vettel, we get it--YOU HAVE A THEME. But the wings are good, so they can name 'em "ninjacoco drives in funny shaped blobs like a weirdo foreigner" for all I care. Keep bringin' the spicy.
byninjacoco, September 22, 2012
You know the "okay" meme face? That dejected little stick figure whose resigning himself to a less-than-stellar fate?

That's pretty much how I feel about Buzzard Billy's.


Maybe I spent too much time in the eastern part of this state, but every time I come here, I can't help but to think that Cajun food can be so much better than this. I know it can be. I've tasted it with my very mouth.

Now, it's not offensively bland, like Uncle Dan's BBQ or a Luby's "So You Have an Ulcer" platter. There's a little spice, though I will need to add a bit of Tabasco or something to heat it up a bit. It's just...okay.

The pros? It's one of the few places in Waco that doesn't completely botch seafood dishes. Ordering fish doesn't automatically mean it will be fried. During crawfish season, you can order a big ol' bucket of the things, which is awesome. The view is nice, as the restaurant hangs right over the Brazos overlooking downtown. So, for lack of competition, it ain't half bad.

It's a bit noisy inside and service can be inexplicably slow at times, but, whatever. The overall experience is still just okay.

Head east, young man. Head east.
byninjacoco, September 9, 2012
Let's get this out of the way: Texas Roadhouse is NOT ACTUALLY FROM TEXAS. They're based out of Indiana. Indiana Roadhouse seems like a perfectly lovely name to me, but I guess the marketing geniuses must've realized our state is just better in every way and went ahead with one of the biggest lies ever made, ever, in the history of the restaurant biz.

Really, do we even have places like this? Part of it tries to be somewhat divey with the peanuts on the floor, but the rest of it is just too...neat. Put-together. Corporate. The overall ambiance of Indiana Roadhouse is a confusing mish-mash of contradictions. Like, are the waitresses required to wear the gaudiest rhinestone belts they can find, like they're straight outta Tyler? But...but......the food is straight off a national menu--that makes no sense.

I'm not a fan of the peanuts on the floor thing. Like, at all. Call it undiagnosed OCD, but it just seems dirty. I mean, the rest of the restaurant seems quite clean and all, but then you step out of your booth onto the floor and--*crunch*. You know what else crunches when you step on it? Cockroaches. Crickets. All manner of unsanitary insects. No, sir, I don't like it. I've never actually seen any insects here because in all other respects, the dining room is kept neat as a pin, but I still feel...dirtier than I should be somehow. Peanut dust. Everywhere. Not a good feeling.

The food is...edible? It's your average chain steakhouse, nothing more, nothing less. Everything's just a little bit salty for consistency and preservation's sake. The fluffy rolls are pretty good, but...that's all I got.

Service is all right. Lots of friendly high school chicks. Roadhouse seems like a solid "My First Waitressing Gig" for those who work here.

My parents liked it. It's close to Baylor. Do the math. They win at picking a location.

Overall, though, there's really not much to set Roadhouse apart from Outback, Logan's, or any number of chain steak joints in town. Maybe they should've been "Indiana Roadhouse," gone full retard with the theme, and stole Quaker Steak's Days of Thunder.
byninjacoco, July 1, 2012
I finally got around to trying out Shorty's today. Dude, I'm a fan.

I originally ordered a slice of the spinach and garlic pizza, which was awesome. Pretty cheap, too--$4.something for a HUGE slice and a coke. The garlic was mostly in the olive oil that they used in the place of the usual red sauce, so it just added a nice, subtle flavor to it. Perhaps the biggest surprise was their wheat crust. I usually don't eat my crusts because they're bland and meh, but Shorty's wheat crust was slightly sweet and marvelously fluffy. It was perfect.

I got a "bring food" text while I was sitting there. 'k. I decided that I was bringing a buffalo chicken pie whether they wanted something else or not because I was lovin' this pizza. It was good, too. Too often, buffalo pizzas tend to lose all of the heat of the sauce somehow--maybe with too much cheese or maybe with too much bread. Not here. The buffalo spice still had a bit of a mild kick to it and the thin crust made sure that you still tasted that kick. The chicken was tender, flaky and tasty. I didn't like the white crust as much as the wheat, but it was still okay. I guess I'll know next time to order it on wheat because that wheat crust is better than cake.

Inside, it's cozy and warm--lots of green, BU memorabilia and dark wood. The patio has regular chairs and tables, but inside, it's all fluffy barstools on high tables, which is kind of neat.

Don't fear the bubble. Get your butt to Shorty's and nom some absolutely delicious pizza.
byninjacoco, March 20, 2012
Tony Demaria's
Tony DeMaria's is the best barbecue in Waco. Period. Hands down. It's not even a contest. I suppose it's good to have somewhere that's okay for traditional 'Q. Then again, I like variety, and a little competition would be good. Sorry, Gut Pak, I love you, but you're not in this race--we're letting the meat speak for itself here. I don't think J. Mueller's brisket would be as divine if Franklin wasn't breathing down his neck, nor do I think it's a coincidence that Stanley's and Country Tavern are a short drive from each other and both rule at ribs. Competition is good, especially in the market of MEAT. Waco simply lacks it, and I feel like Tony D's may suffer a bit because of that.

I'll admit--I've been spoiled with the Stanley's and J. Mueller's of the universe. It's hard for me to rate the only decent BBQ in Waco against places that have a religious devotion to the meat. This gets a solid 4 if we're rating statewide, but for Waco alone, it's a solid 6.4903890l. (Vitek's only keeps its 5 from me because of the addictive qualities of the Gut Pak.) Consider my rating more of a 4.5, then. I like to see and taste a thick ring of smoke on the outer edge of my 'Q, and Tony D's is sometimes hit-or-miss with that. The sweet, vinegary sauce is like liquid candy, though--too sweet for some, but I love it.

They run out of meat in the early afternoon for a reason, but let's be honest--where else are you going to get it in Waco?
byninjacoco, March 20, 2012
Hooters' name is far more scandalous than any part of the restaurant itself. If you go in expecting 32Q pornstar titties in yo' face, prepare to be disappointed. To be honest, the outfits aren't too much smaller than some of the things you'd see around Baylor's Bear Trail. All the waitresses that I've seen there seem to be fit enough to pull off silly bright orange Daisy Dukes, too. I suppose that's a good thing if you don't want to spend your entire meal thinking to yourself, "honey chile, put some clothes on that actually fit you." That's never pleasant. As far as actual "hooters" go, though, I think Hooters is more about showing some leg than huuuuuuuge tracts of land.

This being said, of the places in Waco that have a bunch of TVs to say, watch a game, Hooters is one of the more pleasant ones. It's not smoky or stinky. The dining room is bright and clean. And yes, you get to have a great laugh at the neanderthals who are usually *le derp* enough at the Bear Trail, much less when presented with shorter shorts for the ogling.

The food is exactly what you'd expect--mostly average, passable chain fare. Nothing more, nothing less. It's precisely...adequate? Edible? Sure. I like the Three Mile wings, which come appropriately dripping in sauce that's just hot enough (even though it could be hotter).

Overall, 'tis mostly harmless. Only terrorists hate boobies.
Taqueria El Crucero
The biggest drawback to Taqueria El Crucero (to me) is its early closing time. Specifically, it's the fact that I never seem to be passing through Waco when they're open. This being said, they do make up for it by serving breakfast for the entirety of their business day. This means that I can still get fabulous breakfast tacos in the early afternoon. Now that I've tried them, I have a good reason to leave a little earlier if I know I'll be going to Waco.

I've said before that tacos are the most genius food ever invented. They're everything you need for a meal wrapped up in a tortilla, and better yet, they're tasty. A perfect taco isn't just sustenance for the day--it's a work of art. You can practically hear the heavens open up and the angels start to sing the Hallelujah chorus with every bite. I often feel as if I am preaching the gospel of the breakfast taco to the unwashed masses who don't think that eggs belong in a tortilla because it is, in fact, a near-religious experience in your mouth.

This brings me to the breakfast tacos at Taqueria El Crucero. The ordering system is a cinch, since you pick from a list of ingredients on the menu. This allowed me to get exactly what I want in my taco--nothing more, nothing less.

El Crucero's breakfast tacos are pure joy. The tortilla was warmed up to perfection. It arrived warm without being brittle in any spot, which is a good sign that my taco is going to stay together. The construction of the inner ingredients of the taco itself was a notch above most breakfast tacos, too. The eggs weren't as fluffy as the scrambled goodness at Leal's or Lolita's, but they were mixed in with the other warm ingredients (for my order, sausage/chorizo and cheese). Consequently, the eggs themselves soaked up all the delicious flavors of the other ingredients. I don't think I ever got a bite of just egg.

Crowning my heaps of perfection was El Crucero's pico de gallo, which had the distinct look and taste of homemade pico, straight out of El Crucero's kitchen. I felt like the pico could have marinated a bit longer to soak up more of the vinegar and the flavors of the other ingredients, but it was so fresh tasting and the seed-laden bits of jalapeño were spicy enough that it really didn't matter.

The portions are more than enough here. Both of my tacos were stuffed to the edge of the tortilla. Best of all? My two breakfast tacos and a coke came out to a little over $5. I left full and happy.

The friendly lady who worked at the counter brought me two salsas in squirt bottles to go with my tacos. The first was a fairly ordinary mild red salsa. I could taste a faint onion flavor, but mostly, it was too mild and tomatoey for me. The second was a creamy pale green salsa that was adequately spicy and produced a nice, gentle burn in my mouth. It looked and tasted like a jalapeno sauce, but whatever it was, it was delicious. I really enjoyed having the salsas on the table in squirt bottles, too, because if they had been in smaller little cups, I probably would have had to ask for more. With the squirt bottles, all I had to do was resist the urge to squirt the green salsa directly into my mouth. (It was that good.)

If you're looking for ambiance, go elsewhere, or pull up to the drive-thru window and find a good place to have a picnic elsewhere. This is a taco stand in every sense of the word. It appears to be a converted house with a small dining room in what was once a living room. The floors seemed a little messy by the time I passed by for a late lunch, but that could've been as much of a byproduct of the gravel parking lot as anything else. The fact that it was a damp day made it look like Rick James's shoes (of Chappelle Show fame, of course) had their way with my car's floormats after I ate here. Look, you're not there to stare at the booths or the parking lot--you're there to eat some tacos. And these are some serious tacos.
byninjacoco, December 28, 2011
I feel like Cheddar's is the new Luby's--a place so thoroughly unadventurous with its food that your aging parents are sure to love it. Mine do! Better yet, Cheddar's is reasonably priced enough that they won't go off on some kind of "back in my day, it wasn't $16.99 for a pot pie..." rant.

In many respects, Cheddar's feels a step above what the prices on the menu would suggest. The dining area feels more upscale and is always cozy and clean. The portions are more than adequate. The bar menu is extensive. They even have a margarita that is approximately the size of a kiddie pool. It's fantastic.

That being said, Cheddar's inoffensiveness is its main weakness. Although there are signs of spice (the appetizer spinach dip and some of their salads come to mind), much of the menu is so like everywhere else's offerings that I often have trouble deciding what to order here. It feels like I've had it all already.
byninjacoco, November 13, 2011
Okay, maybe not that much, but it's superb for quick, tasty fried chicken. The crispy coating on the chicken is flaky and wonderful. The rolls are so fluffy that they make my Puffalump feel inadequate. The sweet tea is by far the best in town. And that mac and cheese? Heaven. Fatty happy cheesy heaven in a cup.

Give me an order of Bush's and a bottle of Tabasco and I'll be happy. This Bush's tends to sneak in an extra tender or two into your!

The only drawback to this sweet fast-food chicken goodness is that the drive-thru is genuinely bizarre. I never quite know when to pull up, what lane I should be in or if I'm going to accidentally mow down a carhop bringing out food. I keep wondering where the "Keep Clam" sign is, because Ivar's is the only other place I can think of with as weird an ordering system as this.

I guess it works, though, since my food always comes out pretty quickly.

Mmm, chicken.
byninjacoco, November 13, 2011
This isn't even a contest. Hemingway's > *. Fact.

I can't think of anywhere that has such a wide variety of potable potables, a friendly atmosphere and the smoking section outside so I don't end up reeking of everyone else's cigarettes.

The beer list is fairly extensive. They have a great variety of good liquor, be it scotch, gin, bourbon or something a bit different like pisco or absinthe.

The regulars are wonderful. The atmosphere is very relaxed in the afternoon, making it the ideal place to relax for happy hour over some tacos from Las Trancas down the street. It's hard not to feel welcome when you walk in the door. Things get a lot livelier later at night, which is a blast. Occasionally, they'll have live music or parties. Even then, though, you won't find a friendlier bunch than the regulars who populate this place.

Most importantly, the bartenders know what they're doing. Outside of a few standbys, I like to try a little bit of everything. Everyone behind the counter has been extremely helpful in guiding me towards things to try that I'd probably like. Furthermore, Hemingway's gets new things to try fairly regularly, which pleases my persistent drink ADD.

My advice? If it's kind of a slow day and Nikki's working, bring in some fresh mint leaves from HEB. She makes the best mojitos on the planet.

I can't say enough awesome things about this place. This is perhaps Waco's best kept secret, tucked neatly away from the "woooo! college!" set around Baylor and downtown.

Go to Hemingway's. It is fantastic.
byninjacoco, October 31, 2011
You know what I miss from Seattle? Good seafood. The lack of a decent seafood restaurant is a glaring omission from Waco's culinary landscape.

Red Lobster simply isn't it. I suppose it'll do in a pinch, much like Taco Bell used to do for my Tex-Mex cravings in Seattle. But let's be honest, Red Lobster is pretty much the Taco Bell of the seafood world. It may not be fast food, but a lot of the items on the menu taste like they're pre-prepared. Sure, the lobster might be living in a tank in the dining room until you order it and it's boiled to death, but anything less than that doesn't always taste all that fresh.

While Red Lobster's menu has a lot of options, they're not exactly what I'd want from a sit-down seafood restaurant. Langostino lobster might pass at Long John Silver's, but on the menu of a restaurant trying to be a tad nicer? Nope. The lack of any kind of crab upmarket from snow crab is pretty bad, too. At least offer King or Dungeness if you're going to be serious about this whole "seafood" thing.

There's a whole lot of fried things to order, but everywhere else in the Waco-verse already serves those sorts of dishes. When I sit down at a seafood restaurant, I usually want seafood that's broiled, grilled, steamed--ANYTHING but fried! The items on little fresh fish/daily special menu tends to be pretty good, but then I'm still frustrated by the lack of variety in the fish department. More things like this, please?

Every time I sit down to the menu at Red Lobster, I'm absolutely baffled as to why they didn't choose the name "Pink Shrimp" instead. The menu is thoroughly dominated by shrimp dishes. Again, shrimp isn't hard to find on the menus of many, many other restaurants in Waco. Why does Red Lobster exist, again?

Don't get me wrong--Red Lobster isn't all bad. I like being able to order tiny shrimp on top of my side salads and I must admit that the cheddar garlic biscuits are tasty. Really, really tasty. "I'd like to steal the bucket of biscuit batter" kind of tasty. This being said, the knock-off versions of these biscuits from the Czech Stop are just as fabulous, thus negating any reason I ever had for eating at Red Lobster.

To add insult to...fried shrimp, the service at Waco's Red Lobster tends to be a tad slow.

I'd tell you to eat somewhere else if you love seafood, but the sad thing is, I'm not sure where I'd send you in Waco.
byninjacoco, October 28, 2011
I know Panera is a chain, and I don't care. I've never had anything to eat that wasn't tasty there. I love their bagels. The sun-dried tomato cream cheese spread is one of my favorite things in the universe. The Greek salad dressing is another favorite. I sometimes ask them to put every kind of cheese they have on a sandwich, and they actually do it! That's one of the most tasty piles of cholesterol I've ever had.

The free wi-fi is excellent for getting stuff done. I've only been there a couple times when it's been down or slow, so it's up more often than not. They do seem to block torrent traffic, though, so if you've got something of that nature running in the background--no can haz. The layout of the restaurant gives you lots of nooks, crannies and booths to hide in with a pile of homework. It's comfortable. The music isn't terribly annoying or too loud to overpower a set of headphones. All in all, this place kicks the crap out of Club Moody if you've got homework to do.

There have only been a few things I've been less than happy with from Panera. One was the frozen mocha, which was a bit more like a chocolate milkshake than I like from my coffee drinks. It was just a bit too sweet for my liking and left me questioning the amount of caffeine that actually made it in there.

The other thing that irks me are those darn packets of Tabasco. Panera serves soup. It's delicious soup. Sometimes delicious soup needs a little extra heat--hence the Tabasco. In order for me to turn my clam chowder into my desired shade of spicy light pink, I have to grab a whole bunch of Tabasco packets from the jar. Then I feel like a turd who's hogging the Tabasco. Just give me a bottle, guys.

When there's only two tiny half-complaints that I can think of, you're doing something right.
I never understood how Diamondback's passes for fine dining. Sure, the food is decent, the bar is top notch and they sometimes have a nice jazz quartet in the corner, but I always just feel like I'm eating in an annex to Cricket's. Maybe it's the sort of rustic decor. If you want a quiet place to have a special meal, you're going to loathe the high ceilings and loft-like feel to this place. I always find myself talking a bit louder than I'd like to be in a place like this because it's such an open space.

The food on the main menu is pricey--a bit too much so outside of happy hour. My steak was good, but not exactly memorable. I think I enjoyed the side caesar I got with it more since I think I could taste a little hint of anchovy in there.

Happy hour is where Diamondback's shines. All the appetizers are $3, if my memory serves me right--and they're all very yummy. At $3 a plate, it's hard to go wrong.

The bar, as stated earlier, is top notch. I judge bars by how they make my martini. I want decent gin. Very dry. Shaken, not stirred (tee hee), and keep your dang olives and olive juice out of it. So, it's basically gin with a couple drops of vermouth in there. Not only do they have a decent selection of gin (among other things), but the bartender complied with my list of unreasonable requests just fine. (No, I don't actually ask for it shaken, but I will get all "son, I am disappoint" if I don't see a shaker come out shortly after my order goes in. There's just some things you DON'T do, man. Stirring martinis--which end up less cold as a result--are one of 'em.)

Anyway, I got deliciousness, therefore, I was happy.

My only complaint on the bar side would be with those stupid metal martini glasses. They're cute, they're rustic, we get it, you're trying to be "Texan," but stop it. You've got to draw a line somewhere, and this is where I'd do it. Why? Because I can't see the water line in my drink very well. Even though I'm just spilling clear liquid on myself, Betty Bowhead with her frou-frou Pineapple Mango Cranberry Appletini is going to inevitably drizzle radioactive hued booze all over something she doesn't want to, and then we've got a sticky mess on our hands. I keep intending to order my drinks in a nice, clear lowball glass (hopefully these aren't metal, too?), but I always forget. Curse you, bizarre steel glasses. CURSE YOU.
byninjacoco, October 28, 2011
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Everyone I know who just looooooves Uncle Dan's always tells me to try the potato. They go on and on about how the big potato covered in barbecue and other goodies is one of their favorite things in the universe, how it's so much food, and blahblahblah.

Guess what? I hate potatoes.

If you're going to call yourself a barbecue restaurant, you better serve some decent Q with no potato within fifty miles of my main course.

Uncle Dan's doesn't. I don't think I've ever been anywhere in Texas that's served me more flavorless brisket than Uncle Dan's. How is that even possible? Was it cooked in the oven without any spices? Boiled for the lulz? Hastily thrown together for the sheer purpose of igniting my rage? I got something that looked like meat on my plate, but it sure didn't taste like meat.

The sides weren't too bad. I'll give them props for having deviled eggs, even if grandma's were better. They just fail at barbecue. If you're a barbecue restaurant, this is inexcusable. Maybe they need to reimagine themselves as a baked potato joint and try to give Jason's Deli a run for its money. Either way, I won't be back.
byninjacoco, October 24, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Let me open this review with a good ol' fashioned rant. La Fiesta loves their "Best of Waco" awards. They've even got one hanging on the side of the building, for Pedro's sake. I think the "Best of Waco" title is hideously misleading. "Best at making food dull enough to be inoffensive to the masses" is more like it.
Every time I see one of those “voted best in Waco” plaques hanging inside a truly mediocre restaurant, I die a little on the inside. I always wonder, “who actually votes for these?”
Let’s face it: La Fiesta is unforgivably meh, Uncle Dan’s isn’t good for anything besides a massive potato and typically bland chain restaurant fare has no place on the likes of a local “best of” list unless we’re lacking any better alternatives. For somewhere as wacky and interesting as Waco, that simply isn't the case. Why, then, do terrible restaurants end up winning awards year after year?
Awards mean nothing if the people picking them don’t know what they’re talking about. When I miss Waco’s food, I miss the extraordinary things about it. The problem is, Waco’s “best of” lists smack of generic restaurants that don’t really seem to speak for Waco. I can always find a Cheddar’s in Longview, or Tyler, or Austin, for pete’s sake. I can’t head up to Dallas and find another Olive Branch or Bangkok Royal.
Similarly, while La Fiesta may brand itself as a local tradition, the food is rather forgettable. There are a million other Tex-Mex restaurants that do it better all over the state. I can’t think of a single dish that would bring me to La Fiesta over any of the other ones. The queso is decent, but that just means that they meet the minimum standard for existence as a Tex-Mex restaurant. The salsa is unforgivably runny despite the fact that it has a respectable level of heat. Its consistency is more like a spaghetti sauce than it is a dip for chips. The rest of the food is exactly what you'd find at any other Tex-Mex joint in Texas, just usually a bit blander than it should be. Piling on the fresh pico de gallo (which is good stuff, but again, we're talking bare necessities of Tex-Mex here) can help with this, but not with everything. The fried items are usually so greasy that they're a bit gross. Although the service is usually fine and the room to the left of the bar is bright and airy, the whole restaurant always seems like it needs a good sweeping. In short, there's a good, long list of places I'd send you for Mexican food in Waco before I'd send you to La Fiesta.
Therein lies another problem with these silly awards: some of the usual winners simply aren’t adding anything unique or interesting to Waco’s culinary scene, but instead, they’re betting the farm on “this is where people in Waco have always eaten.” That's basically La Fiesta in a nutshell.
I have a bad feeling that the people who end up doing the majority of the voting for these “best of” lists are the kinds of people who love to paint things in neutral earth tones. People who buy Volvos not for quirky Swedish turbo goodness, but because they have practically enough airbags to float the car should something whack into it. Nickelback fans. Twilight readers. Anyone who’s ever been captivated by the plot of an English-language soap opera. The people who complain about things being too spicy, too loud, too bright, too fast--too everything. In short: the people who like things to be safe, familiar and predictable.
Those are not the people I like to ask for advice on about anything—especially food. What I love to eat might give them an ulcer.
byninjacoco, October 11, 2011
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I used to love Cracker Barrel as a kid. They had games on the table so you wouldn't get bored waiting on your food. There was a store full of all kinds of knick-knacks and other treats. The food wasn't yucky. 'k.

Maybe the novelty's worn off, or I've found so many other places that I like that it seems a bit strange to go to a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. It's fairly decent home cooking in a cutesy country store atmosphere, but it's the exact same cutesy country store with decent home cooking as the Cracker Barrels in a bunch of other towns. Perhaps it was the realization that there are more of these roadside stuff-and-food stands and that Waco isn't special for having one that did Cracker Barrel in for me.

Either way, the food isn't bad, or if you're in the market for a cutesy tourist-oriented knick-knack, the store is great for that. I'm a little irked that they don't have sausage links to go with their breakfasts, but that's about all I have as a complaint. (Come on, links are far superior to patties in every way...but that's another rant.)

Cracker Barrel is always inexplicably busy, though, and the wait time for my food seems to justify leaving games on the table to ward off patrons' boredom.

Even though I don't have any major complaints about Cracker Barrel's eats, I always get the feeling that I should be eating at George's or Harold Waite's, both of which make a far superior down-home breakfast. You know, those places I can't find outside of Waco.
byninjacoco, October 11, 2011
I get the feeling that Harold Waite's hasn't been updated in a long, long time. The decor looks like it's straight out of the 70s and the menu is full of classic breakfast fare. Eeeeeeexcellent. Like another reviewer said, stick with what works.

It's worth feeling like you're on the set of "Alice" to enjoy a perfect omelet with sausage links. The portions are filling and the food is awesome--what more could you ask for?
byninjacoco, October 11, 2011
If you want me to love your burger joint, serve up some tasty varmint. I love Fudd's game burgers. I actually prefer the game patties to beef because they're just a bit more interesting. You can order beef everywhere. Here, I usually end up with an elk burger, which has a nice, slightly gamey flavor to it that works well covered in cheese, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

I order buffalo a lot, too, which is a lot closer in flavor to beef and a lot subtler with the gamey flavor. Buffalo is actually supposed to be leaner than beef or good for you somehow, but whatever, it's delicious, and I'm not exactly going to a burger place because I'm on a diet.

Even the cheese you can order on Fudd's burgers is pretty good. Cheddar? Swiss? American that doesn't look and taste like a rubber squeaktoy? Fantastic. I got the Fuddrucker's in Austin to give me blue cheese crumbles on a burger once, too, which was divine. I've never tried this here, but next time, time.

This being said, Fuddrucker's in Waco is both awesome and awful because of its bar of toppings. On one hand, you can put all kinds of marvelous toppings on your burger, including that awesome cheese sauce that looks like it's straight out of Taco Bell. It's probably processed beyond all recognition as an actual food product, and I don't care. It's delicious, especially the spicy variety. There's usually a few different kinds of hot sauce AND jalapenos out to put on my burger. That RULES.

On the other hand, it always seems less clean than it should be. Maybe this is because I always get dragged along to Fudd's during the busy parts of the day, but the bar and the rest of the restaurant just seem like a mess. I expect a little mess out of a self-serve bar of toppings, and I expect a little mess out of a kid-friendly place like a burger chain, but this particular Fudd's rides the line of "too messy for ninjacoco to handle."

I'd give it four stars if they'd light a fire under the busboy's bum. I really do enjoy the food, but the mess is a bit much.
byninjacoco, October 11, 2011
I don't understand all the love that Five Guys gets. It's overwhelmingly average at best.

I like that I can get hot sauce, mayo and grilled jalapenos on my burger. That's enough to make me happy toppings-wise. It's just the the burger was pretty bland. The bun had no flavor whatsoever. The meat was almost too done, making it kind of tough and not as juicy or flavorful as it should be.

If it's possible for a burger to feel mass-produced and generic, that's what they have at Five Guys.