Critics’ Picks ’15

By Gretchen Eichenberg, Caitlin Giddens, Robert and Michelle Johnson, Chelsea Santos and Kevin Tankersley

Our contributors share some of their favorite local dishes

Pictured: Photographs by Chelsea Santos and Madeline Johnson

Brown Butter & Texas Pecan Ice Cream
Heritage Creamery is the new “it” thing in town. Because who doesn’t love ice cream? Heritage Creamery offers an assortment of unique flavors made with Texan ingredients. My current favorite is the Brown Butter & Texas Pecan, which is made with milk and cream from Mill-King dairy in McGregor, butter from Lucky Layla Farms in Richardson and pecans from the Pecan Shop in McGregor. From their delectable ice cream to their trendy and environmentally friendly packaging, it’s safe to say the people of Heritage Creamery are ice cream geniuses. — CS

Heritage Creamery
1125 South 8th Street

All-You-Can-Eat Catfish
We were introduced to Tradinghouse by a former co-worker shortly after we both graduated from Baylor. The draw of the place was good chicken-fried steak and cold, inexpensive beer. On a recent dinner trip, however, when the nightly special was all-you-can-eat catfish, I was game for trying something different, and with two children in tow, beer wasn’t an option. The catfish was a nice switch from my usual. It had a crunchy exterior, while the inside was still flaky and hot. It was served with a couple of side dishes that I can’t even remember because I was so interested in the fish. Being an all-you-can-eat special, I took advantage and only stopped after two plates (maybe three … whatever). — KT

Tradinghouse Bar & Grill
4553 Lake Felton Parkway

Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad
Nothing beats lunch or dinner with a view of McLane Stadium. The Baylor Club always has excellent service, and the food is delicious. My favorite dish is the Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad. The salmon and fresh greens make a perfect combination. — CS

Baylor Club
1001 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Bottled Cocktails
The idea of a bottled cocktail absolutely blows my mind. Not only is it creative, but it’s also convenient. Each bottled cocktail is mixed, individually bottled and carbonated to ensure a fresh taste upon opening. It’s not surprising that Dichotomy’s bar manager, Andrew Anderson, made it happen in Waco. There are currently three different bottled cocktails available for purchase at Dichotomy. — CS

Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
508 Austin Avenue

Breakfast Biscuit
Chef Corey McEntyre is taking the Waco food scene by storm. From the Milo food truck to the exclusive Farm to Table Dinners, he’s proven to bring our community together with the power of his phenomenal cooking skills. The True American, one of Milo’s staple breakfast biscuits, was the first thing I tried. In fact, I stumbled upon it while wandering around the farmers market one Saturday morning, and I haven’t looked back since. The ingredients include homemade bacon or sausage, white cheddar cheese, a farm egg and tomato jam pressed between slices of a freshly baked biscuit. — CS

Food truck

Breakfast Tacos
On a Saturday morning, no trip to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market is complete without a breakfast taco from Sergio’s. I opt for a taco with fajita vegetables (extra mushrooms), potatoes, eggs and cheese, but Sergio’s also offers steak, carnitas and more. The best part of Sergio’s tacos is the corn tortilla — it’s warm, soft and fresh. If you miss Sergio’s at the farmers market, the truck is regularly parked outside of Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, at 508 Austin Avenue. — CG

Food truck

Feta Fries
Whether as a snack or as a side to one of their mouth-watering gyros, the Feta Fries are an unlikely combination of crispy and creamy, and just simply taste perfection. Thick-cut potatoes are deep-fried, and the minute they come out of the fryer they are topped with freshly crumbled feta cheese and the house Mediterranean seasoning. There’s no other way to say it: They melt in your mouth. — GE

Xristo’s Cafe
Food truck

Chicken-Fried Steak
At the end of a long day of antique shopping with my wife and kids, we were tired and hungry. It was nearly dinnertime, and we just happened to be close to Lone Star Tavern. I hadn’t been to Lone Star in years, but I have eaten there many times. The house where I grew up is less than a mile away, and every time we ate there in my childhood, at least one person ordered chicken-fried steak. On this visit I limited myself to the 6-ounce version. (A few years back I would have splurged on the 12-ounce offering and eaten every bite.) And just as when we ate there when I was a kid, I chose the baked potato as a side. All steaks are served with a salad. Lone Star is under new ownership, but the chicken-fried steak was just as good as I remembered. The steak was tender, the coating was crunchy, and the family was happy. — KT

Lone Star Tavern and Steakhouse
4713 Bellmead Drive

Fried Pickles
I’ve tried a variety of fried pickles from multiple restaurants throughout Texas, and Shorty’s serves up my favorite ones by far. I’m not sure what Ted Browning’s secret is, but he’s doing something right. They are the perfect game day snack! — CS

Shorty’s Pizza Shack
1712 South 12th Street

Chicken Cobb Salad
The Chicken Cobb Salad at The Elite Café is worth braving The Circle to try. This salad is full of fresh greens, sundried tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, bacon (if you want), grilled chicken and — my favorite addition — blue cheese crumbles. I love topping the salad with green olive vinaigrette, a light and flavorful dressing that complements the sundried tomatoes. This dish is satisfying but not too heavy, the perfect meal to pair with The Elite Café’s cocktails. — CG

The Elite Café
2132 South Valley Mills Drive


Coffee Soda
Milo’s Coffee Soda contains two of my favorite things: coffee and Topo Chico. Chef Corey McEntyre is known for taking local ingredients and turning them into magic. His coffee soda is a simple mixture of Pinewood Roasters coffee, pear extract and Topo Chico, garnished with a lemon slice. It’s the perfect way to start your morning! — CS

Food truck

Baked Oatmeal
One recent morning on the way to work, I needed something substantial and definitely way more healthy than my usual fare, so I headed to Lula Jane’s, one of my favorite stops for coffee, to sample some of the breakfast wares prepared by owner Nancy Grayson and her crew. Just like most mornings, there was a large selection of pastries from which to choose: scones, sweet rolls, a breakfast cookie, various flavored breads. But it was the baked oatmeal that called my name. It was served with a crunchy topping that reminded me of an apple crisp, and the hearty oat filling was complemented by fresh blueberries and bananas. And a big dollop of whipped cream (optional, but why not?) gave the oatmeal a touch of decadence. — KT

Lula Jane’s
406 Elm Avenue

Old Fashioned
Dichotomy had been open for quite a while before we made a trek there one evening. It was a rare date night without kids, and after dinner we weren’t ready to head home just yet, so we went downtown. That was when we were first introduced to the Old Fashioned, one of Dichotomy’s signature cocktails. The bourbon-based drink was served in a traditional glass, but what impressed us — besides the flavor of the drink, of course — was the large, square ice cube that just fit inside the glass. The bigger the ice, the slower it melts and thus dilutes the drink at a more gradual pace, we learned from the bar manager, Andrew Anderson, at a cocktail-making class this summer. The bourbon was paired with bitters and simple syrup and was a perfect smooth, strong drink. — KT

Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits
508 Austin Avenue

The Alico
For a refreshing downtown drink with a fantastic view of Austin Avenue, try the Alico Mojito at the Hippodrome bar. The experienced bartenders muddle mint, lime and blackberries, then shake with Bacardí Silver rum and a house-made simple syrup and top it off with soda water and a splash of Sprite. — GE

Waco Hippodrome
724 Austin Avenue


Hand Cut Rib Eye
If there’s one thing even more important than not overcooking a steak, it’s the absolute necessity that the cut of beef has ample marbling. As my family will attest, I can spot an undermarbled steak a mile away. But I have yet to be disappointed with the Hand Cut Rib Eye at Mitchell’s. It’s always tender, flavorful and cooked to perfection, nevertheless, its consumption is usually preceded by their fried green beans. Yes, fried green beans. Judge me if you must, I don’t care. Those things are delicious.— RJ & MJ

Mitchell’s Grille
215 West 3rd Street in Clifton

Greek Salad
Food For Thought has always been one of my favorite lunch spots in town. Their Greek Salad is perfect for pick-up on one of those chaotic, busy days. It’s refreshing and light, yet filling. The Greek dressing is made in-house and is truly the best part. — CS

Terry & Jo’s Food For Thought
1121 Speight Avenue

Green Goodies
Green Goodies juice is so refreshing you forget it’s healthy — insanely healthy. This juice is made of celery, organic apples, kale, cucumber and lime. And it’s vegan, raw and gluten-free. Unlike store-bought juices, you can actually taste the fruit and vegetables, including the celery, which I didn’t know had a flavor until I tried this juice. In addition to its station at Waco Downtown Farmers Market, Luna Juice Bar is at Magnolia Market’s new location at the silos, 601 Webster Avenue. — CG

Luna Juice Bar
Food truck

Meatless Lunches
The best part of lunching at Lula Jane’s is the surprises. Nancy Grayson rotates her menu daily, with delicious results. I love it when she makes her goat cheese quiche, served with brioche. I also enjoy visiting on Mondays, when she serves fresh salads. I recently ordered a salad of crispy romaine, blanched asparagus and cherry tomatoes from Grayson’s garden. She tossed the salad with croutons, feta cheese and Dijon dressing. Instead of topping the salad with sausage as advertised on the menu, she provided me a side of homemade hummus and chips. At Lula Jane’s it’s easy to find meatless options for lunch, and Grayson will go out of her way to ensure you’re happy with your meal. — CG

Lula Jane’s
406 Elm Avenue


Margherita Pizza Pillow
One thing I love about Shorty’s is the variety in the menu. A pizza pillow is a great alternative to a classic slice off the board. The Margherita Pizza Pillow is hands down my favorite. It includes cheese, fresh basil, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette wrapped and baked in fluffy dough (hence the name pizza pillow). — CS

Shorty’s Pizza Shack
1712 South 12th Street

Nacho Libre
Whether you’re inside watching a movie or listening to live music on the patio, the Nacho Libre is a great dish to share. A generous portion of warm tortilla chips is heaped with queso, black beans, sour cream and pico — with your choice of cheese, veggies, chorizo, chicken, brisket, pulled pork or all six. Ask for extra-crispy fried jalapeños on top and enjoy with a cold beverage. — GE

Waco Hippodrome
724 Austin Avenue

Petit Arnau
The Wine Shoppe is a quaint wine bar located on Austin Avenue. All of the wines sold are from small, family-owned growers and handpicked by David Mayfield. When you visit the Wine Shoppe, you will fall in love with his selections. My personal favorite is the Petit Arnau Rosé from Spain. This wine is composed of pinot noir, merlot and a rare grape called Xarel-lo Vermell. To make this wine even more unique, it’s named after the winemaker’s son, Arnau. The Petit Arnau Rosé is not only rich in history — it’s rich in flavor. — CS

Wine Shoppe
1800 Austin Avenue

Pumpkin Patch
While many coffee drinkers consider Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte to be the unofficial beverage of fall, it’s nothing compared to the Pumpkin Patch at Common Grounds. It’s similar to a chai latte, but with pumpkin flavor and spices. The Patch is blended and balanced — not too spicy, not too milky and not too heavy. It’s just perfect. And it’s not autumn until I drink my first Pumpkin Patch of the season. — CG

Common Grounds
1123 South 8th Street

Samurai Roll
For a metropolitan sushi experience right here in Waco, it’s got to be Fuji. And for a taste that’s Texas-Asian fusion, order the Samurai Roll. It’s stuffed with spicy tuna, salmon, jalapeño, avocado, scallop and spicy mayo, topped with Fuji’s own yuzu sauce and garnished with flying fish roe, a black caviar. As if there aren’t enough flavors going on with this dish, I like to squeeze fresh lime juice in my soy sauce for added tang. Be sure to ask for an appetizer of edamame and try to grab a seat at the sushi bar to watch the chefs slice and dice the fresh ingredients right before your eyes. — GE

5901 West Waco Drive