As we tally the votes for the Best of Waco Food & Entertainment, we can’t help but think of our own favorite places here in Waco. Being a Best in Waco is no small feat. It’s those places that make a special impact on our lives. It’s where we meet with friends and family, where we take visitors and where we go when we need a little treat that day.
We always love to see what our contributors name as the best of the best every year as we curate the selection for our readers. Reading each submission and seeing the beautiful photography makes our mouths water for these appetizing and delicious dishes that we are excited to share with our readers.
Join us in congratulating — in no particular order — the 2023 Editor’s Picks to discover what makes these places so special.
1 Breakfast – George’s
Filled to the brim with the perfect combination of eggs, cheese, bacon or sausage, pico de gallo and refried beans, these breakfast tacos are my all-time favorite. They are served on slightly toasted tortillas with a side of fresh salsa, and they never disappoint. I’m a savory and sweet kind of gal, so I generally order one pancake on the side even if I only have room for a bite or two. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! — Brittany Ross
2 Appetizers – Maria Mezcaleria
I first visited Maria Mezcaleria one evening during this past summer, when it was so very hot. When temperatures are that high, I’m usually not very hungry. So that’s why I ordered just an appetizer instead of an entree. The sopecitos — four small corn masa boats topped with beans, tomatillo sauce, carnitas, lettuce, tomatoes and queso fresco — were light and fresh, and just what I needed to beat the heat.
On another visit later in the summer, I ordered the tostaditas — four fried corn tortillas with chicken tinga, sour cream and avocado. It was perfect for a summertime dinner. — Abby Tankersley
3 Burger – Whizzbang’s Hamburgers
If you’re in need of an amazing, juicy burger that won’t break the bank, the Jr. Whizzbang from Whizzbang’s Hamburgers is the perfect fit for you. For $5 you get a single patty burger piled high with the usual toppings — lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. They have plenty of additional items that you can add, such as cheese, bacon, egg and jalapeño. You also have the option to whizzbang your burger and add bacon, cheddar, onion and their special whizzbang sauce all over. It’s cheap, delicious and comforting. What more could you possibly want? — Skylla Mumana
4 Dessert – Lounge ’93
Lounge ’93 is a great new spot in Waco to meet up with friends for dinner and drinks. With a beautiful spot at Legends Crossing and a sophisticated atmosphere, it’s luxury without breaking the bank. While I could go on about the delicious dinner selection, the Tangelwood Rolls are the star of this night out. Served hot from the oven in a skillet, the warm, buttery cinnamon roll melts in your mouth. It’s definitely the perfect dessert for sharing with the table. — Emily Ober
5 Ice Cream – Splendid Oaks
Can’t decide which delicious flavor of ice cream to try at Waco’s downtown chocolatier? Try them all by ordering a sampler! Enjoy eight mini scoops of hand-crafted ice cream in some really unique flavors, like brown butter bourbon pecan, black raspberry, buckeye blitz, salted caramel and more. There are plenty of classic flavors as well and you can mix and match them all. The ice cream flight is perfect for date night. — Gretchen Eichenberg
6 Hole-in-the-Wall – Martha’s
Martha’s Restaurant at 3616 N. 19th Street is always packed. Worth the trip alone are the egg, potato, chorizo and cheese breakfast tacos. — Bob Darden
7 Wine Bar – Segovia
Tapas — small, savory dishes that originated in Spain — are the perfect pair to any glass of wine and Segovia Wine Bar in downtown Waco is my favorite spot to enjoy a night out. My go-tos are the patatas bravas — crispy potatoes with brava sauce and garlic aioli — and an assortment of pintxos which are served on sliced baguette. But on my most recent visit, I tried the pan con tomate and it’s now a staple of my tapas craving. All the ingredients are served separately so you can make it to your liking. After rubbing the garlic clove on the warm ciabatta bread, you drizzle on the olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and add the sliced tomato for a perfect treat.
You can’t go wrong with any of their wine selections, but I prefer to find a bottle from Spain. In the hot summer days, a chilled white is perfect, but a red is preferred. — Emily Ober
8 Cocktail Bar – One Day Waco
One Day Waco is a very relaxed and cozy space with comfortable seating and friendly staff. They offer specialty seasonal cocktails as well as interesting and delicious year-round concoctions. My personal favorite is the Pit Viper, a margarita-like cocktail that features green chili liqueur, which gives it a spicy kick. They have an excellent top shelf bourbon selection, currently including Blanton’s Gold Label. For non-alcoholic options, they offer coffee drinks and have created a brown sugar and bourbon simple syrup which make their lattes extra decadent. I enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and consider it a great place to meet friends. — Elizabeth Barnhill
9 Celebration Meal – Pivovar
Publishing my first article, finishing off a tough semester, birthdays, they all warrant a celebration — they all warrant a meal at Pivovar. Pivovar’s interior and menu are so unique that it is perfect for a special occasion. When I dine at Pivovar, I can’t help but order the sausage, sauerkraut and corn ribs. My taste buds long for that zing and zang of sauerkraut, and Pivovar scratches that itch precisely. I also love the homemade smoky BBQ sauce and creamy mustard served on the side, which goes perfectly with the sausage and corn ribs. When I’ve had my fill of a fabulous Czech dinner, my eyes wander over to the dessert menu and I find myself uttering ‘Crème brûlée cheesecake’ every time. The hard caramelized shell that sits on top of the cheesecake makes a delightful tap tap tap before my spoon breaks into the decadent cream cheese center. Needless to say, my go-to order at Pivovar always satisfies and makes whatever I’m celebrating that much more special. — Avery Ballmann
10 Mexican Food – Huaco Lounge
As someone who moved from southeast Texas, finding my favorite Mexican restaurant in Waco finally ended when we found Huaco Lounge. The restaurant is inviting and cozy with a menu full of authentic and unique dishes. It’s one thing to eat a meal at a restaurant but another to feel like it’s a family cooking the meal with love and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. While it’s hard to choose a favorite, I love the brisket flautas. They are fresh, cooked to perfection and even my kids love them. The cherry on top is the churros for dessert. It’s true what their sign says, I am in love with the churros! — Breanne Johnson
11 Asian Food – Clay Pot
One of the many gems in Waco is Clay Pot. Located downtown, Clay Pot, a Vietnamese restaurant, is the perfect place to go after a day of exploring Waco. After arriving, start with an appetizer. Personally, the steamed chicken dumplings are my favorite. For the main course, I enjoy the sesame chicken. This dish includes flavorful chicken layered beside a bed of rice to create the perfect balance. — Katie Bradshaw
12 Vendor at Union Hall – Zuke’s Tea Bar
When it’s really hot outside, I prefer drinking iced tea instead of water. It almost feels restorative. And I needed a lot of restoring after this past summer’s relentless heat. I found a new favorite at Zuke’s Tea Bar in Union Hall: Coconut White Tea. It’s made with Shou Mei white tea, coconut shreds and cornflower petals.
The coconut adds just a bit of sweetness; the tea — brewed fresh when you order — is light; and the cup is filled to the brim with ice. I had a cold, delicious drink to sip for the rest of the day. — Abby Tankersley
13 Pizza – Shorty’s Pizza Shack
I’m a huge fan of The Works pizza at Shorty’s Pizza Shack, and I’ve tried a fair number of pizzas in Waco since that’s my favorite indulgence when I want to blow the carb budget. They pile Italian sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives and jalapeños onto a house-made crust with homemade marinera sauce. For me, the more toppings the better (my favorite all-time pizza was “Johnny’s Sweep the Kitchen” from when I lived in a small town in Louisiana,) and this one delivers. Yes, it can get crowded with Baylor students in huge noisy groups, but that can be part of its charm if you’re not in a hurry. If you are, there’s always online ordering with pickup. A bonus is that they’re open on Sundays when lots of local places are closed. — Susan Bean Aycock
14 Coffee – For Keeps Coffee
Strongly brewed espresso shots + creamy milk + a touch of vanilla = the perfect treat or afternoon pick-me-up. And sipping on one of these in such a light-filled, cheerful space is an absolute delight. Whether chatting with a friend or tucking away with your laptop into one of the quiet nooks, For Keeps is a solid addition to the Waco coffee scene. — Gretchen Eichenberg
15 Food Truck – Mac’s Fry House
A southern staple is fried chicken and Mac’s Fry House is serving up the best in southern-inspired dishes. The food truck serves hot dogs and catfish, but my favorite dish is the garlic parmesan basket. The fried chicken tenders are served over parmesan cheese fries and drizzled with garlic parmesan aioli sauce. So many flavors and so much goodness is in the dish that it’s hard to get anything else when I visit Mac’s, but no matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed. — Emily Ober