The texture of Waco, Texas integrates its laid back vibe while creating a culture that embraces its boundaries and shows its indomitable heritage.
With Westfest in full swing in West, Texas embracing Czech culture and BSR Cable Park serving up summer water shenanigans, the life lived as well as the food eaten is the key to any entrant. But other lives swirl in consistent time.
The Sorghum Festival out at Homestead Heritage is an interesting amalgamation of religious sect and old world values. The food and materials they make are interesting and well produced. The girls wear no make up and the fashions are shall we say plaid based. Everyone seems friendly. There is no judgement. The kids are home schooled and everyone learns a craft. Unlike the Amish who thwart technology, this group does not expel technology but does not fully embrace it either. Mostly the leaders use it for business purposes but the lack of smartphone attachments. An aquaponics bay interestingly enough uses fish water aerated to provide different bacteria for crops. The workers seem very versed in sciences for their particular specialty despite not being college educated.
The other aspect at the Homestead is their food. They make their own cheeses including a tart horseradish pecan cheddar and an exceptionally tasty smoked Gouda. One of the great tastes was one of these cheese pizzas made in a wood burning oven. The Sorghum as a base is a derivative of the grain and they use it in all aspects of their cooking, especially in a delectable sorghum syrup ice cream with pecans.
On the edge of the land, one of the members has set up shop as Red Wagon BBQ. Joe is a bit more outgoing perhaps than the others but he knows his product. That product is brisket. The key in integrating the tastes here is that it is all organic. You can see it as he points out the layers of the meat. He also has a Haymaker sandwich which blends a homemade cole slaw sans mayonnaise with the brisket with a taste just as succulent but without the by products.
Food is the big equalizer but also libations and brews. Locally, Crickets Grill offers over 100 on tap and Dichotomy offers a different approach blending coffee and an artisan spirit house. But the city was based in the notion of Dr. Pepper and Doc Harrison’s drug store is the site of the Dr. Pepper Museum with the subsequently used bottling plant right next door. The Frosty Pepper [seen above] mixing vanilla ice cream with the local output is addicting but necessary in small doses.
Watching old Dr. Pepper commercials in their upstairs theater, you recognize a sense of history. Baylor University, the large Baptist college, right next door did the archaeology work at the site when they uncovered a water well which had been covered up with concrete in the early 1900s. Farther outside of town in the late 1970s, there was also the discovery of a herd of Colombian Mammoths who supposedly perished in a flash flood. It was all female and youngsters since the male are ostracized except during mating. This established the Waco Mammoth National Monument. All this points to a very interesting balance. Despite the cowboy mentality more and more, Texas comes across as a matriarchal society with a very strong presence.
Which brings us back to food. Across from the centerpiece Hilton attached to the Convention Center is the warehouse district which houses a different array of possibilities. Crickets, with its endless bar, also intrigues with its Kitchen Sink Burger [seen above] which is topped with fries, quest, red onions, pickles and mayo which begins the proceedings with gusto.
Diamondback’s Texas Steakhouse offers a great array of steaks at a higher price point but, as this is Texas, the heartiness is key. Integrating the basics though, the creamy corn chowder is an immediate favorite while the pop overs (definitely different and inherently local than other breads) [seen above] filled with jack cheese and Rosemary dazzle.
Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant also in the square was accommodating across the board especially with late night possibilities including a chicken soup [seen above] with hefty bites of chicken, slices of avocado and pico de gallo.
Concluding the proceedings was a Waco staple in George’s Restaurant. The vibe is laid back like much in Waco with heartiness a factor less than concern for calories. But don’t come to Texas if you don’t plan to eat. On the recommendation of the cute female bartender, the crybaby burger goes to the contrary. Instead of pushing for the burn, it paradoxically moves for the sweet. The onion rings were a different matter with a heaviness of due course that made them filling to the max. The most addictive though was the crazy wings [seen above] which optimized bits of chicken, jack cheese and jalapeños, rolling them in bacon and frying them. Add a blue cheese sauce and you are done for the evening, save for a bite of broccoli salad which is inherently divine.
Waco, Texas is cool and chill to the bone. It knows its heritage and embraces it but doesn’t encourage it upon you. The people are who they are but ready to talk and eager to engage. Add to that a growing Texas craft scene and food to satisfy every taste and the possibilities are welcoming all around.