When the Elite Café opened in downtown Waco nearly a century ago, the owners committed themselves to combining classic American fare with technological innovation. It was the first restaurant in town to use refrigeration as well as air conditioning. But the food was the primary draw, attracting even the attention of a young Elvis Presley when he was stationed at Fort Hood. While a lot has changed since the days when the King was a regular, the restaurant still sticks to the classic American recipes that have made it a Waco staple for decades.
Specialties include juicy burgers, fried tenderloin sandwiches, and build-your-own breakfast omelets served all day long. The chefs’ secret-recipe barbecue sauce—made with Dr. Pepper—is splashed across everything from ribs to wings. Burgers, meanwhile, arrive topped with chili, cheese, and Shiner Bock onion rings.
The Lighthouse Coffee Bar blurs the boundaries between an art gallery and a coffee shop. The dynamic interior—characterized by exposed rafters and weathered brick walls—visually echoes Andy Warhol’s factory, and a weekly schedule of art, poetry, and music performances attract a slew of local artists; but the ambiance is rivaled by the diverse menu of paninsi, salads, and whimsical drink creations. Baristas brew coffee drinks using beans from the local Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters and international fair-trade growers. Signature specialty drinks, such as The Sinatra—swirling with white-chocolate sauce, amaretto syrup, espresso, whipped cream, and an unshakeable self-confidence—share menu space with a variety of real-fruit smoothies and iced offerings.
Out on the wooden tabletops that speckle the café, guests tuck into plates of specialty sandwiches and baked goods while feeding their laptops with WiFi. The cafe hosts live music every Friday and Saturday night, along with occasional open-mic nights where audio techs come in and dissect mics to demonstrate their inner workings.:m]]
Red River Steakhouse looks like it jumped straight off the reels of a Western film: its raw-wood façade opens to a rustic interior with paintings of rolling grasslands, red barns, and horse-drawn carriages. On the tables, cowboy boots serve as vases for bright sunflowers or footwear for men with no name. In the kitchen, chefs bread and cook chicken-fried steak on flat-top grills, season racks of ribs with signature rubs, and on weekends, slow smoke pork ribs and prime ribs. The catering side of the operation offers similar fare, including aged Black Angus rib eyes, sirloin kebabs, and prime rib. With confidence in their cuisine, the caterers offer a 120 percent satisfaction guarantee or money back plus a discount on the next order.
When Travis Dickey opened the first Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Dallas in 1941, he kept his menu small and simple, only cooking up beef brisket, pit hams, and barbecue beans, which he sold alongside potato chips, beer, bottled milk, and sodas. Dickey smoked all of his meat in-house, a practice that put his eatery on the map and one that his sons, Roland and T.D. Dickey, still rely on today.
The menu has expanded since Travis?s time behind the grill, offering plates and sandwiches that brim with nine kinds of barbecued meats, including spicy cheddar sausages, pork ribs, polish sausage, and Texas-style beef brisket that?s chopped to order. Several types of baked potatoes are piled high with meats and cheeses, which diners can wash down with a gallon of tea or Dickey's signature 32-ounce big yellow cup of soda. Staying true to the same spirit of hospitality, cooks always include a buttery roll; a homestyle side such as jalape?o beans and fried okra; dill pickles; and free ice cream with every meat plate.
Situated on the shores of placid Belton Lake, Dead Fish Grill stands tall over the water, encouraging diners to enjoy the beautiful view from either the covered outdoor patio or from inside, where large windows span from floor to ceiling. Here, the chefs send out plates of peel-and-eat shrimp, their specialty creole-whiskey steak, and fried oysters piled into baskets with hush puppies and cole slaw during dinner. Frequent live music enlivens the space on Friday and Saturday nights, and shows are always free.
Every day, Carpenter Hamburgers stocks fresh beef from local vendors in its refrigerator. They form this beef into hamburger patties, from a quarter-pound round to a hefty full-pound burger. Though the crew will tailor a burger with customers' desired toppings—from grilled onions to fried eggs—they also prepare signature Texas Fire Cracker burgers. The latter burst with pepperjack cheese and fried jalapeno strips, giving tongues a bigger kick than Paul Bunyan booting a soccer ball to his ox. The kitchen also crafts other casual food favorites from ingredients culled from local vendors—frito pies, hot dogs, fried pickles, and steak fingers.