Heart O' Texas Foodways

Tour curated by: Baylor University Institute for Oral History & The Texas Collection

Situated in the Heart of Texas, Waco’s food services reflect the diverse eating habits and culinary practices of the state at large. As far as regional fare is concerned, diners have their pick of establishments that serve everything from standards of Southern comfort food like chicken fried steak and Frito pie to Tex-Mex offerings such as enchiladas and fajitas. Here, family-owned barbecue restaurants thrive, their passed-down recipes drawing in loyal customers that span generations. Local sandwich shops and burger joints operate proudly beside franchises, their commitment to quality ingredients and homegrown flavors earning them a long-standing place in the community despite increased external competition. When it comes to food industries, Waco is most well-known as the birthplace of Dr Pepper, a soft drink much beloved by Texans. The city has also been home to specialty grocery stores which featured imported fine foodstuffs. This tour highlights some of Waco’s historic eateries and invites you to experience the diverse palate of the Heart of Texas.

Locations for Tour

Few major products are as closely identified with the people and environment where they began as Dr Pepper in Waco. Developing from a soft drink invented at a local drugstore to one of the largest and most popular industries in the world, Dr Pepper…

In the early twentieth century, George and Michael Colias immigrated to America from Sparta, Greece, in order to join their two brothers residing in Waco. Just teenagers at the time, the four young men worked together at Chris’ Café as busboys and…

In 1948, brothers-in-law Jack Schaevitz and Lou Stein opened a small mobile food cart at James Connally Air Force Base. The two became so successful selling burgers and frozen custard to military men that they opened a small restaurant on the Waco…

During World War II, Waco provided a place of refuge and hope of starting anew for many seeking refuge from persecution, such as Otto and Hilde Levy. As tensions escalated throughout Germany as a result of Nazi discrimination, Otto Levy and Hilde…

In 1930, Harry Burmeister opened Harry B’s at 1925 Speight Avenue. Burmeister, a former Baylor student and founding member of the Noze Brothers society, developed the small restaurant, soon making it a local favorite. The original restaurant…

At the corner of Clifton Street and Elm Avenue is Jasper’s Bar-B-Que, Waco’s oldest-operating barbecue restaurant. Although East Waco has undergone many changes, Jasper’s has never changed locations and remains a place where residents today can…

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant & Cantina serves as a landmark of the success of the Castillo family—one of the oldest Central Texas restaurant families still in business today. Family patriarch Antonio P. Castillo Sr. started the Castillo…