Sunday, June 10, 2007

Can't Let Tradition Die

The return of Vitek's may be imminent but I not sure this will make any ripples in the barbecue world. Vitek's has enjoyed a long run here in Waco but it is probably not because of the smoked meat. I have visited Vitek's several times in the last 5 years and have been served take-out from there on a couple of occasions. I have never found it to be much more that average in flavor.

So why is Vitek's regarded with such reverence by many long time Waco residents? The answer of course is tradition. Because of its location, thousands of Baylor students have eaten here on a regular basis for many years. When you eat somewhere over and over for years, you build up a sentiment for a place. It becomes the flavor of your youth, the taste you associate with memories and experiences. To be fair, Vitek's has done a consistently good job serving its loyal following and adding to that tradition by creating a memorable dish like the Gut Pak. This signature mixture of Fritos, cheese, chopped barbecue, and beans is what most people crave at Vitek's.

Who has the best barbecue in Waco? I can give you a quick list that is guaranteed to start an argument. Rib Crib, Dickey's, and Rudy's are the most complete. A good variety of smoked meats, quality sides, and tasty sauce. Yes they are chains - but good ones that deliver a quality product. Michna's, Uncle Dan's, and Demaria's are solid local operations that excel in some areas and all have a loyal following.

The best barbecue in Waco may not actually be in Waco. At least three places west of Waco on Highway 6, are building word of mouth reputations that lure Q aficionados to make the short drive across the lake and beyond.

I would rank Vitek's well behind most of the better known places selling barbecue in Waco. I can honestly say that I prefer Jasper's, and One Stop to Vitek's. But Vitek's is older than all of those and has a history that has made an impression on the customers. Tradition dies hard.