Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Outdoors in the Middle of Nowhere

I recently made my second visit to the Cyclone Coral Barbecue. This seasonal favorite is located east of Temple in a very rural portion of Bell County off of Highway 53. The open air pavilion is opens in April and closes in October. They are open on Friday and Saturday nights only. It is a great place to take groups - especially out-of-towners. They can't believe the drive to get from Waco to the Cyclone.

I have eaten Mikeska's Barbeque on many occasions. Texas Monthly Magazine calls them the "First Family of Texas Barbecue." That of course is mostly hype but they have several family members engaged in the trade throughout Texas. John, Clem, Mike, Jerry, Rudy, Louis, Maurice, Tim, Sam, and many other members of this Czechoslovakia family are scattered all over Texas cooking barbecue from Temple to El Campo.

Janell Mikeska runs this location and does a great job. She was all over the place directing staff the night we were there. The $12.50 all you can eat family style dinner is better that average food. It would have to be to get customers to drive 30 to 45 minutes to get there.

The brisket is served nicely sliced and is very lean. The pork spare ribs are very good - dark and smokey but not overdone. They have just the right amount of toothsome texture to let you know they have been recently prepared. The sausage has a peppery taste that makes it stand out from other milder stuff. Sauce is served warm in a little pitcher and is a good compliment to the meats.

The sides of corn on the cob, potato salad, beans, and home baked bread are all good. I really like the sweet vinegar slaw. It is special and had to be refilled several times. Peach cobbler is extra but is a welcome ending to the meal. Beer is served but I saw some tailgating in the parking lot as some waited a few minutes for tables.

It may be the middle of nowhere but the atmosphere and barbecue are great.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Catching Up

Summer is a little slow in the food blog department although there is some news in the Waco community. As I mentioned (not by name) in a previous post, Buzzard Billy's will be closing its current location. The property has been sold and may become the location of a hotel. I have found the food at Billy's to be mostly above average. It is certainly not the best seafood/Cajun restaurant around but it does contribute some variety to the Waco food scene. Perhaps a new location will allow the owners to upgrade the interior. Certainly the smoking - non-smoking areas can be arranged better. The ventilation system never quite seemed to rid the restaurant section of all of the bar smoke. The old woody walls and unfinished floors did little to enhance my dining experience. If you don't own the building or have a long-term lease, it may not be smart to spend big buck on improvements. I hope they survive and find a new location that they can freshen up.

I have eaten at a Chipolte Grill on a couple of occasions. It seems that we are getting one in Waco. I think that one of these can survive here in Waco. I can usually wade through the different options and produce a decent burrito or soft taco. In Waco, I would always try to open a new restaurant in the fall and be ready for the Baylor school year and the the holiday season. January 1 is usually not a great target date and I don't think Chipolte will be greeted with the long lines that Pei Wei generated. More like Dickey's or Buffalo Wild Wings.

Speaking of Pei Wei, it is hard to argue with success but our version has yet to reach its stride in service, comfort or quality. A recent visit to a Pei Wei in Plano convinced me that the Waco location can do a better job. Bring the orders out at the same time (or in the proper sequence if an appetizer is ordered) all hot and plated properly.

On a rare drive through Killeen last week, I noticed that there is a Texas Land and Cattle Company on Highway 190. I generally regard this steakhouse to be one of the better franchises. Probably a cut above Outback. Could they be a candidate for Texas Central Marketplace or Legends Crossing?