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Local +dives+ are good break from chains

April 8, 1997

Local 'dives' are good break from chains

James Phillips / The Baylor Lariat

Campeche Bakery, located at 1801 S. 4th St., is just one of the many restaurants in Waco that offer great food and fabulous prices for students. Eddy Sabido, the owner of Campeche, says that the restaurant is full of great specials priced for the collegiate lifestyle. Campeche is open everyday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Restaurant Review

By Alison Kuehn

Lariat Reporter

Waco has recently experienced a surging progression in the openings of popular franchises and original eateries, but the community has virtually spoiled itself by indulging in all the pizzazz these highly commercialized establishments offer. Students on campus have the opportunity to retrench from this fast-paced, polished and classier dining.

Those who manifest an incessant craving to explore the city's older dimensions have the privilege of living near several local 'dives.' In a move back to the basics, a few 'hole-in-the-wall' restaurants provide a change in atmosphere for those who are seeking the distinct ambiance which only these less fashionable and not-so-modern places can deliver.

Cupp's Drive In

Approaching the gravel driveway of Cupp's Drive In, it is not uncommon to find a bearded man wearing torn Levi's, boots and a leather jacket revving the engine of his Harley-Davidson. The flickering neon 'Cafe' sign beckons customers traveling down Speight Street.

Beyond the screen door, country music blares on a jukebox in the back corner, particularly an old Alan Jackson song, and the smell of sizzling beef on the grill infiltrates the room.

Lonely old men in cowboy hats and maintenance workers on their lunch break pack in to the four booths along the wall, and the eight bar stools are lined with a mix of students and frequent customers. Be careful not to slip through the cracks in the plastic-covered booths.

A low ceiling makes the room seem smaller than it really is, but sitting too close to Willie Nelson's picture which graces the white, wooden wall might make you claustrophobic.

The uniqueness Cupp's offers is found in the little details: the cashier answers a pay phone and wears a pencil in her hair, most of the food is served wrapped in sheets of paper, and a photo album chronicling decades of visitors sits on the end of the bar.

The food may not be anything to write home about, but the menu offers typical breakfast selections and a number of hamburgers, hot-dogs and sandwiches. Double and triple meat hamburgers seem to be a safe choice, and the toasted bread adds a special touch. The grease from the french fries might soak through the paper lining the basket, but they are thick and there are certainly plenty of them.

Embarrassment would definitely be a valid emotion if your date takes you there for a 'nice dinner,' but the light-hearted atmosphere at Cupp's draws more customers than it chases away. A word of advice: feel free to belch.

Vitek's Bar-B-Q

This family owned business' claim to fame is that it has served some of the best bar-b-q in Waco for over 40 years. It is not your typical 'sit down and dine-in' restaurant. Rather, it is more a 'walk in, walk out' deal. Vitek's specializes in catering and take-out orders, but that does not render it 'atmosphereless.'

During the weekday lunch rush, long-bed pick-up trucks of every shape and size line the compact parking lot and spill over into the surrounding streets. A crowd of representatives from all walks of life, white-collar, blue-collar and everything in between, cluster together to order food at little counter in the back. For entertainment, the Vitek family is always willing to share stories to keep the folks waiting in line smiling as their dinner is served in Styrofoam containers.

The inside doubles as a kitchen with a food preparation area and a general store that sells all the essentials for a bar-b-q dinner: chips, bread, drinks and bar-b-q sauce.

Granted, this is not the type of establishment you would normally choose for dinner date, but special arrangements can be made to sit at the long, wooden picnic table on the patio which overlooks the traffic on nearby streets. Plastic armadillo light fixtures strung on a cord across the ceiling could provide soft, romantic lighting for those special moments as chunky bar-b-q oozes from the bottom of your date's sandwich.

As already noted, the bar-b-q is 'out of this world.' And, the potato salad is truly remarkable. As we all know, the quest for potato salad that is not too 'mustard,' nor too 'mayonnaise' is relentless. Vitek's special recipe finds the perfect balance between the two.

The most popular dish at Vitek's is definitely the 'Gut Pak.' The name is self-explanatory. A large dish loaded with sliced beef, beans, fritos and cheese, it is sure to give anyone indigestion, but the consequence is well worth the risk. Any gallant effort to finish off one Gut Pak should be remembered with a momento of the occasion, a World Famous Gut Pack Team T-shirt. For the light eaters or the 'health-conscious,' the lady size Gut Pak is recommended.

Campeche Bakery I

The little yellow building on Fourth Street looks more like a hut, but the aroma of authentic Mexican food is so tantalizing that Campeche Bakery becomes 'little Mexico' to anyone who is hungry enough to hallucinate. Actually, the only Mexican-style decorations are the multi-colored blankets which serve as curtains hanging over the kitchen door and the wall menu boasting a few Spanish words such as 'burrito.'

The front doors are always open, and the 'Welcome Amigos' sign greets prospective customers. Campeche Bakery is a popular haunt for students in search of 'grande' portions at 'pequeno' prices.

The most sought after dish is the 'Baylor Student Special,' customized to meet the nutritional needs of the intellectually stimulated mind of a University student: two burritos stuffed with spicy ground beef and topped with creamy chile con queso and rich enchilada sauce, served with rice, chips and salsa.

Now, the salsa is something to speak of. But who can speak when their mouth is on fire? Its chunky texture packs quite a punch.

The flour tortillas are thick, guaranteed to expand in your stomach, and the rice is plain, not sticky.

The real ambiance of Campeche is experienced while dining on the cracked, cement patio. Although three tables are available inside, the lack of air conditioning motivates a move to enjoy the natural setting outside, a breathtaking view of the Arbors Apartments across the street.

Even though the Bakery, at first glance, seems to be a place to hang out with your buddies, it , too, can be transformed into a romantic setting for a date. The Christmas lights that illuminate the patio year-round will surely set any love affair ablaze. If not, the rock music playing loudly over speakers will drown out any distractions.

Last word of advice: the service was 'bueno,' but you might want to brush up on your Spanish skills to order, unless you are an excellent pointer or good at charades.

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