What To Do In Waco (When You're Not Surfing) - Stab Mag

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What To Do In Waco (When You’re Not Surfing)

From barbecue to karaoke, here’s your guide beyond the wave pool.

// Jun 7, 2023
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Waco, Texas is a small town between Austin and Dallas, formerly known as the home of Baylor University and the biggest fuck-up in FBI history

But in 2018, this dusty outpost defied all odds and became a premier international surfing destination. From hosting the first ever Stab High to championing a plethora of NBD aerial maneuvers, their American Wave Machines pool has been the site of surfing’s greatest progressive shift since the Maui crew started paddling Jaws. 

Formerly known as BSR, the newly minted Waco Surf has reimagined its brand identity, creating a family-driven ethos and a more welcoming aesthetic, all built around the same wave that Seth Moniz flipped into our collective consciousness. 

While the allure of landing your first air or lapping a machine-fueled lineup (that spits out up to 160 waves per hour) isn’t lost on a single surfer, you might have overlooked what Waco, the city, has to offer. After all, you can only surf so many hours of the day. 

We thought we’d throw some pointers your direction about where to fill your cup when you’re not in rotation on the pool. So here you have it: Stab’s Guide to Waco (the non-surf addition). 

  • Mud & Sudz: Pinewood Coffee Bar

The best days start with coffee and end with beer. I don’t make the rules. While gas station coffee and a 24oz Modelo tallboy hit the spot nine times out of ten, there is something to be said about an elevated coffee and beer experience. For that, you go to Pinewood Coffee Bar and Public House. Part coffee roaster, part coffee bar, and part pub, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for somewhere to catch a buzz. 

  • Damn Good BBQ: Guess Family Barbecue

You ain’t going to Texas without getting yourself some barbecue. That’s a fact. While I wouldn’t suggest putting down a mountain of meat before your pool session, the smell of tangy barbecue is quite the nasal magnet after you hang up the boardies for the day… and you’d be a fool not to indulge. Whether you’re in the market for soft, savory brisket, juicy pulled pork, or a full rack of meticulously seasoned ribs, look no further than Guess Family Barbecue. The food is great. The hospitality is superb. You won’t be disappointed. That’s a promise.

  • Elevated Southern Dining: Milo Waco

At the end of the day, when you’ve surfed more A.I. waves than your body can handle, you deserve a fine meal. And if your partner has been sitting on the sand watching you wiggle all day, they’ve definitely earned some romancing, too. For that, you go to Milo. Milo combines culinary expertise, southern flavors, Texas-sourced ingredients, and a modern aesthetic for a dining experience that could uphold in the fiercest of markets. Some menu favorites include the elote corn ribs, blue crab hushpuppies, squash salad, airline chicken, mad 44 burger, butcher block, and of course, the jalapeño pineapple margarita. Also not to be slept on… brunch. The menu is always changing so best to go in with an open mind and a watering mouth.

  • Hole In The Wall Of Choice: Papa Jack’s BBQ

With every trip, it’s never a bad idea to keep on the lookout for a hole in the wall restaurant, a fast-track into the local culture. In Waco, Papa Jack’s BBQ is that place. Upon walking in, you know you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. No fancy decor. No pinterest inspo. No marketing jargon. Just damn good food and a warm, welcoming feel. Smoked and barbecued to perfection, Papa Jack is doing the lord’s work with his offerings, and I’d place a wager that you’ll be saying “oh my god” after your first, second, third, and tenth bite. There isn’t much to sell you on here, but I will say that you most definitely should not pass on the brisket or the smoked mac ‘n cheese. Ps. Free dessert for first timers. Get the peach cobbler. Unless you’re allergic, of course. 

  • Whiskey… ‘Nuff Said: Balcones 

It’s no secret that whiskey and Texas go together like Peter Schroff and chainsaws. Located smack dab in the center of Waco is one of the best modern distilleries on the planet, touting more than 400 awards for their deep quiver of whiskeys and spirits. Acquired by Diageo (owners of Guinness, Smirnoff, Don Julio, Ketel One, Captain Morgan, and the list goes on), Balcones is doing big things in the alcoholic beverage space, but moving their distillery out of Waco is not one of them. They’ve got a tasting room and/or tour of their distillery on offer to the public. Word on the street is that they make mean runs of single batch beer, but the other breweries around town like to keep that on the hush.

  • Tourist Trap (And A Great Place To Drop Your Mom): Magnolia Market at The Silos. 

Now, I don’t want to generalize here but I’m assuming Magnolia Market isn’t your cup of (overpriced) tea as a salty surfer. But, I could be wrong, and it’s totally fine if this is your vibe. The reason it made the list is because it’s a huge draw for visitors of Waco and a great place to drop off your grandparents, mom, or anybody obsessed with HGTV while you’re busy getting work done in the pool. Thanks to some famous peeps from Fixer Upper, this middle-aged woman’s salacious dream exists in the heart of Waco and how could we ignore that?

  • Late Night Dive: True Love

And back to business. Maybe you landed the best air of your life in the pool and you feel the need to celebrate. Maybe you had the worst session of your life and you need a pick-me-up. Maybe you just love sipping on stiff drinks and ripping into Johnny Cash at the karaoke bar. With a name like True Love, you know you’re in for a heartfelt time. Karaoke seven days a week. Pull up a seat and put your song request in, pal. 

  • Why Not: Branch Davidian Homestead

Have you watched Waco?

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