By Katy McDowall
For a college student, a restaurant’s merit is often found in the simplicity and affordability of its meal options. These qualities, among others, make visiting Baris III Pizza & Pasta a graduation requirement for Baylor students.
Nestled between a Genie Carwash and the now vacant Tommy B’s Restaurant, Baris, located at 904 N. Valley Mills Drive, can be easy to miss. The small restaurant’s modest brown brick exterior does not make it look promising. Inside, however, the family-owned establishment is always bustling.
Red vinyl booths line both sides of the main dining area and the center of the room is taken up by closely arranged tables and chairs, putting customers elbow-to-elbow during peak hours. The clattering of the kitchen staff and the smell of baking pizza and rolls floods the room from the kitchen, separated from the dining area by a counter.
The atmosphere is not as quiet or formal as Baris’ Italian chain restaurant equivalents, but that is just part of the charm. With the exposed brick walls and paper placemats lining the tables, the aesthetics of the restaurant itself are not what have been attracting customers since Baris opened in the 1980s. The food and the service make up for what it lacks in looks.
The menu offers classic Italian pasta dishes such as lasagna and ravioli, as well as sub sandwiches, pizzas and calzones. Entrée prices are light on the wallet, ranging from $5 to $15 at most. Pizzas, which can be ordered to any topping specifications, range from $6.75 for a small cheese pizza to $16.25 for a large gourmet pizza.
For $5.95, the pasta sampler offers a taste of three of Baris’ pasta dishes: lasagna, cannelloni and manicotti. Small servings of the three are served together on the same dish and covered in marinara sauce and melted cheese, making it hard to distinguish which is which.
The same can be said for the taste. All three have the same base ingredients: pasta with ricotta and mozzarella cheese, with ground beef in the lasagna and cannelloni. Baris’ marinara sauce is thick and tomato-y but sparsely seasoned.
For the price, however, it is not worth complaining. The pasta is soft and tender and baked and topped with sauce and cheese. It is a perfect complement to the large fresh-baked roll that accompanies each entrée.
The lunch specials are a bargain. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., guests can get an entrée as well as a roll and a small salad for $5.95. The calzones on Tuesdays (and any day, for that matter) are a perfect choice for a college student looking for enough leftovers for an entire second meal.
Baris’ wait staff is attentive and helpful unless the restaurant is packed. The place fills up quickly most nights for dinner and even faster for Sunday lunch.
For faster seating and service, and even more so for parking, an early dinner or lunch is best. For as busy as it can get, the fact that they have never bothered to increase the parking lot’s capacity is the restaurant’s biggest problem.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Baris is a great family-oriented and affordable restaurant for almost any dining occasion.
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