Battle of the Burgers: The quest for Waco’s perfect patty

By Caroline Brewton

Health Camp Cupp’s Diner Kitok’s Dubl-R Burger Dave’s Burger Barn
Burger:1-star Burger:2-star Burger:3-star Burger:4-star Burger:5-star
Fries:2-star Fries:3-star Fries:4-star Fries:4-star Fries:5-star
Location:3-star Location:5-star Location:2-star Location:2-star Location:1-star

While it’s true my tastes typically run toward exotic fare, I’ve got no beef with a good burger. If you’re looking for a quick and easy meal to reward yourself after a grueling day of class, sometimes a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger is just what you need. I visited five notable Waco burger joints to rate their food: Health Camp, Cupp’s Diner, Kitok’s, Dubl-R Burger and Dave’s Burger Barn.

The Super Health Burger at Health Camp on August 21, 2013.  Michael Bain | Lariat Photographer
The Super Health Burger at Health Camp on August 21, 2013.
Michael Bain | Lariat Photographer

Health Camp

The name itself is a joke. Health Camp is an old-school joint complete with burgers, fries and shakes which, on the spectrum from Type-II diabetes to a subscription from Healthy Living, falls on the side that leaves you with diabetes. Patrons daring to clog their arteries with this “nutritious” meal will not leave this experience any healthier—or, for that matter, any more satisfied than if you’d visited a McDonald’s.

Their burgers left me indifferent and had overcooked patties with no special flavor and veggies. Apart from a few basics like cheese, no interesting toppings were offered. All in all, I was disappointed in Health Camp’s hyped hamburger. The fries, too, were nothing special and screamed average. The unremarkable flavor and portion size left not much to be desired.

In fact, the items that fell outside the purview of this review impressed me the most. The shakes are excellent, and offered creative flavors (my favorite is the peppermint). I also enjoyed the grilled chicken sandwich. If you have to make a run to Health Camp, which you must—it’s a Baylor tradition—stick to the shakes.

It’s located on the traffic circle, fairly convenient to campus. The big vintage style sign makes it impossible to miss. It’s got the diner feel complete with old clippings from the local paper, but despite the fuss, the inside as a whole isn’t much. The service wasn’t terribly impressive, as it took a long time to get my food. My shake came out before my food, and it gave me something to do apart from reading the yellowing articles on the walls. The price is reasonable—my ticket came in under $10. However, as a whole I’d rate the experience as underwhelming.

Cupps drive in  Travis Taylor | Lariat Photographer
Cupps drive in
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photographer

Cupp’s Diner

Next to local barbecue favorite Vitek’s, this restaurant is conveniently located near campus. Despite the close competition, Cupp’s was packed when I went—a testament to its Wacoan value.

Of all the other joints I found, Cupp’s diverse menu provided more options with reasonable prices. While the burger was large, the beef failed to live up to my hopes. It was very thin, although it did have a nice crust to it—much different than the Health Camp burger that tasted burned. The fries weren’t bad either, though they would benefit from salt. Served fresh and within a reasonable amount of time, my order came to the table as expected, yet my companion’s food did not. Twice his order was wrong — first with his drink and then his burger that arrived without bacon as requested. The price was still good. At just over $7 for my meal and drink, the price certainly left my pocket happy.

The charming atmosphere is a bit cramped—a true diner with stools in front of the counter overlooking where the food is cooked. It’s good for a quick bite, but not the best by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, the hours are wacky. My advice is to venture out a little farther from campus.

Kitok's Burger photos for A&E August 22, 2013 Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer
Kitok’s Burger photos for A&E August 22, 2013
Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer


I had a hard time finding this restaurant, which I thought would serve primarily Korean food. Not so — it’s noted locally for its burgers and Oriental fries. It was definitely a step up from Health Camp and Cupp’s.

The burger was a decent size and served on a plate with veggies on the side, and the choose-your-own condiments come in squirt bottles on the tables. The bun was perfect— toasted, buttered and absolutely delicious. The patty was still thin but cooked well, and the burger had a great flavor. The dream burger I was looking for, however, wasn’t here at Kitok’s. I liked choosing and applying my own condiments—who better knows what to add than the consumer herself?

For the bacon-lovers, the joint offers the meaty treat to add on any burger, but it’s not listed on the menu.

I give them points for innovation and portion size on the fries. Costing only $2.79, one order is more than enough for two hungry people. My biggest complaint is the lack of salt. The crispy fries appeared to be battered before fried, resulting in a delicious flavor and texture. A mysterious green spice also lends extra flavor and a strange aftertaste, but personally, I found it refreshing.

The excellent service was prompt and friendly, and my glass of sweet tea was never empty. A little harder to find, the restaurant is small and out of the way at 1815 North 18th St. I found the atmosphere a little depressing for a burger joint; it’s quite dim inside. Still, it exceeds Health Camp and still fits my college budget with a ticket under $10.

Double R Burger photos for A&E August 22, 2013 Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer
Double R Burger photos for A&E August 22, 2013
Robby Hirst | Lariat Photographer

Dubl-R Burgers

I belong to the reasoning that more calories mean more flavor, and I always heard that a Dubl-R burger would completely stop my heart. Naturally, I was excited to give this place a try. True to the rumors, the entire restaurant smelled like grease. Like Cupp’s, the Dubl-R had a genuine diner feel, though it was sweltering inside. The burger and fries impressed me, both of which were served quickly and piping hot off the grill. I could rave about the service all day, but the burger was what really hooked me. The delicious beef and crisp vegetables made for a good burger. Though basic, the fries, too, were on point, and I recommend them. In addition, the prices complement the experience—a cheeseburger weighs in at $4.40, and fries are just $1.80.

The Cheeseburger and fries at Dave's Burger Barn, located at 600 N. Patricia St, Waco TX. Michael Bain | Lariat Photographer
The Cheeseburger and fries at Dave’s Burger Barn, located at 600 N. Patricia St, Waco TX.
Michael Bain | Lariat Photographer

Dave’s Burger Barn

While Dave’s is by far my favorite Waco burger joint, make sure you’ve got the time to go—it’s a long drive from campus on N. Patricia Street.

Clean and spacious, it was the nicest inside of all the others with plenty of room for customers. Dominated by a giant wall of fame and shame, Dave’s is known for the Zipper Ripper challenge, a “Man vs. Food” style showdown between a hungry patron and a monster burger with five patties, five strips of bacon, five slices of cheese and one whole pound of fries. Those who manage to consume the feast in under 12 minutes make away without having to pay and a free t-shirt to boot, The real bragging rights, though, is their winning photo on the restaurant’s exclusive wall of fame. Those who fail the challenge end up on the wall of shame—much larger than its counterpart.

The burgers and fries are good—definitely the best I had on this tour. In fact, despite it’s out-of-the-way location, I’d recommend a visit, and if you’re on a budget, my ticket was still under $10.