Older Restaurants in Waco continue bringing in culture and attracting customers

Customers enjoy fresh pasta and homemade Italian dishes at Baris, which provides customers with authentic dishes in a hole-in-the-wall setting. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

By Sarah Pyo | Editor-in-Chief

Within the past several years, the city of Waco has seen an influx of new restaurants. Franchises such as Raising Canes, Chipotle and Freddy’s have made the area across I-35 a hotspot for eateries.

Although the newer businesses are keeping Waco fresh and attractive, the older restaurants are continuing to maintain the culture of Waco and keep the balance between fast food and authentic dishes.

Captain Billy Whizzbang’s, started in 1977, is one of the older restaurants in Waco that continue to thrive in the midst of all the incoming businesses. The restaurant mainly serves hamburgers and sees an average of 150 customers each day. Even though other hamburger businesses such as Whataburger and Smashburger posed a concern for Trent Neumann, the owner of Captain Billy Whizzbang’s, he has never felt a setback in his business.

Smashburger closed down this year due to decreased sales.

“We’ve grown tremendously every year since we bought this. I’ve grown at a rate in sales of 35 to 40 percent every year,” Neumann said.

Captain Billy Whizzbang’s also takes pride in serving hamburgers that are made from scratch.

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Customers Janice and Mark Kanapp enjoy burgers and fries Tuesday at Captain Billy Whizzbang’s. Open since 1977, the burger joint is an older restaurant in Waco that still brings in traffic. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

“It’s 100 percent beef. It’s all ground fresh every day, so it’s never frozen. It makes it taste better and better for you.”

Mary Imeri, the owner of Baris, is also unaffected by the new businesses in Waco. Baris originated in New York approximately 25 to 30 years ago and has branched out to several locations: Flower Mound, Denton and Waco. The business has remained in Imeri’s family throughout the years and continues to be family-run.

“All our recipes, everything, is family owned. Everything we make, we make from scratch – no preservatives, no MSG, no colors.” Imeri said.

Older restaurants within Waco continue to strive alongside fast food chains because there are customers who seek out homemade dishes.

“Baris’s experience is unique to Baris and unique to Waco. There are other franchise restaurants that offer pasta and pizza options, but they don’t have the same hole-in-the-wall vibe.” said Baylor alumnae Janet Kim. “The food tastes homemade, and I would choose it over the bigger competition.”

Captain Billy Whizzbangs is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and is located on 901 Lake Air Drive.

Baris is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday and is located on 904 N. Valley Mills Drive.