It was the last thing I expected to be eating in Waxahachie. Burgers — for sure. Chicken fried steak — of course. Pizza — I was betting on it. I was, after all, traveling to Waxahachie, where those three foods would be — as they often are in small Texas towns.
But there I was, at a place called Cork & Keg, staring down at a beautifully constructed charcuterie board, its delicately sliced meats and cheeses artfully arranged with style and care. People around us nibbled on sea scallops, sipped on glasses of nice wine and contemplated the restaurant’s selection of craft beers.
This was not the Waxahachie I remembered. For weeks, a friend raved about the new restaurant scene in a town not exactly known for new restaurants. “Not chains,” she said. “Independent restaurants, owned by local families, upstarts and restaurateurs.” While I’ve watched other restaurant scenes in North Texas blossom, she chided, the one in Waxahachie had grown quietly right under my fork.
What makes this scene all the more unique: Many of the city’s new restaurants have opened in the same area — downtown, all within walking distance of one another. In theory, my friend said, you can spend the entire day bouncing from one to another.
Which is exactly what we did.
But now, it makes perfect sense: The city itself is going through a boom. Last year, 500,000 tourists visited Waxahachie, and the city’s population — holding steady around 35,000 — is growing at nearly 4 percent a year. The financial and cultural renaissances that have rekindled so many downtowns — including Fort Worth’s — have taken hold in Waxahachie.
These people have to eat — thus, the birth of several new restaurants. For the latest installment in our Neighborhood Eats series, we zeroed in on Waxahachie’s highly walkable downtown area. Put on your walking shoes, and bring your appetite.
Waxahachie may be in the throes of a new-restaurant revolution, but the town was already home to several bite-worthy eateries.
Here’s a look at some of the city’s classic restaurants:
Come for the ghosts, stay for the catfish — that should be the motto for this fried catfish emporium, located in a supposedly haunted Victorian home, a real beauty that dates back to 1895. The ghosts are friendly, however, and the food is good, especially the namesake dish, available in one of two types of batter: a mild cornmeal batter or a spicy Cajun flour batter.
814 Water St.
College Street Pub:
Named after the street upon which it sits, this long-running pub and restaurant touts a cool mix of British and American food, from burgers to bangers and mash. Huge beer selection, too.
210 N. College St.
Court House Cafe:
Housed in a 1920 building, this charming breakfast and lunch cafe has the look and feel of an old roadside diner. The menu is straight-up Route 66 fare. For breakfast, there are omelets and pancakes and big plates of eggs, bacon, sausage and housemade biscuits, and at lunch there’s chicken-fried steak, burgers and daily specials like smothered pork chops.
115 E. Franklin St.
Texas Monthly named this lunch-only downtown spot, open since ‘92, one of the top small town restaurants in the state with good reason: Owners Cindy and Andrew Burch offer an imaginative bistro menu that goes beyond typical ladies-who-lunch fare. Pay close attention to the BLT with peach-habanero jam and the scratch-made blackberry bread pudding.Ω
105 West Jefferson St.
When it comes to barbecue, Waxahachie has serious bragging rights: This 5-year-old gem of a ‘cue joint was last year named one of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue joints in the state — a major honor for any Texas barbecue spot. Owners Kelvin Harris and Angie Guidry offer their acclaimed ‘cue at discount prices — a sliced or chopped brisket sandwich will only set you back $6, and plates range from $11-$13.
220 S. Highway 77
Oma’s Jiffy Burger:
A trip to Waxahachie isn’t complete until you pop by this pint-sized landmark for a super-cheap, old-school burger. Hop on a ruby-red barstool to get a ringside seat to the snap, crackle, pop of the nearly 70-year-old grill.
403 Water St.