Literary City Guide | Waco, TX
Tour Guide: Rachel Lynne Wilkerson
Rachel hails from West Texas. She studied mathematical physics after being inspired by the thermodynamic spirals that occur when a splash of milk hits a cup of strong black tea. In between coding projects, Rachel hikes low-impact trails and embarks on over-ambitious baking escapades.
Relationship to Waco: I spent my undergrad years unearthing hidden gems in Waco, and I returned in January 2014 for work. What Waco lacks in typical charm it makes up for by providing an abundance of what Anne Shirley terms “scope for the imagination.”
Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Living? Azar Nafisi. Otherwise, Madeline L’Engle.
Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Allegra McEvedy. I have a serious obsession with the LEON cookbooks.
Writing soundtrack: Anything instrumental and folksy with a classical edge like Chris Thile and Edgar Myer collaborations.
Pen or Pencil: Fine point Sharpie pens
Coffee or Tea: Tea, unequivocally tea.
Paperback or Hardback: Either way
Armstrong Browning Library. With an impressive collection of stained glass windows, a towering meditation room, and the intoxicating smell of old books, the ABL alone is sufficient reason to land Waco on the map for book lovers. Come explore the poetry of Elizabeth and Robert Browning and sit for a while in the adjoining contemplation garden.
Moody Library. The central library for Baylor University. The floor to ceiling windows on the Garden Level provides the dual luxury of outdoor enjoyment and air-conditioned refuge from the Central Texas heat.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Beall Poetry Festival. This is a three-day celebration of some of the finest contemporary poets. In the past, poets have included the likes of Seamus Heaney, Li Young Lee, and Christian Wiman.
Beall-Russell Lecture. The fall counterpart to the spring poetry reading, the lecture brings an important figure in the humanities to the Baylor campus. Speakers have included Timothy Egan, Dana Goia, and Alexander McCall Smith.
Friends of the Library McClennan County Booksale. Every year for four days, the Friends of the Library turn the Heart of Texas fairgrounds into a wall-to-wall bookworm haven. The rare books selection is always worth the trip.
The Hooper-Schaeffer Fine Arts Center. The Center houses wonderful visual art exhibits. The Qu4rtets exhibit, featuring works of art inspired by Eliot’s Four Quartets, opened here.
Dichotomy. Recently appearing on the Waco scene, Dichotomy serves coffee and spirits. Spend the morning with an excellent cup of coffee, or try the spinach artichoke dip at happy hour. Check out the rooftop terrace!
Common Grounds. Just a few feet from campus, CG offers an eclectic atmosphere, iced coffee on tap, and live music on the back patio.
Café Cappuccino. A great place for either brunch or a coffee break, Café Cap serves delicious pancakes and a full tea and coffee menu.
A PROPER MEAL
1424. A family-owned restaurant that serves delicious chicken gyros along with other Italian and Greek food. Together with a small group of students, I ate dinner with Marilynne Robinson here. I remember eating chocolate crème brulee and sitting in silent awe of her. Their lunch menu is a good budget-friendly choice.
D’s Mediterranean Grill. This spot serves Greek food for the adventurous and delicious fried chicken for those who favor home-cooking. I love the falafel sandwich and the spanakopitas.
Kitok Restaurant. A Waco classic that serves Korean food and New York Times-famous burgers. Order the double-meat Liplocker with oriental fries or the chicken bulgogi. I live for the oriental fries.
Café Homestead. Homestead is a bit north of Waco, but worth the venture for the all-natural, organic foodstuffs. Check out their farm to table dinners, or stop by their stall at the Farmers Market.
Viteks. A Baylor classic, Viteks offers delicious BBQ, and their Gut Pack (BBQ, Fritos, cheese, and other deliciousness) has sustained hungry tailgaters for generations.
Lula Jane’s. This bakery promises to bring good folks together around good food, and they deliver. Come here for homemade pies, cakes, scones, and cookies. Lunch is served daily fresh from the garden tended on site.
Health Camp Since my grandparents were at Baylor, Health Camp has served old-fashioned burgers, fries, and shakes in a growing list of flavors. How it acquired the name Health Camp with that menu, I’ll never know.
Czech Stop. The resilient town of West (a few miles north of Waco) is home to truly spectacular kolaches.
"For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.”
Rachel's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite view: The River Trail in Cameron Park (the largest municipal park in the US after Central Park)
2. Favorite place to write: The Reading Room at Armstrong Browning Library
3. Favorite museum: The Mayborn Museum has an exhibit of old historic homes along the Brazos that always makes for a nice afternoon walk.
4. Favorite coffee shop: I love having people 'round for tea, but if I want coffee, I gravitate towards Dichotomy.
5. Favorite thing about Waco: The Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, complete with live music, delicious food trucks, and brightly colored produce.