Waco restaurants sort of operate within three major food groups. You can find a few other options on the periphery. The occasional amazing Italian spot, some seafood here and there, a Texas-sized chicken fried steak or two. But if there’s anything Waco has mastered, it’s the big three: Tex-Mex, burgers, and barbecue. And the best of the barbecue, in my humble opinion, is Uncle Dan’s.
And, coincidentally, Uncle Dan’s is THE go-to destination for the Baylor University religion department. Anytime the department needs to feed someone, they head to Uncle Dan’s. Need to host lunch for a visiting scholarly dignitary? Let’s go to Uncle Dan’s. Trying to impress some PhD program recruits? Uncle Dan’s should do the trick.
Uncle Dan’s isn’t much to look at. Its large, slightly dim interior is crowded with relatively non-descript booths and tables. The cafeteria-style serving line could result in a few traumatic junior-high-lunch-time flashbacks. Nestled slightly off the beaten path in an unremarkable building, you could drive right past it a few hundred times and never know what you were missing. But that would be a sad shame. Because then you’d never get to experience their meltingly tender (and appealingly lean) beef brisket, their succulent sausage, their tempting turkey breast.
Uncle Dan’s also has the best variety and quality in side dishes of any barbecue joint in town. My favorites are the baked beans and yellow potato salad, although the coleslaw, white potato salad, green beans, and mac’n’cheese are all equally as tasty. And the barbecue sauce is everything Texas barbecue sauce should be -- potent and tangy with a whopping hit of smoke and a deliciously spicy after-bite. Round it all out with crisp slices of fresh onion, salty-sour pickle chips and a big ole glass of sweet iced tea for barbecue heaven on earth.