Nourish Your Soul at Harvest on 25th
Located on a busy little block of 25th Street, Harvest on 25th welcomes diners with sunny windows, friendly counter service, and the Feed your body well mural by local artist Skye Barak. Get there early, because the ever-popular pancakes (we’re talking house-made sourdough with vanilla-cardamom maple syrup and blueberries, or gluten-free chocolate with seasonal citrus and candied cacao nibs) sell out quickly.
Place your order, grab your number, and find a spot at one of the cozy wooden tables, or belly up to the sunny, window-facing counter seats.
Real Food, Thoughtfully Prepared
About halfway through your cup of Pinewood Roasters Harvest Blend coffee or lavender Bare Bucha, your food will appear. Generous-sized breakfast tacos arrive steaming, with perfectly cooked pastured eggs that almost steal the show from the sweet potato hash and locally-raised pork sausage. The 25th St. Breakfast Sandwich is worth eating for the fermented hot sauce alone, but the satisfyingly chewy sourdough English muffin encasing raw cheddar, caramelized onions, lightly-smoked braised collard greens, and a perfectly gooey over-easy egg makes for a deeply satisfying breakfast.
Chef Juanita Barrientos works with seasonal fruits and vegetables, and every dish is designed to showcase what Nature does best.
“It’s not health food,” she said, “it’s real food. When you’re cooking with real ingredients, you don’t have to add much to it. It’s so true, especially when you’re cooking with ingredients at their peak. They just taste better.”
And then there’s the toast. The toast!
Barrientos worried that Pepper Toast wouldn’t sell, would sound too plain, or too basic. But the thick slab of toasted sourdough supporting a tangy layer of fermented cashew cheese and charred, occasionally spicy shishito peppers is the stuff dreams are made of. Topped with basil honey and fragrant sesame onion ash, it is the Platonic ideal of breakfast toast, the toast you didn’t know your life was missing. Top it with one of those over-easy eggs and you could die happy.
But then you’d miss out on the subtle-sweet smokiness of the Scallion and Smoked Winter Squash Pizza. Artichoke cream, butternut squash, and fermented honey lend a whisper of sweetness to counterbalance pungent, crispy scallions and shaved Brussels sprouts, all resting on a thin wheel of crispy-chewy sourdough pizza crust. It is small enough to devour solo but big enough to share, if you’re in a giving mood.
Barrientos Cooks from the Right Place
Barrientos trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, but her passion for cooking and eating wholesome, delicious food began with her mother, who passed away when Juanita was fifteen.
Nourishing food was a staple in Barrientos’s childhood home, and her mother was careful to nourish her spiritually as well as physically. Cooking for a living is hard, competitive work, requiring endless energy and a thick skin. Now, when she doubts herself, Barrientos looks to her mother.
“I just know that I can do it and it’s something my mother instilled in me. All the time, probably every day, she would give me a boost of confidence because she knew how insecure I was as a child. She would just say, ‘Mija, you can do anything, anything.’ And I think constantly hearing those words and the truth in her eyes, I started to believe it. And even when I lose it and when I have lost it, I can hear her voice and it’s like okay, I am worthy of these things. I can do these things.”
But in her cooking and in leading her team, Barrientos is careful not to let her ego get in the way.
“I do challenge myself and sometimes it feels like it’s too great of a challenge. Like Juanita, why? Where’s this coming from? Is it coming from your ego and pride? And so I always make sure that I am creating and cooking from the right place. Like I know when I’m cooking from a purely competitive place, rather than for the love.”
It’s that love that keeps her focused.
“I do this because of my mother, because of my incredible team. Like, there’s no way you’re gonna fail. There’s no way this isn’t going to taste good because you started from the right place.”
Tuna Salad Toast for One
“This is my go-to quick meal for dinner after a long day when I don’t really feel like cooking much,” said Barrientos. “It’s delicious and comforting. I like to change it up a little with different herbs depending on what I have—basil and tarragon would be great here too, or mashed-up avocado instead of mayo!”
2 slices sourdough bread
1 T Miyokos (vegan) butter or regular butter
1 can olive oil-packed tuna (Genova is a good affordable brand, or the pricer Tonnino or Ortiz)
1 sprig fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
1/4 t. cracked black pepper, plus more for finishing
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 whole or 4 – 6 slices pepperoncini peppers, chopped
1 T mayo
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
small squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
2 – 3 T hummus
Set a cast-iron (or any other) skillet over medium heat. Spread butter onto bread, buttering both sides, and use more butter if necessary. Toast bread in the skillet until deep golden brown and crisp on the edges.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except for the hummus.
Taste for acidity and salt, adding more lemon juice and salt as needed. You may also add a little extra mayo if you prefer it a bit creamier.
Spread a tablespoon or so of hummus onto warm toasted bread. Then pile on the tuna salad and top with more fresh dill and cracked pepper.
Beyond her own passion for cooking and drive to excel, Barrientos wants to nourish both her clientele and her staff. “I try to nourish people first. Like, what will be nourishing? Because I know it will taste good. That’s a no-brainer. That’s easy to do. But can you make it nourishing—nourishing you physically but also nourishing what you’re emotionally craving? I think we’re all emotional eaters, and I think it’s important for us to fill those cravings.”
Go fulfill your cravings at Harvest on 25th. You will leave feeling nourished in every sense of the word. And remember: It’s not health food, it’s real food.
Harvest on 25th is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday–Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm. Head to their website to order takeout or add your name to the waitlist on busy weekends.
Learn more about Waco’s local food scene on the Waco Insider podcast Eat, Drink, Repeat, hosted by Angelica Mazé.
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