Helberg Barbecue Is Ready for Prime Time

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What’s not to love on Helberg’s full meat platter with sides?

There is an overwhelming choice of barbecue joints in Texas, with over twenty iterations in Waco alone. How to choose? Do you like your brisket lean or capped with gooey fat? Do you prefer a spiced rub or a puddle of sticky sauce? What kind of sauce? Spicy, sweet, vinegary, mustardy—and what kind of sides with that, shug?

If you like marbled pork brimming with juices, freshly-made pickles, creamy street corn packed with cilantro, and a hefty dose of black pepper crusting on your brisket and ribs, Helberg Barbecue is the spot for you.

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Cha Community Wants You to Feel at Home

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Owners Jaja Chen and Devin Li have goals for Cha Community far beyond its excellent food and drinks menu.

Boba fans love it, tea nerds flock to it, and dumpling freaks fall over themselves to snag boxes of hot pork or veggies dumplings and attend sold-out dumpling classes. Whatever you’re into, Cha Community has a place for you at the table.

Cha Community, the vision of Jaja Chen and Devin Li, is an intentionally inclusive boba tea shop on Franklin Avenue in downtown Waco and North Main Street in Temple. Chen and Li’s mission is twofold: offer the most authentic boba tea and snacks in Waco and create a space that fosters diversity, conversations, and connections that bridge cultural divides.

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Ground Yourself at Da’Shack Farmers Market

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Behind this unassuming exterior, you’ll find a veritable oasis promoting physical and mental well-being.

You don’t need a green thumb to appreciate the centering effects of a well-tended garden, and according to Donna Nickerson of Da’Shack Farmers Market, you don’t need a green thumb to cultivate your own garden. But you will need to get there before the end of June!

Da’Shack, a plant nursery, farmers market, and mental health hub in an East Waco residential neighborhood just off Waco Drive, is Nickerson’s vision for a holistic approach to mental and physical health. Nickerson, a licensed psychotherapist with a thriving, multi-location practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has been cultivating a growing fan base of Wacoans since she opened the doors to Da’Shack in 2017, and she’s just getting started.

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Waffle Chic Serves Food from the Heart

Waffle Chic’s signature dishes incorporate bananas, strawberries, Nutella, and much more.

Until Shamica Evans opened Waffle Chic in 2019, Waco was bereft of a solid chicken-and-waffles joint. Since then, several restaurants and food trucks have begun offering chicken and waffles on their breakfast and brunch menus, but you want to head to Waffle Chic at 901 La Salle Avenue (next to the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) for the most creative offerings in town, not to mention the inclusive, welcome-to-the-family vibes cultivated by Evans.

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A Taste of Jalisco at Helados La Azteca

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Don’t miss Helados La Azteca’s popsicles made at the Franklin Avenue location.

Native Wacoans who didn’t grow up visiting Helados La Azteca for mangonadas and limón popsicles have likely been driving by the location at 3302 Franklin Avenue for decades without knowing what they were missing.

For more than twenty years, Helados La Azteca has been serving up Jalisco-style frozen treats, candies, and savory snacks, making it one of Waco’s oldest ice cream parlors in operation. While the Franklin location was originally founded in 1998 by Alfredo Garcia and his brothers, it is now operated by Alfredo with the help of his immediate family, most notably his son Eddie, who inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit and has recently opened two more locations in Waco.

Tropical Ice Cream Dreams 

First-time visitors to Helados La Azteca can’t go wrong at the brand new location on North Valley Mills Drive next to Don’s Humidor (although the smaller shop next to Lalo’s Coffee on Colcord Avenue, also owned by Eddie, is another great choice). The largest of the three Waco shops, the Valley Mills location boasts the most varieties of ice cream flavors and offers plenty of seating for friends and families.

helados la azteca interior

Hot pink tables and walls covered in bright, tropical-hued murals create a cheery, playful atmosphere in which to peruse the substantial selection of treats. Condiment stations near the door offer hot sauces, chamoy, and other savory toppings for your ice creams and fresh fruit cups.

You’ll find a small array of Blue Bell ice cream, mostly kid-themed flavors like Blue Monster and Krazy Kolors, but those in the know will try the ice creams and popsicles still made in-house by Alfredo, Eddie, and their small, dedicated staff at the Franklin location.

The Garcia family purchases their plain ice cream base from a supplier and adds their own ingredients such as fresh fruits, jams, cakes, chocolates, and candies to create their custom flavors. This allows them to avoid the heavy costs incurred from running a full-scale creamery, while still making creative ice creams at a price accessible to most Wacoans.

The result is a light, creamy ice cream with a touch more iciness than your typical custardy artisan joint, and at Helados La Azteca, that’s a good thing. All of the flavors from rich chocolate (made from Carlos V milk chocolate bars) to coconut are light on the palate and the belly, allowing you to float out of the shop and back into the punishing Texas heat without feeling bogged down.

Alfredo still makes most of the classic flavors like fresa y crema, guava, and rompope, while Eddie experiments with more unusual ingredients. The classics are lovely, particularly the mango, which is brightly tropical, sour, and just salty enough to make the fresh mango pop. But you don’t want to miss out on Eddie’s more creative additions to the menu.

The avocado ice cream is surprisingly complex and tasty, with a heavily creamy mouthfeel and tiny, chewy-tender flecks of fresh avocado dotted throughout. Sure, you’ll taste the expected fatty richness of the avocado, but you’ll also find fruity-floral notes and hints of vanilla which are all derived from the avocado itself, and help elevate the fruit to a new level of yum.

Some of Eddie’s newest flavors are sensory revelations. The Thai tea ice cream with Oreos, inspired by Eddie’s friend Devin Li at Cha Community, combines childhood flavors of cookies and cream with the sweet-bitter-floral qualities of good Thai tea. It is both familiar and unexpected, almost sorbet-like in texture, and the chocolate-black-tea pairing is a knockout.

The matcha ice cream, another Cha Community-inspired offering, features just a touch of matcha’s signature grassy bitterness, with the floral notes of the matcha and the gentler green tea tannins taking center stage.

Then there’s the nostalgic Abuelita ice cream, made with Abuelita brand Mexican hot chocolate, which opens with sweet cinnamon notes that are rounded out by the flecks of hot chocolate and that unmistakable, soft sugary crunch that can only come from Abuelita. This one is so addictive and transportative that you’ll wish you sprang for that extra scoop. (But now you know.)

Other must-tries are the Gansito, a vanilla ice cream packed with chunks of Ganisto Mexican snack cakes (vanilla cake, strawberry jam, chocolate coating), and the queso, made with sweet, crumbly panela cheese and thickly-striped with raspberry jam.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Snacks For Every Age & Palate

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Mango and sandia on
a stick

Step away from the ice cream counter and you’ll find freezer chests full of house-made popsicles in flavors such as tequila, sandia, pepitas con chile, kiwi, and Ferrero Rocher alongside ready-made cups of frozen fresh fruits combined with chamoy. At the counter next to the ice creams, you’ll see fresh chunks of watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, melons, and mangoes ready to be stuffed into a cup or skewered on a stick, smothered with chamoy, or placed on top of your favorite scoop.

Candy freaks will appreciate the Mexican sweets in small baskets near the counters—everything from de la Rosa marzapán to tiny Carlos V candy bars—but gummy candy devotees won’t want to miss the trollies stocked with items from another local business, Tastin’ Texas.

It may not sound like much, but if you are a gummy fanatic and haven’t had a Gusher, Fruit-by-the-Foot, or Sour Patch Kid smothered in chamoy and rim dip, essentially a customized version of Tajin spices such as lime and mild chile peppers, then it’s possible you haven’t lived.

A generous package of Gushers will set you back $6, and you’ll be grinning like a fool as you prize each sticky blob out of the mound of stuck-together gummies, pop one in your mouth, and lick the spiced goo from your greedy fingers. They are a simple pleasure to devour thanks to the perfect balance of sweet syrupy fruit and savory-spiced sprinkles, and they are the top-selling non-frozen snack at Helados La Azteca.

Round out your dessert with a cup of elotes, a bag of Cachitos chile-lime chips, and a glass of agua fresca in flavors like fresa, limon, or pineapple-spinach, and that’s your dinner ruined. (And an added bonus: now you don’t have to cook dinner.)

A Legacy of Frozen Delights

“I’ve been doing this since I was a kid,” says Eddie Garcia, who signed his first lease for Helados La Azteca on Colcord when he was just 21 years old.

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Alfredo and Eddie Garcia

“Literally when it started, it was me, my mom, my dad, and my siblings selling ice cream and bananas,” says Eddie. The Garcia family was primarily wholesaling to twenty or thirty Latinx stores in Dallas and Houston until the early 2000s, when they decided to begin selling to the Waco public.

“The business was growing, and we started hiring employees, adding fruit and mangonadas to the menu, and that was until I was about 19 years old, working with my parents—with my dad mainly,” says Eddie. “And then my older brother opened another location in Haltom City in Fort Worth, and from there I got the inspiration to do the same, and that’s where the Colcord location comes in, in 2019. Since then, I’m looking to expand as much as I can. That’s my dream—to make it go as big as it can.”

So far, Eddie seems to be on track to meet his goals. Now 25 years old, Eddie owns and operates three businesses on Colcord Avenue, Helados La Azteca, Dulceria La Azteca (where he sells more candy, snacks, and piñatas), and Lalo’s Coffee

Your average 25-year-old might be weighed down by shouldering the burden of a family business and the responsibility of running multiple enterprises in different locations. But Eddie wears the mantle well, navigating the daily business stresses with grace and calm.

“Watching my dad and seeing that business, it’s like another day for me. It’s like I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. It doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for me. It’s very—I guess natural would be the word.”

Learning to Lead

But there were learning curves, as there are for all small business owners. For Eddie, it was learning to loosen his grip on the reins and hire help.

“As a Hispanic, coming from my dad’s knowledge, they don’t even have managers or supervisors. It’s ‘I’m here all day. I’m here managing all day, every day.’ So, it was tough for me to transition from that to needing help and realizing this will make my life easier. I’ve only been doing it [working with supervisory help] for a year, and it has helped my schedule so much. It’s just about seeing the bigger picture, I think.”

Fostering a sense of community within his team of employees has been a crucial component of Eddie’s approach to growing his business.

“We are very blessed with our employees,” says Eddie. “We have really good managers that find people who care. People tend to stay at the job for a year at least, and I feel like we all kind of get along. We have very flexible schedules. I hate making people come to work when they have something else to do, even if it’s like a date. We understand. We know you have a life outside of here, so we try to work around people’s schedules. But I think that connection with all of us getting along like friends and family makes it easier for them to want to stay and want to work. It’s that connection. You can’t just treat them like employees because at that point, they’re going to look at this job like it’s just a check. We’re trying to move away from that.”

Supporting staff, managing stress, putting out fires like power outages and register malfunctions—Eddie has navigated all these challenges as he has grown into his leadership role at Helados La Azteca.

“Once you get used to the business, you know what to freak out about and what not to freak out about,” says Eddie. “As you’re learning these things and as you become a business owner, you learn you’re going to be ok. We’re going to be fine. I guess with time, I began to learn how to not react over every little thing that happens.”

Popsicles in the Thousands

Most mornings, Eddie is running errands all over town, buying fresh fruit and ingredients for ice creams and popsicles, picking up change for the registers, and visiting his shop locations. His afternoons are devoted to production at the Franklin location, where he focuses mostly on his passion, making ice cream, while Alfredo makes up to 3,000 popsicles a day.

Recipe development is an exercise in spontaneity, usually inspired by Eddie’s trips to Mexico or Southern California, or collaborations with his friends in Waco’s food scene, like Li at Cha Community. With his production process dialed in, Eddie can create new flavor combinations quickly.

Eddie, who handles most of the social media marketing work with the help of Andreas Zaloumis, manager of Lalo’s Coffee, says, “It’s crazy to me how we can share a post for a new ice cream, and people will literally go the next day or the next week and try it. That is so special for me.”

Horchata

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Horchata

Everyone has their own take on horchata, and if you can’t make it to Helados La Azteca for a cooling horchata, try this recipe of Eddie’s at home. You’ll need to begin the day before you plan to serve the horchata to allow time for the rice to soak. Otherwise, this recipe comes together in less than half an hour, and you’ll have horchata for days.

Recipe yields approximately 10 eight-ounce servings.

Ingredients

10 oz. white rice

1 cinnamon stick

1 c sugar

1 can evaporated milk

1 can lechera (condensed milk)

½ gal water

Instructions

Place the rice and cinnamon stick in a small container or Tupperware and cover with water until the water reaches two inches above the rice. Store the rice mixture in your fridge and allow to soak for 8 –10 hours.

Remove the rice mixture from the fridge and puree it in a blender or food processor. The mixture will appear grainy.

Strain the blended rice and cinnamon mixture into a large, 1-gallon container or large mixing bowl or stock pot. Discard the rice and cinnamon. Add the evaporated milk and lechera to the rice milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste the mixture to evaluate the level of sweetness, then gradually add in the sugar, tasting as you go until the mixture is as sweet as you wish. (You may not need all the sugar.) Serve over ice or store in jars in the fridge. Well-refrigerated horchata will be good for 3–4 days.


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From day one when he first opened his location on Colcord Avenue, Eddie has been supported by a loyal fan base hungry for a taste of Jalisco. Even during the pandemic, when many businesses struggled, the community rallied around Helados La Azteca.

“The community really came through, and we didn’t notice a huge drop in sales during the pandemic,” says Eddie. “And so we ended up doing well, and I decided to open the coffee shop during the pandemic, and it was the same thing. The community comes through for us every single time, so we’re really blessed.”

Helados La Azteca has three locations: 3302 Franklin Avenue, 1500 Colcord Avenue, and 1412 North Valley Mills Drive. Most locations are open from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week.

Learn more about Waco’s local food scene on the Waco Insider podcast Eat, Drink, Repeat, hosted by Angelica Mazé.

Experience Lebanese Hospitality at Laziza Mediterranean Cuisine

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Inside Laziza’s unassuming interior, you’ll find some of the best Mediterranean cuisine in Central Texas.

There’s a new Mediterranean restaurant in Waco, and it may just be the best eatery you’ve never heard of.

Laziza Mediterranean Cuisine, a small, casual cafe tucked away next to Crunch Fitness in the Westview Village shopping center, serves up jaw-droppingly good meals cooked to order by owner and chef Mouna El Boustani. Laziza’s sign has yet to be installed, so you’ll feel extra in-the-know when you cruise past the gym bunnies, slip through Laziza’s door, and sidle up to the counter for a memorable meal at the near-hidden location.

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East Market: Your Go-To for Pan-Asian Food & Specialty Groceries

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Just off Highway 84 and Loop 340, East Market offers food selections unavailable anywhere else in Waco.

Until recently, the Waco home cook in search of Asian groceries was more or less stuck with browsing a scant shelf or two of non-perishable products in the “international” aisle of H-E-B. In the fall of 2020, however, Joni Navarra and Tim Kulkarni set out to change that by opening Waco’s first Asian grocery store, East Market and Goods.

Conveniently located at the intersection of Highway 84 and Loop 340, East Market is a haven for fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable products from countries all over Asia, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, China, Korea, and India, to name a few. The in-store deli is a gem of an eatery offering all kinds of dishes to spark up your lunches and save you from cooking dinner.

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Clay Pot: Vietnamese Cooking with Western Twists

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When the weather cooperates, nothing beats eating out on the Clay Pot patio.

Located on a busy stretch of Franklin Avenue in downtown Waco, Clay Pot has been a Waco institution since the early 2000s, serving up Vietnamese and Vietnamese fusion to a loyal cadre of customers.

With a spacious dining room, an outdoor patio featuring a colorful mural of rural Vietnam, and a large, marble-style water fountain quietly splashing away in the background, it’s a great space for a casual night out with family and friends.

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Eastside Market Celebrates Waco’s Arts Diversity with a Big City Vibe

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Brotherwell Brewing on East Bridge Street is the long-time host of the Eastside Market.

Since 2019, the outdoor seating area at Brotherwell Brewing on Bridge Street in East Waco has been transformed once a month into a thriving, open-air market. So what could be better than that? This Sunday, April 3, will be the first Eastside Market on its new, expanded schedule that now includes the first and third Sundays—more time for beer, friends, food, art, and music.

The Eastside Market is the vision of creative entrepreneur Eric Linares and Andreas Zaloumis, his friend and founder of Thrst Coffee. It’s an outdoor, art-themed event with a mission to celebrate the diversity of Waco culture by supporting local businesses, artists, and artisans. In its nearly three years of operation, the market has become such a draw for locals and tourists that Linares and Zaloumis knew it was time to add a second market each month.

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Saffron: Home Cooking from India & Pakistan

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Expand your palate at Saffron with dishes such as the chicken karahi.

Comfort food varies for different people and cultures. Saffron, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant on Valley Mills, offers a particular kind of comfort food you may not even know you’re craving: Indian home cooking.

There may be no better way to warm your belly than by filling it with rich, heavily spiced curries, tender grilled meats, and billows of fluffy basmati rice speckled with cumin seeds and the occasional cinnamon stick or bay leaf. The Ali family behind Saffron makes homey North Indian and Pakistani food guaranteed to welcome and comfort the weary, so order extra naan as if it were a warming blanket and dig in.

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