I'm still mourning the end of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” The show, which was based in Waco, Texas, brought the smiling faces of Chip and Joanna Gaines to television screens across the country. Over the five seasons that it aired, I was treated to innovative house renovations (remember the barn-dominium?) and the simple ways Jo and Chip were slowly helping transform the community in and around Waco.
With the opening of Magnolia Market at the Silos in 2015, the duo showed they were ready to take on bigger commercial projects. Their first dive into the restaurant industry was with the Silos Baking Co., where Jo developed recipes for cupcakes and other sweet treats for visitors to enjoy while they wandered around the property.
Luckily for me, the pair took on one more major renovation before the show ended — a restaurant. Hesitant at first, once Jo saw the location and Chip shared his vision, they decided to take the dive into the industry. A year of renovations and recipe development later, Waco’s historic Elite Café reopened as Magnolia Table.
On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I decided to take a little day trip to Waco to see if the restaurant lived up to the hype. Spoiler: I wasn’t disappointed.
Magnolia Table had only been open for about three weeks, and it doesn't take reservations, so we were expecting a little wait when we got there. We got to the restaurant around 9 a.m. on a Friday, and, honestly, it wasn’t shocking that we were met with a two and a half hour-long line. Luckily, the patio is well stocked with Fixer Upper and Texas trivia, plus other games, to help ease the wait. (FYI, I know all of the names of the Gaines' kids, and I owned the trivia questions.) If you want to grab a pre-breakfast snack, you can sip on a lavender latte, a cappuccino or a fresh hand-pressed juice. Or pop in to the take away area for Magnolia Table gifts and prepackaged specialty food items.
As we waited for our table, we wandered around the restaurant admiring Jo's signature farmhouse chic décor. With clean lines, subway tiles, iron signs and leather booths and chairs, Magnolia Table is aesthetically pleasing from floor to ceiling.
Our wait ended up lasting about an hour and a half, and our stomachs were growling by the time we sat down. We were ready to dig into a full breakfast spread.
Rumor had it we weren't going to truly experience Magnolia Table if we didn’t start our meal with Jo’s buttermilk biscuits. The golden-brown biscuits arrived with a dish of strawberry butter — something every biscuit lover needs to try. It melted into the warm, crumbly biscuits, leaving behind bits of fresh strawberries you could taste in each bite.
Along with breakfast items, the menu also includes a variety of sandwiches, burgers and desserts. Between my group of girlfriends, we ordered avocado toast, the "Farm" breakfast (two eggs, housemade tater tots, buttermilk biscuit, and choice of bacon or sausage), pancakes, French toast and garlic cheese grits. It was quite a spread.The pancakes were fluffy, and the strawberry butter made for a great topping on French toast as well. The thick-cut peppered bacon offered a surprising change to the average crisp bacon you usually find in a diner's breakfast spread. The grits arrived in a small cast iron skillet with a healthy topping of melted cheese. One of the most surprising finds on the menu was the housemade tater tots. Most of us have a specific image that comes to mind when we think of these little potato bites: small pieces of potato, held together with potato starch magic, deep fried for ketchup-dipping perfection. Magnolia Table’s tater tots, on the other hand, were a little different. More like fried balls of Parmesan-filled mashed potatoes, they had a crisp and crunchy outside and a velvety smooth interior. Delicious, but not really tater tots.
Reflecting back on my meal at Magnolia Table, it was definitely worth the wait, especially as a big Chip and Jo fan. The meal was affordable, and the portions were so big that most of us had a hard time finishing our meals. Eating at Magnolia Table felt like we were sitting down at Chip and Jo’s kitchen table for a meal with their family. Anyone who's sad that Fixer Upper has come to an end can find comfort in the fact that while the dynamic duo is no longer on television, they are still creating and cooking up a storm in Waco.
Photo credit (hero): Magnolia Market Facebook
All other photos: Rachel Taylor