In-N-Out in Waco? Food Industry Brings City New Life - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

In-N-Out in Waco? Food Industry Brings City New Life

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(KCEN) - Waco is quickly becoming a foodie paradise. And soon a new installment of the popular chain In-N-Out Burger could be headed to town.

But it's not the first new restaurant changing the landscape of the Waco food scene, and if the trend continues, it likely won't be the last.

It's been here a few months, and Stacey Boiles and her son Brett were enjoying their first Smashburgers Wednesday.

"We had talked about we wanted to go to a new place," said Stacey.

And recently, we've been getting a lot more new places to choose from.

"I'm glad that we are," she said. "Because it seems like a lot of times we're always the last city that gets the big restaurants."

And just look around the shopping center on Valley Mills between Lake Air Drive and Bosque Blvd: Smashburger and Mama Fu's (each less than a year old), and Rusty Taco, which has yet to open.

"For the size that Waco is, there's a lot of great options," said Cory Webb, who helps run wacofork.com.

And there might soon be one more: An Austin developer has a site plan for an In-N-Out Burger about a block from those other new eateries. The plan shows it taking a spot with other new stores at the old Richard Karr Motors on Valley Mills.

Nothing's finalized yet -- the development company doesn't even own that property yet -- but In-N-Out wrote in an email, "We are pursuing a few projects in the Waco area."

But they added "a whole lot has to happen" before they can even start construction anywhere.

Once they do pick a location, the company said it will likely take at least five months of construction before they can open. It's still too early in the process to say when or where they might open a store.

All those options (and possibilities) are making the west end of Valley Mills pretty attractive for people who want to go out. But it's not the only place in Waco where you can get a bite of something new."

"We could see that potential and we wanted to be a part of that growth of downtown," said Cody Fergusson, the coffee expert at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits.

Dichotomy opened in November. Combine that with a couple food trucks, and downtown looks quite a bit different from a year ago.

"I think we've added about a thousand people living in the downtown area in the last five years," said Chris McGowan, urban development director for the Waco Chamber of Commerce. "You start to create a little stronger market."

And don't forget Torchy's Tacos on 5th Street near Baylor. It's just a month old.

"We tried to go to Torchy's," Boiles said, "and the line was out the door," a testament to how ready Waco is for new places to chow down.

And the boom in new eateries means the city is poised to attract other types of businesses -- and residents.

Erika Kraus has been in and out of Waco over the years. Places like Dichotomy just might keep her here this time.

"I'm starting to tell my friends you should move here," she said, "which is something I would have probably not as likely have done in the past."

"It seems like Waco has been a pretty sleepy market as it relates to restaurant development in particular," McGowan said.

The recent openings are waking up the local foodie scene.

"Waco has a really big selection of different varieties of food and places to come and hang out like this," said Scott Kauffman, a Baylor freshman working on a paper at Dichotomy.

That's opening the door for even more growth.

Independent places like the ones downtown are great for that local flair, but you really need a mix of those and some of those bigger chains to attract new businesses and new residents.

"If they're coming from another city and they recognize that restaurant," said Julina Macy with the Chamber, "it's much more impressionable to them."

It can also convince companies to relocate here. And a bigger population means more new restaurants, like possibly the In-N-Out franchise.

"It's a large enough community that we can support a lot of these kinds of restaurants," said Webb. "So I think they're seeing the value in that."

"I feel like I don't have to leave town as much to get some of the experiences I would have had otherwise," Kraus said.

So, not only can Waco bring in more people, it can keep the ones it already has.
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