By Steve Barnes
Location: 1925 Speight Ave. or 1201 Hewitt Drive (Waco, Texas)
Hours Of Operation: 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Monday-Saturday (Speight Ave.); 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday-Tuesday; 7 a.m. to midnight, Wednesday-Saturday (Hewitt Drive)
“Must Have" Menu Item: Chicken fried steak, two sides and fresh rolls, $8.49 for half order, $10.49 for full order.
Description: A favorite gathering place for Baylor students and alumni since 1930, George’s caters to Waco residents and Baylor fans as well as visitors who can’t resist the word of mouth that pulls so many here. Now with two locations, but they do a good job of creating separate, yet sizable spaces for a family atmosphere and for a rowdier crowd.
One-Liner: “They serve beer and margaritas in cold 18-ounce schooners. The prices are cheap. The atmosphere is lively, especially on game days. The restaurant is full of Baylor gear and memorabilia, but on game days, you will usually find a good mixture of Baylor fans and fans of visiting teams. Be sure to arrive early if you want to get seated on football game days.” — Ashley Hodge, BearsTruth.com
Location: 2616 Northridge Pkwy (Ames, Iowa)
Hours Of Operation: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday
“Must Have” Menu Item: Wood-grilled hanger steak, chimichurri, ﬁngerling potatoes, crimini mushrooms and green beans, $18.95.
Description: The Café gets its food from local farmers and purveyors, which truly matters in Iowa. The staff likes to do things the old-fashioned way and will grind and case its own sausage and smoke and cure its own meat, but also fix up its delicious desserts and drinks so they’re fresh for you. This is the kind of place you can visit at any point during the day and find something to suit any hankering. The breakfast and brunch options are some of the most popular, but don’t overlook the sandwiches or dinner.
One-Liner: “I love restaurants where you can tell first-time customers, ‘Try anything. I haven’t had a bad dish here.’ That’s The Café. It’s one of the best breakfast spots in Ames.” — Bobby LaGesse, Ames Tribune
Location: 636 Massachusetts St. (Lawrence, Kan.)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday-Saturday; noon to 11 p.m., Sunday
“Must Have” Menu item: Chicken and crawfish gumbo, $9.95.
Description: Located in downtown Lawrence, Free State opened in 1989 as the state’s first legal brewery in more than 100 years. It remains a popular and percolating restaurant and bar that features excellent food and tasty homemade beers brewed in the 14-barrel brewhouse. It attracts people from all walks of life, both for the good grub and the social aspect of grabbing a few beers and hanging out. It is one of the signature food and beer venues in Lawrence and pleases first-time visitors and regulars with spacious seating and superb staff and service.
One-Liner: “Free State is one of my favorite spots in town and is almost always the first place that comes to mind when I'm trying to decide where to take out-of-towners for a good meal and a good time. I dare you to say no to the fish and chips or cheddar ale soup.” — Matt Tait, Lawrence JournalWorld
Establishment: CoCo Bolos (Facebook)
Location: 1227 Bluemont Avenue (Manhattan, Kan.)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday
"Must Have" Menu Item: Chicken Enchiladas, $9.99. A delicious dish of two corn tortillas filled with shredded, seasoned chicken with red chili sauce, topped with salsa verde, sour cream and Monterey Jack. Navajo rice and bolo beans are added on the side for extra flavor.
Description: The restaurant is filled with spicy artwork and music to go along with the spicy items on the menu. CoCo Bolos is located in Aggieville, so it is a favorite restaurant and watering hole for the students at K-State.
One-Liner: "The food is like an explosion went off on your taste buds. It is a good thing there's plenty of cold beer to go along with the hot food." — Doug Melvin, KSU student
Location: 769 Asp Ave. (Norman, Okla.)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday-Saturday.
"Must Have" Menu Item: Ranchhand Burger, $7.85. Cheddar cheese, ranch and fresh bacon chips with a side of curly fries. O'Connell's burgers have been ranked No. 1 in the city five years running.
Description: Regardless of whether O'Connell's was located in its original site on the South side of Owen Field or its newest location North of the Sooners' home, the Irish Pub always has been the heart of Sooners Nation. University of Oklahoma students and Norman residents alike have discovered "a little Irish fun" at O'Connell's since 1968. These days, O'Connell's is home to trivia night, karaoke and all things Oklahoma Sooners.
One-Liner: "You can't get a seat on game day. It's the most popular place in the city. The line wraps around the block before it opens. — Former No. 2-ranked USA Snowboard Association Korey McMahon.
Location: 311 E. Hall of Fame Ave. (Stillwater, Okla.)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday
“Must Have” Menu Item: Sonoran Chicken Tacos, two for $8.49, three for $10.49.
Description: Stillwater’s self-described hole-in-the-wall cantina, Mexico Joe’s comes to you from the same folks who operate the town’s famed Eskimo Joe’s. Open since 1987 and in its present and larger location since 1993, Mexico Joe’s specializes in scrumptious salsas, piping hot fajitas and fun tequila bar. There’s festive seating inside to make you feel like you’re in a Mexican village and seating outside to toast the stars after the Cowboys win. Locals and students alike fill the booths and tables, but visitors are welcome to say hello to Bucky the burro.
One-Liner: “It’s always is hopping before Cowboys ballgames. The salsa is particularly distinctive, and the burrito enchiladas are the best menu choice. It's within walking distance of Boone Pickens Stadium, so there's usually a former Cowboy or two dining when you go in.” — Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman/NewsOK.com
Location: 900 East 11th Street (Austin, Texas)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to sold out, Tuesday-Sunday (only open for lunch)
"Must Have" Menu Item: Brisket Plate, $12.00. This is Texas barbecue. You can leave that pork barbecue to the SEC. This brisket plate is loaded to the brink and comes with two sides. You won't leave hungry.
Description: Starting as a meager trailer outfit in 2009, Franklin has turned into the storefront seen today. Gaining popularity through word of mouth, people began noticing the long lines outside Franklin and tried it out. The restaurant soon crafted a reputation as the best barbecue in Austin, no small feat in this large Texas city. Franklin serves the best smoked meat in the area, and should be a stop on every football pilgrimage. If you plan on eating at Franklin, make sure to get there early. They only serve lunch until they are sold out, which happens quickly.
One-Liner: "Best brisket ever." — Dustin Lewis, Texas graduate
Location: 2913 Montgomery Street (Fort Worth, Texas)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday-Saturday
"Must Have" Menu Item: Grilled catfish, $9.49. The grilled catfish can be served either traditionally, snappy or with garlic butter. Any choice is served with grilled veggies, beans and rice. Add Veracruz sauce to any of the grilled fish for $1.29.
Description: Besides great food, the ambiance in the place is second to none. Patrons are encouraged to bring photos of themselves to display on the restaurant's liar's wall. Described as "fast casual," the Flying Fish encourages a no-tipping policy.
One-Liner: "A place that reminds me of the little restaurants that seem to be near the ponds that were stocked with catfish when I was a kid. The memories and the food make it my favorite place." — Brian Richards, TCU graduate
Location: 811 University Ave. (Lubbock, Texas)
Hours Of Operation: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday
"Must Have" Menu Item: World-Famous Fried Cheese. You don't go to Spanky's to eat healthy. And if you're going to get fried cheese, Spanky's is the best in West Texas.
Description: Spanky's has been serving Red Raiders since 1982. They make good food for fans that want to fill up before exploring the university. Spanky's is known for their cheeseburgers and fried cheese. The food is tasty and the price is right. Spanky's is perfect for any football fan, located right across from campus and a quick walk to the stadium.
One-Liner: "Great fried cheese and great cheeseburgers." — Clint Wren, Texas Tech graduate
Location: 704 Richwood Ave. and 3117 University Ave. (Morgantown, W.Va.)
Hours Of Operation: 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Richwood Ave.); 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday (University Ave.)
"Must Have" Menu Item: One dozen cowboy ranch wings, $9.25.
Description: Be prepared the moment you open the doors. Show up on a crowded night and the patrons will cheer for you, even if you’re a stranger. Leave before last call and they will boo you, even if you’re a regular. The original location on Richwood Avenue is tucked in a neighborhood in an old, remote part of town. The newer location manages to feature a lot of the charm of the original. Both are worth the trip. Visitors enjoy classic bar food, frosted goblets of beer, timeless tunes on a jukebox and the occasional odd eating challenge.
One-Liner: “I always get a kick out of reading the notes people have written on the walls after having a few Fishbowls. The atmosphere, the size of the beers and the best wings in town keeps people coming back.” — Geoff Coyle, WVIllustrated.com