A Lovely Visit With

A Lovely Visit With...Melody Ranch

If you have lived in Waco for a decent amount of time, you likely have a story about the Melody Ranch. A Waco staple since the late 1960s, “the largest dancehall in Central Texas” was purchased by Gerald Villarial, a partner at Dunnam & Dunnam, and Kelly Snell, McLennan County Commissioner at the end of November 2018, saving the Waco-nic (get it?) building from becoming another hotel near Magnolia.

Since its incarnations as The Cotton Palace, Melody Ranch, then El Rancho, and now Melody Ranch again, the country/western venue has played host to the likes of Willie Nelson – the riser built especially for his grand piano is still on the stage – Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, and George Strait.

Gerald, born and raised in Waco (and a Baylor alum) even graced the stage, playing guitar, bass, and drums for various bands over the years. He and his wife Jamie, their five kids, and Snell (and his family) help maintain the day-to-day operation of Melody Ranch, helping it return to its glory days. While Melody Ranch is known for country music, there are plans to book a variety of bands in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Over the couple of hours that we chatted towards the back of the dance floor, it’s notable that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Anywhere you stand – or sit, because there actually are tables – offers up a great view of the stage. The acoustics in Melody Ranch are phenomenal, as well. And if plenty of space to sit and dance don’t ring your bell hard enough, a third bar is currently being finished so that waiting for a drink doesn’t mean you miss three songs.

If it’s not yet clear, the Villarials want to make sure that every patron has a good experience at Melody Ranch, and that includes the safety of the patrons. Melody Ranch is proactive in working with local police to make sure that everything from the dance floor to the parking lot is safe and secure. There’s a new security system, cameras inside and outside the venue, and new outdoor lighting to go with a new parking lot.

Hungry? Triple B’s Smokehouse is always on-site, so you can pre-game the concert with Hawaiian Pork, Pulled Pork, Brisket, fries, and more, even during bingo. Oh yeah, Melody Ranch hosts Bingo every day of the week from 10am-2pm.

Melody Ranch opens up the largest dancehall in Texas – featuring the original dance floor with just the right amount of slide – from 7pm until 2am every Thursday-Saturday, with live bands playing every Saturday night.

Melody Ranch is a family business – you will occasionally see Jamie behind the bar helping out, or Gerald and Kelly getting more tables and chairs ready. So text “Meet Me at the Ranch” to your friends and go give a legit piece of Waco history another chance.

Melody Ranch. 2315 North Robinson Drive, Waco 76706

7pm-2am Thu-Fri; 5pm-2am Sat

A Lovely Visit with...Slow Rise Slice House

I’m generally of the opinion that all pizza is good. Chicago-style? Heck yeah. New York-style? Sure thing. You got a Totino’s? Let’s party. Pizza is the reason I don’t have abs. One of the newer establishments in the Waco area is making sure that my ab-less existence will continue: Slow Rise Slice House in Woodway.

Open since April, and sharing a space with Common Grounds, the first thing you notice when you walk in is how refreshing the space is: impossibly clean with high ceilings and perfect lighting. Slow Rise offers a relaxing atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. But once you’ve settled in, it won’t take long for you to notice how good the pizza is.

It starts with the dough, an uber-secret special family recipe. Now, we lived in upstate New York for three winters, so I know my way around legit New York-style pizza. This is legit. The crust is perfect, the toppings are wonderful, too.

Are you subject to some dietary restrictions? Slow Rise offers cauliflower crust as well as a gluten-free crust. Slow Rise also has vegan cheese available, so you can come in and customize your very own vegan pizza. Or you could laugh at those people and get a slice of The Butcher - mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, hamburger, and bacon - and end up with the Meat Sweats. It’s worth it.

You know how some people wear leggings as pants? Slow Rise does appetizers as meals. Loaded French Fries, Mozzarella Sticks, Wings, and home-made meatballs. They have drink specials and will be unveiling their Fall Menu soon. Need a catered meal? Slow Rise has you covered.

Slow Rise, ultimately, is a community restaurant here to serve the community. It’s not uncommon to see one of the owners busing tables, or serving food, or walking you out to your car with an umbrella. And with a patio that has everything from cornhole to movie nights, Slow Rise is a family-friendly establishment. Bring them kids.

So it’s our fervent recommendation that you hit up Slow Rise, hang out, play some games, maybe get some coffee afterwards, and leave happy knowing you’ve eaten at a legit Waco establishment.

Slow Rise Slice House

7608 Woodway Drive

Sunday-Saturday: 11am-10pm

A Lovely Visit with...Milk Bottle Cookies

Having just moved to Waco from Utah for her husband’s job six weeks ago, Makenzie Asisi has been busy making cookies. Not just cookies, though, [checks over shoulder and lowers voice] the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Milk Bottle Cookies is legit.

Why “Milk Bottle Cookies?” The density of the cookies themselves matches the density of a milk bottle. “And my husband always needs a glass of milk with his cookie, so it just worked,” Makenzie said while I stuffed my face over coffee at Common Grounds. I nodded and waited for my eyes to uncross.

The Wife doesn’t do gluten, so the tasting fell to me. I haven’t been to the gym since Thursday so I definitely earned sampling all five of the varieties Milk Bottle Cookies currently offers:

-Pistachio Chocolate Chip (covered in homemade caramel)

-Chocolate Chip

-White Chocolate Chip

-Cookies & Cream

-Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

The word “decadent” comes to mind, and it’s easy to taste how Milk Bottle Cookies does it. “We don’t skimp on ingredients.” It’s top-of-the-line chocolate chips, flour, and absolutely no shortening. I’ve never called a cookie “creamy” before, but the White Chocolate Chip brought that word to mind.

The cookies are dense enough to take a bite, leave and go do something else, come back and take another bite - more designed to be a whole-day treat. [Note: the cookies didn’t last the whole day. I needed a nap afterwards.]

Currently Milk Bottle Cookies takes orders at their website or by DM on Instagram and Facebook. You can either pick them up on Sunday evening, or have them deliver to you (check the website to see if they deliver to your zip code). Shipping around the lower 48 states is available, as well. The Chocolate Chip & White Chocolate Chip are $3.50/each while the premium cookies are $5/each, and are a bargain at twice the price.

If you’re looking to impress guests, or you’re tasked with arranging treats for a corporate event, or you’re just in the mood for the best cookies you could ever hope to put in your mouth, we give two gooey thumbs up to Milk Bottle Cookies. Now, off to the gym…

A Lovely Visit with...Cultivate 7Twelve

So, last week we had a wonderful opportunity to visit Cultivate 7Twelve to see what they’re up to. Downtown Waco is lucky to have Rebekah and Jeremy Hagman and their team in place to provide a cultural presence since December 2017. Thanks to the Hagmans, Art has a home in Downtown Waco in the former Keton Bakery space, in operation from 1917 to the 1970s (and famous for their cream puffs). Hardwood floors accentuate the galleries with high ceilings in a space that allows you - and the art - to breathe. As soon as you walk in, you can tell that Cultivate 7Twelve is genuinely honored for you to grace their doorframe.

I mean, from bringing Waco an actual, real-life Banksy, to providing a space for ballet, yoga, and jazz dance classes (what up, Authentic Arts), to displaying hands-on family-friendly artistic pieces, Cultivate 7Twelve is here to bring you high-minded pursuits, making sure you strengthen your mind and your soul.

Cultivate 7Twelve offers space for (predominantly local) artists to participate in a highly-functional artistic community to showcase their work. Are you looking for a space to host your next event? Cultivate 7Twelve has you covered with a wide array of opportunities to entertain your guests in a convenient downtown location.

Do you like the idea of living in the 1920s? Do you channel Nick Carraway? Maybe, just maybe, you could get on board with being Jay Gatsby (up until, probably, the last 1/4 of the book)? Cultivate 7Twelve has something just for you. Keep an eye out here, and there, for something that just might ring your bell…

Click through below for pictures. All photos copyright Kami Yasko.