My Shockingly Bad Meal At Brasserie At Hotel 1928, Chip And Joanna’s New Waco Restaurant

I’ve walked through Chip and Joanna Gaines’s newest (and biggest!) makeover project a few times. Hotel 1928 is a gorgeous historic building situated on a busy street corner in downtown Waco, TX. (Busy for Waco…let’s be honest. This is still a small college town!)

There are a few places to eat in the hotel, including a rooftop bar, a cozy café, and the main event: a restaurant called The Brasserie at Hotel 1928. During my most recent stop in Waco I made sure to swing by for a lunch to check it out. I couldn’t wait! 

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

First things first: I never dine with the intent to bash a restaurant. I realize that industry people work HARD, and there isn’t much of a margin for error. BUT…since Chip and Jo are the faces of  such a big national company (Magnolia has have their own TV network!) and there has been so much hype about this project, I just had to share my very bizarre experience. 

Hotel 1928: The Vibe

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

Joanna Gaines clearly had her hands in the design of this space. It’s gorgeous. And if that’s all that mattered when dining, I would stop right there and tell you to walk (run!) to Brasserie at Hotel 1928 and dine immediately. You can enter through the hotel lobby, if you’d like. It smells perfect, like there’s a magic candle burning somewhere that fills the space with this perfect cozy/fresh farmhouse chic scent. 

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

I’m obsessed with the dark wood floors juxtaposed with the French-inspired black and white tiles. The long, stark white bar is warmed up with a row of luxurious leather bar stools, and I almost stopped by for a mid-day cocktail because the space just looked so inviting. (Someday I’ll stay overnight at this hotel, and I will 10/10 head down to the bar for a cocktail!)

Natural light, lots of live plants, brass chandeliers, and the prettiest shade of ocean blue on the walls made the whole place scream “Joanna Gaines was here!” And I love it.

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

A Quick Story About The Service...

I’ve dined at hundreds of restaurants that are newly opened. I get that it takes a while to train hospitality members. But at 6 months in, it was a bit strange when I waltzed in, requested a table for one for a late lunch, and was given a lot of heming and hawing while the host studied a seating map and looked around a mostly empty dining space.

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

But it’s ok! I’m patient. I can wait… But then I was seated at a dirty table for 6? So weird. 

There were at least 20 gorgeous, clean, empty tables nearby that were set and ready for guests. And I was sent here? There were crumbs on the bench and half-finished water glasses on the table from the previous guests. 

I asked, “would you mind if I sat at one of those smaller tables near the windows?” Pointing to the 4-tops that were clearly set and ready for guests. I was given a “maybe, but they might be reserved…let me check” and left at my dirty table. 

A few minutes later, a server walked near me and said, “why are you sitting there?! That table is dirty!!” 

(Um, no kidding. But it was just so strange because she said it in a way that made it seem like I had purposely walked in an chosen THAT specific table just to mess with their system. The dirty table! ) 

I told her I had just been seated here and I would happily move to another table. She said she’d look into it, and another 5 minutes passed while I scrolled my phone awkwardly… 

Finally, the original host came up and apologized for seating me at a dirty table and moved me to a clean one. Phew! 

Ok, at this point, I thought the entire encounter had been very bizarre, but I was ready to sweep it under the rug and enjoy a delicious meal. I truly had no intent of sharing that part about being seated at a dirty table. But it just because it helps round out this restaurant experience, I shared it with you. So there you go. 

The Food: Brasserie at Hotel 1928

Given the name (brasserie), the decor (French-inspired), and the menu (egg and cheese omelet, croissant sandwiches, steak frites) I figured a burger would be a good way to sample the menu. After all, many of my favorite French restaurants around Texas have the BEST burgers!

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

I ordered it medium rare, and it arrived looking delicious, with two pieces of black peppered bacon on top, sweet green tomato jam, burger sauce, and thick-cut steak fries. 

And then…

I cut the burger in half so I could bite directly into the middle, and the steak knife sliced straight through a a huge slosh of juice flooded the plate. We’re not talking “a juicy burger.” We’re talking a PUDDLE of pink juice that flooded the plate.

The fries were soaked through and turned soggy. 

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

“Hey, nice and juicy!” I thought. I’m always ready to spin something into an optimistic story and fall in love with a restaurant. I wanted to love it so badly!

But I picked up the burger, and the bottom bun disintegrated into a soggy, slippery mush.

Brasserie at Hotel 1928 - burger

Like, right after I flipped it upside-down to snap this pic of the bun, the part where my fingers were holding it just slid off to a mushy pile of soggy bun on the plate. Not cute!

(Ok, this is the part where people often say, “but you’re a food blogger, which means you take FOREVER to take food pictures! It probably got soggy during all of the nonsense of taking pictures of your food.” To which I will say: that would be a great argument a decade ago when I started food blogging, but at this point I'm lighting fast. I get my camera settings ready to go before the food arrives, and then it’s a quick “click - click” for a vertical and horizontal shot and I’m done. Maybe 60 seconds max?)

I'm not that upset about a soggy burger bun. I've had bad burgers before! It's mostly that the price of this burger and the promise of the restaurant (not to mention that gorgeous ambiance!) had me expecting so, so much more. There's been a LOT of hype about this place. It was supposed to be a huge hit, and it fell so flat.

The nice, although slightly absent server came by and asked how everything was. I mentioned that the burger, while very tasty, was delivered to me with a soggy bun. "Oh, I'm sorry! Yeah, that can happen when you order it medium rare."

*insert eyes wide open emoji.*

Uh, no. Ordering a burger medium rare does not equal a soggy burger bun.

The Price

I had a full day ahead of me of eating my way through Waco, so I didn’t order a beverage, a starter, or a dessert. Just the burger. Which cost $25 ($32, including tax and my standard 20% tip.) $25 isn’t a cheap burger! For reference, the burger at June’s All Day in Austin (one of the best burgers in Austin) is $24 with fries. So you can see why my expectations were high for this one. 

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

Conclusion

The restaurant is stunning. There’s no doubt about that! And, despite everything I just shared, I absolutely will dine there again to try out some of the other dishes. (I always hope for the best for cool local restaurants!) 

But I think the worst part was that the expectation was just SO high for this place. There aren’t very many new, modern restaurants in Waco (although more and more are opening!). This would have been a huge hit if it had been able to deliver on the trifecta of food-service-ambiance. But unfortunately, they only hit one of those out of the park.

Thankfully, the one area where they really excel (decor) would be the hardest to change. Food and hospitality can both rapidly be improved in a restaurant with proper staff and training. I’ve seen restaurants turn it around really fast! So maybe there’s still hope for this Waco restaurant. 

Brasserie at Hotel 1928

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