In a town known for Texas Rangers, the Chisolm Trail, and home improvement there’s a lot to explore in Waco, and this week we’re in right off I-35 at a burger joint that has been here since ’47: Cups Drive-In.
Freddie Johnson and his sister Sherry, have been handed down the diner that dates back all the to 1929 when it was first built.
“My family has been a part of this since ’57 so you just have to keep the tradition going for years,” Freddie said. “We were the original people to have shiplap on the walls. This is shiplap that Joanne and Chip Gaines, they’d die to have this stuff here.”
Thanks to their proximity to I-35, Cupp’s has seen the city grow up around them and now there’s competition literally on every corner next to the building.
“There’s a burger place here on every corner but people still drive over here to eat here because they know we have a good quality burger,” Freddie said. “Most people believe we’ve got the best burger in Waco.”
Having history on your side helps. Originally called Heating’s Eatings in the roaring 20’s, it changed to Cupp’s in 1947. Flo Owens bought if from Mr. Cupp in the 70’s a later sold it to Freddie’s Mom Betty who had been working there since 1957.
“I just feel the need to keep something old like this going and just tradition, because when you walk in here it’s like walking back in time,” Freddie said. “You don’t think about what’s going on in the world, you don’t have any problems. Right here it’s just comfort food, is what we call it I guess.”
Longtime customer Claudine McNamera has many special memories of this place.
“I’ve been coming here all my life,” Claudine said. “We used to come here for dates. My first kiss was in Cupps.”
While fond memories aren’t the main attraction here, the food is so we squeezed into the kitchen to get to cooking.
“Well we’re gonna cook an old fashion hamburger,” Freddie said. “We’ve got this old marble slab that we’ve had here for years. We’ve got a grill that’s been here for about 30 years now. We put a little grease on the grill, a bun. Let it toast. And we have fresh hamburger patties. We get from a local meat market here.”
It’s safe to say, the recipe at Cupp’s has never changed. The bun gets your typical Texas toppings and some heat.
“Fresh vegetables here, it’s just our basic stuff, there’s nothing fancy about it either,” Freddie said. “Most people like mustard here in the South, so we put mustard on it. Little bit of vegetables, nothing too fancy. Two or three pickles. Two or three small tomatoes. Then we take a little of the special seasoning we have and sprinkle it. If you [season] it too soon it will make the meat shrink up too much so we do it like this and it keeps it fresh and we get our bun just toast it like it is. Bring it off. Slap it there. Put a little more grease on it. Wrap it up. Order ready.”
The eager anticipation of our reaction was palpable. It all just comes together so well, you can taste the history.
“I like carrying the tradition on with my mom and Flow and Mr. Cup and all the families that had it before us,” Freddie said. “We’re not fancy, we’re just old school. You get a good quality hamburger here.”
An old school flavor for an old school stop, right here on The Texas Bucket List.
“If you want to taste a real, Texas burger this is the place to come and get it,” customer Kirk said.