With menu items including the War Pig, Wrecking Ball and MAD Burger, the newly opened Milo All Day restaurant downtown may sound intimidating.
But the space is airy and inviting, long on glass and muted colors, and it features a pastry and coffee counter, bar, wine room, Wi-Fi access and, on Wednesday, lively lunchtime conversation.
Owner and chef Corey McEntyre has transformed the old Big Green Automotive building at 1020 Franklin Ave. into a brick-and-mortar extension of his Milo Biscuit Co. food truck, which he opened after moving to Waco from Nashville, Tennessee, three years ago. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week, closing Tuesdays.
Specialties include braised short rib, bricked cobb creek chicken, 28-day aged rib-eye and the aforementioned MAD Burger, which stands for Milo All Day burger. It is a one-third-pound burger with chimmichurri aioli, redneck cheddar mornay, sweet potato chips and red leaf lettuce, according to a menu provided Wednesday.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Emily Gutierrez, 25, a Nebraska native who grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and moved to Waco five years ago.
She was performing tasks on her computer while enjoying a latte and cinnamon roll.
“It reflects well on the development taking shape downtown the past couple of years,” Gutierrez said. “Places like this make people want to stay.”
McEntyre said he started planning Milo All Day in July, finalized its design in October and proceeded with renovations in November.
Local builder Tate Christensen tackled the work, securing $477,464 from the downtown Tax Increment Financing Zone board to renovate facades, install handicap-accessible ramps and build lighted, 8-foot-wide sidewalks.
Christensen and two investors in nearby Balcones Distilling own the building, and welcomed the chance to make it home to a “chef-driven, farm-to-table type restaurant,” said Blake Batson, a partner in the venture and longtime proprietor of the Common Grounds coffee shop near Baylor University.
The building had 9,600 square feet of wide-open space, with 20-foot ceilings and a bank of garage doors. McEntyre said the building’s steel frame, complete with surface rust, remains exposed in places.
“I’m proud of this area here,” he said, pointing to a lounging area. “We want people to spend a lot of time there, not feel they need to rush off.”
He said the space easily can seat 150 people, counting the patio.
“I also plan family-style dishes, maybe roasted chicken or a whole fish, with the idea of sharing a meal,” McEntyre said. “We may charge $30 for two diners or $45 for three, something to keep down the costs.”
Leonard and Debbie Christensen, the parents of builder Tate Christensen, enjoyed a meal and a view from the patio on Wednesday.
“What did I have? A good time,” Leonard Christensen said with a laugh. “No, seriously, I loved watching Corey cook. I also had a Miller High Life, the first in years.”
Justus Young, 23, and his fiancee, Casey, dropped by for an early-afternoon meal, having noticed the invitation-only crowd at Milo All Day the previous evening, when it hosted a friends-and-family gathering.
“We love wine, and it appears they have a good selection,” Young said. “We think the garage doors are a nice touch, and the staff is friendly.”
Young, originally from Alpine, said he graduated from Baylor University with a degree in political science and plans to attend law school.
“I love the atmosphere. It’s amazing,” said Ashley Graves, 32, who enjoyed a War Pig while holding her 18-month-old son, Benson, in her lap.
A War Pig, by the way, is an open-faced biscuit topped with milk braised pork, green chili hollandaise, fried egg and pickled onions.
Graves was dining with Lauren McEntyre, wife of the chef, who was soaking up the atmosphere while polishing off a serving of avocado toast.
“This is finally a time for him to exhale,” Lauren McEntyre said of Corey. “I would say he has been extremely steady and determined in pursuing his vision. But I would also say the community has been open to collaboration. Certain aspects would not have been possible without others helping out.”
Jared Himstedt, head distiller at Balcones, an award-winning whiskey maker, has hosted dinners at the distillery with Milo All Day providing food.
“It will be fun to have more life in that area,” Himstedt told the Tribune-Herald last year. “Having something other than whiskey is going to help us, too. If there’s food across the street, that changes the game and gives us the chance of being able to collaborate on distillery events.”