On the Road

Dish of the Week: The Gut Pak

What's the only thing that could make a Frito Pie better? Barbecue.

By Katharine Shilcutt October 16, 2014

Nearly every Texas town, large and small, has its definitive barbecue joints. In Waco, those joints are Vitek's and Tony DeMaria's. While Tony DeMaria's (pronouned "d-MARE-ee-uhs") takes the top prize for ribs, Vitek's is the clear winner when it comes to German-style smoked sausage and a speciality that Baylor University students have been eating since it was invented in 1983 by Bill Vitek, grandson of William Frank Vitek, the man who first opened Vitek's in 1915.

Though the Gut Pak hasn't enjoyed the century of success that Vitek's has, it has been the best selling item on Vitek's menu for nearly 30 years and it recently enjoyed recognition by the Cooking Channel as the "Best College Eats" in the country. And it's easy to see why: Vitek's manages to improve upon that Texas classic, the Frito pie, by adding its barbecued brisket on top.

That brisket is finely chopped, mixing easily with the Gut Pak's bed of Frito corn chips, cheese, beans, and chopped sausage. And as with any good barbecue plate or Frito pie, it's also topped with plenty of onions, pickles, and jalapeños. Vitek's sweet barbecue sauce is served on the side, thankfully, as I prefer my Gut Pak without it, though your mileage may vary.

Thanks to Vitek's proximity to the Baylor University campus, the Gut Pak is such a dear thing to Baylor students and alumni like myself that we're known to make weekend pilgrimages to get a Gut Pak (as well as a cheeseburger from Dubl-R and a shake from Health Camp, completing the legendary Waco junk food trifecta). In fact, when I mentioned to Revival Market and Coltivare owner Morgan Weber that I'd be road-tripping to Waco for the weekend, Weber—a fellow Baylor alum—immediately asked: "Are you going to get a Gut Pak?" (The question was quickly followed with: "And a cheeseburger from Dubl-R?")

As we mused on the nostalgic comfort food of our college years, Weber made an off-hand remark that he'd like to try recreating the famous Gut Pak at Revival Market, using the market's own barbecued pork, cheese, sausage, beans, and more. "What would we use for Fritos, though?" Weber asked. "Maybe we could use the tortilla chips from Hugo's?"

The Gut Pak can't be made with anything other than Fritos, in my opinion. Weber seemed to agree. "What if we just made a few Gut Paks for Baylor game days?" he deliberated. With Baylor's football team doing so well this year, giving Baylor fans even more of an excuse to celebrate and indulge with each passing game, I can only hope Weber is giving this whole Revival Market Gut Pak thing serious thought. I'd line up for one—anything to not have to make the nearly three-hour drive for a Gut Pak.

Vitek's, 1600 Speight Ave., Waco, 254-752-7591, viteksbbq.com 

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