What do hot air balloons and hamburgers have in common?
Long ago, a cross-country hot air balloon trip gone astray landed one fame-seeking, adventure-chasing Captain Billy Whizzbang in central Texas. Too ashamed of his failed attempt to return home, Capt. Billy instead invented a specially prepared hamburger and opened up Captain Billy Whizzbang’s Old Fashion All American Hamburger Stand. Or so the story goes.
Today, Captain Billy Whizzbang’s honors the legacy of the famed Capt. Billy by serving up the same old-fashioned style of burgers. Owner Trent Neumann shared with us some of what’s been cooking over at his restaurant.
Can you tell me about the origin of this restaurant and how you got connected with Captain Billy Whizzbang’s?
“The business started back in 1977. A guy by the name of Mike Parton started it a long time ago. It went through a couple different owners’ hands, and I bought it in July of 2009.
“The guys who owned it before me were friends of mine and they were looking to sell it. It was actually me and my dad who went in and bought it. And then about a year and a half later, I bought my dad out of it.”
What changes have you made since you took over?
“We cleaned it up a bit but we kept the same kind of tradition. Captain Billy Whizzbang's has been around a long time, so there’s a lot of good things that were already going on. We kept with the same old-school way of doing stuff, buying everything fresh and as much local as we can.
“For example, we buy all of our meat every day from the local meat market here in town. I call first thing in the morning, like 7 o'clock every morning, and tell them how much meat we need. They deliver that fresh every day, and then we take that meat, mix in our seasonings, and then hand patty every patty.”
What makes Captain Billy Whizzbang’s stand out from other restaurants?
“That's the main thing that makes us, in my opinion, so much better – the freshness of everything that we do and then the attention to detail that we have. Everything we make is to order. We don't pre-cook anything. We don't hold anything in warmers. We don't do any of that kind of stuff. As soon as people walk in and place their order, we make it exactly how they want it and fresh every time.
“We also have something on our menu called our Whizz-Pigg hamburger, which is a half ground bacon, half ground beef patty. It’s been one of our favorites for the about last four years.
“That’s actually the burger that was featured when the TV show, The Texas Bucket List, came in and did a special on us. That was in March of 2017.
“Then a couple months later, toward the end of their season, I got another call. They feature a burger restaurant every episode, so at the end of the season they do a special on their top five burgers of the season. They picked ours as their number one, so that was really good for us.”
Do you have any other highlights or favorite parts of running the business?
“Seeing how much we've grown is one thing. We went from doing anywhere from 75 to 100 hamburgers a day to now we're making around 300 to 350 hamburgers a day. It’s pretty fun to see that kind of growth.
“Also, adding our food trucks was a big deal. We have two food trucks right now. One of them is at the Silos every day. And then the other one we use for a lot of catering and to go out to special events and different festivals.”
Are there any customer interactions that stand out to you?
“I can't think of any individual, but we definitely have a pretty loyal following here in Waco. I would say that probably 60 or 70 percent of our customers eat here at least once or twice a week. We even have one guy who comes in almost every single day to get food. So we have a close relationship with a lot of our customers, and to see that is pretty neat.”
What do you love most about the Waco community?
“Oh, Waco is just awesome. I mean the local people are great. They tend to really support local businesses. As many other restaurants - and especially bigger chain hamburger restaurants - as have come into our area, we have never seen it affect our business at all.
“If anything, we've grown at a steady pace. That alone shows that the local community really supports us and they really support local businesses in general, which is pretty awesome. Anything that we can do to give back and to help support Waco, we try to do.”
Well, Waco, you’ve earned yourself a shout out for supporting local! Keep up the good work with the help of Towny - your free online guide to shopping local. (PS - Want it on the go? There’s an app for that!)