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Where to Eat on Christmas Day

Your stress-free dining guide to the holidays.

I first tasted this beverage at a winter Dr Pepper Hour and fell in love.

Hot Dr Pepper is exactly what it sounds like: heated-up Dr Pepper, served in a mug. You can garnish with a lemon slice, which I strongly recommend. The plummy taste of the soda takes on a mead-like quality when heated, and the beverage tastes oddly alcoholic, like a hot toddy sans the hooch. Of course, this might be one of the many reasons the drink is so popular at alcohol-free Baylor University.

Another reason, of course, is that it gets as cold as a witch's tit on the Central Texas plains during winter, and hot Dr Pepper is easier to make in a dorm room than even coffee or hot chocolate. Especially when you haven't ventured out to the Walmart in a week and you're living out of the vending machine in the basement...

Duck fat: Screw "cellar door," those are the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Gary R. Wise
Duck fat: Screw "cellar door," those are the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Scott Sulma, right, and Grant Gordon will be helping to open Vallone's.
Courtesy of Tony's
Scott Sulma, right, and Grant Gordon will be helping to open Vallone's.

According to Dr Pepper's official Web site, hot Dr Pepper has been around much longer than Dr Pepper Hour:

Hot Dr Pepper was developed many years ago as a refreshing winter drink. Heat Dr Pepper in a saucepan to 180 degrees, place a thin slice of lemon in the bottom of a coffee mug or insulated cup, and pour the heated Dr Pepper over the lemon.

But this wasn't good enough. I wanted more information on how this winter treat originally came about, so I called the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco and spoke with Mary Beth Tate, collections manager for the museum.

"Dr Pepper is the only major soft drink that's had a successful hot campaign," she told me.

"They first came out with it in the early 1960s. The mascot for it was a little devil, and there's a that story goes along with it: A route salesman suggested it because it was so cold while delivering Dr Pepper in the winter months. Like a lot of legends, we don't really know if it's true."

Anecdotal evidence confirms that it was mostly a Dr Pepper invention, although it seems to have been around as a classic Texas treat since at least the 1950s, being served at events such as Little League games in the winter months.

And the many vintage ads for hot Dr Pepper seem to indicate that the Dr Pepper company itself invented the beverage as a cold-weather application for its soda, which I imagine most consumers weren't terribly interested in during the winter. During this time, the advertising slogan for Dr Pepper was "I like it! It's different!" And the hot-Dr Pepper campaign fit into this nicely, according to Tate: "The slogan was 'It's devilishly different.'" An edgy ad campaign from a Texas company back then, to be sure.

Advertisements and commercials for the drink reached their peak in the mid-1960s, and it seems as though hot Dr Pepper has been on a bit of a downhill slide since then, as most people I've mentioned it to have never heard of it.

Tate, who admitted that she was perhaps too close to the issue to say whether or not it had slid in popularity over the years, said that it was certainly still popular in Waco. "I'm so used to it being around," she said. "We serve it during the winter at our soda fountain, and it's still a holiday favorite in predominantly Southern families."

So let's revive an old classic this winter. Heat up some Dr Pepper on the stove, pour it in a mug over a lemon slice and enjoy. And since I'm not at Baylor anymore, I can tell you this: It also tastes great with a shot of bourbon.
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Top 10

SALT & STARCH
Houston's top 10 french fries.

Katharine Shilcutt

Guys. Hey, listen. We need to talk. It's about the annual Best of Houston® issue.

I think you know what you did. But the problem, you see, is that you keep doing the same thing almost every single year. Something has to change.

Y'all keep voting for McDonald's as "Best French Fries." Every. Single. Year.

It's honestly baffling. You have really good taste otherwise. And although I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for McDonald's iced coffee (it's cheap and tasty!), the fries are simply nothing to write home about and haven't been great in a very, very, very long time.

So take a little while and think about it. You've got a whole year or so until the next Best of Houston® issue comes out. Sample some of the terrific selection of french fries we've rounded up for you below. Hey, I hear that even the sweet potato fries at Burger King are pretty damn good.

Just please stop with the freaking McDonald's fries.

10. Amazon Grill

I hadn't been to Amazon Grill in years until it was suggested to me by former EOW contributor John Kiely as his favorite place for fries. Lo and behold, the old restaurant on Kirby — which I hadn't visited since its remodel, which has bolder and more elegant colors along with some quirky decor touches reminiscent of big sister Américas — does indeed turn out a fine fry. The twiggy shoestring fries are even better when dipped into one of the three sauces found in abundance on Amazon Grill's plantain bar: creamy cilantro, garlicky chimichurri or a hopped-up ketchup.

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