Monthly Archives: July 2010

You choose the best

readerschoiceIf there’s one thing I’ve learned in my decade of restaurant reporting, it’s that Wichitans known what they like and they aren’t afraid to say so. They also aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now there’s a safe and friendly way for us all to express our culinary opinions. Today, the Eagle launched the 2010 Reader’s Choice poll, which asks readers to name their favorites in a whole list of categories, including restaurants. It’s a fill-in-the-blank style survey that asks for votes for best coffee shop, Thai food, taco, martini and much, much more. It was fun to fill it out, especially armed with the knowledge that I’m RIGHT in all categories.

Best of all — those who participate (except me, unfortunately) have a chance to win $250.

You have a week to participate. Go do it NOW.

Food worth driving for: Radio version

Lots of teeny tiny burgers make Salina a Cozy place.

Lots of teeny tiny burgers make Salina a Cozy place.

I blame it on my 5-year-old daughter. She wouldn’t go to bed last night, so I took away her morning cartoon privileges, so I let her listen to the Taylor Swift Pandora station this morning instead, so I apparently MISSED a whole segment on B-98 that was about my story in this morning’s Go! section.

Brett and Tracy’s producer, Kathy, was kind enough to let me know what I missed, which apparently was a loooong addendum to my list of restaurants in towns around Wichita that are worth driving for.

Keep in mind that I’m planning a Part II to the story, since I couldn’t fit everything in the paper today. But B-98 listeners came up with a few I probably won’t be able to fit into the second list either, so I’ll share some of them here.

Cozy Inn, 108 N. Seventh, Salina: The only reason I’m not including Salina’s famous tiny burger hut is because it’s already very well known, sorta like Carriage Crossing in Yoder and Luciano’s in Mulvane.

Bogey’s, 1417 S. Ninth St., Salina: Tasty burgers and shakes.

Nieves Mexican Restaurant, 119 E. Nineth, Winfield: Though several people suggested this place, I’m not including it only because I have another tasty Winfield nominee to feature.

Lumber Yard Steak House, 311 N. Main St., Zenda: Is it bad that I’ve never heard of this restaurant or of Zenda? Must change that.

Puffy’s Steak House, 215 Main St., Maple Hill: Thanks to TopekaDad for correcting me on this one. BTW, where’s Maple Hill?

Guy and Mae’s Tavern, 119 Williams St., Williamsburg: Home of world-famous ribs and sandwiches

Two Doors Down, 307 Baird St., Cuba: Burgers and other cafe food worth driving for.

Enrique’s, 2213 Waverly St., Ponca City, Okla.: Great Mexican food south of the border. The Kansas border.

Thanks, B-98 listeners. Part II will be published on Aug. 13.

The best field trip EVER

Preschoolers perfect a pepperoni pizza at Papa John's.

Preschoolers perfect a pepperoni pizza at Papa John's.

I remember a lot of cool field trips I took as a kid: Dairy farm, zoo, etc.

But by far the coolest one we ever took got us backstage at the most marvelous place in Dodge City. MCDONALD’S!!

I remember my first-grade self being blown away by the awesomeness of the French fryer and the amazing technology of the drive-thru intercom. The mystery removed from my Happy Meal! The secrets of the Golden Arches revealed!

My little chef enjoys the cheesy fruit of her labor.

My little chef enjoys the cheesy fruit of her labor.

I thought of that again yesterday when my daughter’s preschool class took a field trip to Papa John’s, an event they’d been looking forward to for weeks. The kids got to go back into the kitchen, examine the tubs of toppings, touch the raw dough and stand on stacked-up pizza boxes to assemble their own pizza. The best part? They got to eat their creation right afterward.

Papa John’s puts these little field trips on for free, and the kids love them.

Anyone know of any other field trip-friendly restaurants?

Ice, ice baby

Sonic sells goooood chewin' ice.

Sonic sells goooood chewin' ice.

I’ve always been a big fan of crushed ice — the stuff that’s kind of watery and gives in easily when chomped. The kind that absorbs all the goodness of your vanilla diet Coke and allows you to munch on its sweet goodness even after it’s gone. My friend Alan used a term the other day that perfectly describes what I’m talking about: “Good chewin’ ice.”

BIG NEWS, PEOPLE: Sonic not only makes good chewin’ ice, they also sell it by the bag. Just drive up, press the button and tell them you want a bag of ice. (Or five, as I recently did.) It’s $1.69 a bag and worth every cent. I’ve been eating it for dessert every night this week.

(Update: I just found a Facebook group called “I Love Sonic Ice,” which has 3,188 members. I am now proud member No. 3,189.)

Food worth the drive

Everyone knows about Carriage Crossing in Yoder and Luciano’s in Mulvane.

But other tiny communities that surround Wichita are home to lesser-known restaurants that are worth the drive.

This week in Go! I’ll publish Part I of a two-part list of restaurants you might want to check out next time your stomach is empty and your gas tank is full. One is The Breadbasket in Newton, which Jaime and I selflessly investigated on Tuesday morning. You can see Jaime’s video of The Breadbasket’s resident baker at work if you click “play” above.

Another Genghis Grill

genghisThe west side’s new Genghis Grill is open as of today.

Terry Newman, who opened an east-side Genghis Grill at 111 S. Rock Road in January of 2009, now has an identical counterpart in the former Krispy Kreme building at 8448 W. Central.

The restaurant is a Mongolian grill, which means that customers assemble a stir-fry dish from a bar of raw ingredients then watch as grill chefs cook their concoctions on a giant, circular grill. Wichita’s been on a bit of a Mongolian grill roll in the past few years and now has five — the two Genghis Grills, Gobi Grille at 2319 N. Ridge Road and HuHot Mongolian Grill at 2035 N. Rock Road.

Hours at the new Genghis are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call the restaurant at 316-729-4745 for more information.

Tanya tasting

tanyaOne of the questions I always get from readers is “When’s Tanya Tandoc going to open another restaurant?”

And the answer that Tanya — former owner of the popular Tanya’s Soup Kitchen — always gives me is “NEVER! EVER!” (Which she quickly follows with a wink and an under-the-breath muttering that maybe, possibly someday if she could find the right spot.)

Fans of Tanya’s who don’t want to wait for her to be bitten by the restaurant bug again can chat with her in person on Wednesday, Aug. 4., at a wine tasting at Mike’s Wine Dive, 4714 E. Douglas.

Mike’s will serve appetizers and wine samples in porcelain dishes Tanya (also an artist) made herself. The porcelain pieces will be for sale, as will be some of Tanya’s drawings, which are on display in the restaurant. The event is being put on by Trish Higgins Fine Art.

The tasting will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and is $25. There are 60 seats available, so call soon for a reservation at 316-613-2772.

An idea I endorse

If only all buffets offered plate-size options...

If only all buffets offered plate size options...

I was out this morning doing a little in-person research for a very fun story I’m working on for Friday’s paper when I stumbled across something that I can describe only as buffet brilliance.

The Breadbasket in Newton, which serves a daily breakfast buffet (overflowing with cinnamon rolls and gravy goodness), gives customers a choice of plate size and price.

I didn’t want to eat much this morning, but I wanted to sample the buffet, so I chose the tiny dessert plate that could be filled one time for $3.99. It was perfect — I was easily able to fit a little breakfast burrito, a biscuit with gravy and a cinnamon roll. And I left without feeling like I needed to invest in an elastic waistband, which is rare when I leave a buffet.

A giant all-you-can-eat plate cost $7.99, and there were two options in the middle, too.

Brilliance, I say.

It has to have A FLAVOR

Carter Green loves food as much as I do, or maybe more. Not sure I would have eaten this head-on fish he devoured on his honeymoon last year.

Carter Green loves food as much as I do, or maybe more. Not sure I would have eaten this head-on fish he devoured on his honeymoon last year.

I love people who love food as much as I do, and one of those people is my best friend Jaime’s husband, Carter Green.

He loves food. No matter what you make him, he acts like it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted, and I think he’s being totally sincere every single time.

Carter also loves to update me when he’s tried a restaurant he loves. In his book, a restaurant gets top marks if it has a mysterious quality he calls “a taste,” as in, “It HAS to have a taste.” To him, the equivalent of a four-star experience is a restaurant that has not only “a taste” but also “a flavor.” Having “a flavor” is a big deal.

On Friday, I got this voice mail from Carter with his 30-second review of Bella Vita Bistro, a local Italian restaurant at 120 N. West Street. I’ve already reviewed it, but his summary was so delightful, I didn’t even mind that he didn’t know that.

Carter Green’s 30-second review

Orange Leaf: Self-service fun

A trio of Orange Leaf creations

A trio of Orange Leaf creations

This weekend I stopped into Orange Leaf, the new self-service frozen yogurt shop at 21st and Tyler, just to casually check it out.

Okay, who am I kidding? I’ve been panting over this place since the very first second I heard they’d have peanut butter flavored frozen yogurt.

It did not disappoint. I made a creation that included so many variations on the two-great-tastes-that-taste-great-together theme that my head nearly explodorageleafinteriored.

The place is fun to visit because customers walk in, pick up an oversized bowl, and then go to town filling the bowl from self-serve yogurt dispensers that offer 16 different flavors, from peanut butter to peach, cherry to cheesecake. The dispensers are low enough that kids can make their own, and the ones I saw were loving that feature.

Next, customers top their yogurt from a self-service bar that features all sorts of fruit, candy, cereal and other sweet treats. They place the finished product on a scale and then pay 39 cents an ounce. We got three pretty big servings for about $9, which doesn’t seem outrageous considering that a small gelato costs nearly $5 these days.

orangeleafmural

The seating area is mod and bright, with short white tables and space-ship looking chairs and orange couches. There’s also a very bright and interesting mural on the wall that depicts scenes from Wichita.

A second Orange Leaf is scheduled to open next month at 37th and Rock.

Orange you glad I told you?