Monthly Archives: May 2011

Question of the week: Best family-owned restaurants

Family members of the late Connie Lopez, who still run Connie's Mexico Cafe at 2227 N. Broadway.

I’ve written over the years about several restaurants that are owned and run by members of a family. Some that come to mind: DeFazio’s, Bella Vita Bistro, Old Mill Tasty Shop, Connie’s Mexico Cafe, Saigon and La Galette, who’s 25th anniversary I wrote about this week.

What’s your favorite family-owned, family-run restaurant in Wichita?

Answer in the comments section below.

The allure of teeny tiny burgers

I hope you did not miss Beccy Tanner’s story last week about the one-day return of White Castle to Wichita.

It all happens tomorrow,when the fast food chain known for tiny square burgers will return to Wichita — where the first White Castle opened in 1921 — to celebrate its 90th birthday.

From 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Wichitans can buy two sliders for 90 cents (chips and a drink are an extra 90 cents) from sizzling grills set up in the Dillons parking lot at Central and Rock. Proceeds will go to the Kansas Food Bank.

White Castle left Wichita in 1938, never to return, and to this day, Wichita “gut bomb” fans grumble that the city doesn’t have a White Castle. Now, the only place in Wichita you can get a White Castle burger is in the freezer section.

Your nearest other option: Drive to Salina and try the similar teeny tiny cozy burgers at Cozy Inn. And be prepared to smell like grilled onions for a good month afterward.

Twin Peaks opens today

Ladies and gentelman, er, gentelman: Your wait staff.

Twin Peaks, a new bar and grill going into the former Timberline spot at 8310 E. 21st St., joins Hooters and Emerson Biggin’s on Wichita’s growing list of double-entendre, male-focused, scantily-clad waitress restaurants when it opens today.

Its specialties (besides waitresses in super low-cut short-shorts and Daisy Duke, chest-baring crop tops) appear to be standard bar food fare such as chicken fried steak, burgers and sandwiches.

A first glance at the menu reveals a few unusual, tantalizing options: BBQ pulled pork nachos, a flat iron steak, venison chili and blackened fish tacos among them. Entrees average about $11 or $12.

The restaurant will open from5 p.m. to midnight today. It’ll keep those hours until Monday, when its regular hours will take over: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

A year and 48 lunches later…

A delicious offering from Manna Wok, 4865 E. Harry.

A year ago, local food fan Richard Bowman read one of my dining stories that reprinted local restaurant owner and foodie extraordinaire Tanya Tandoc’s favorite restaurants and her favorite dishes at each of those restaurants.

Bowman felt like he was stuck in a lunch rut, so he invited a couple of buddies to join him on a quest to eat their way down the list. For the past year, Bowman would get together with his Doug Ballard and Joe Wilson on Fridays and try out one of the places on the list. They’ve now traveled completely through it, and on Friday, they’ll go to Tanya’s Soup Kitchen for their final meal to mark their accomplishment.

Bowman told me that he and his buddies really enjoyed the quest and found several new eateries they would never have tried otherwise. Among his new favorites: Manna Wok at 4865 E. Harry. “I’d driven by that place for years and had just never stopped,” he said.

Bowman and his crew are going to have their picture taken with Tanya on Friday, and he promises to share a copy.

Exciting dining addition to Riverfest

Sometimes, the Wichita River Festival wears me out. (I’ve only been covering it for 13 years, ya know.)

But one thing I always love about the festival is the food (which I’ve been reviewing for 13 years, ya know.) I’ve come to love some of the annual offerings, and each year I can’t wait for my Tad’s Bodacious Burrito or tray full of deep fried dill pickle spears (with dipping sauce.)

This year, the festival is offering a new type of food court that could be very cool. The Waterwalk Pavilion will be set up nightly on the lawn near the Hyatt fountains. Under a huge tent, a local restaurant will sell food, and nearby, a local band will perform. Adult beverages will be served, and a new rule allows partakers to walk with their drinks in hand along the river.

The festival is trying to attract a young professional crowd with the new event, and if I count as a young professional, their efforts are probably going to work on me. Following is the schedule festival president Janet Wright sent me. They’re still trying to find a few restaurants to fill in on certain nights, but I plan to be there for sure on June 9 and June 11.

Saturday, June 4

6 – 9:30 p.m. – Grateful Not to Be Dead
6 – 8 p.m. – Carlos O’Kelley’s Mexican Café
Chicken Burrito Wrap with Beans, Chips & Salsa, $10
Chili Con Queso with Chips & Salsa, $10
Carlos Nachos Supreme, $7

Sunday, June 5

6 p.m. – Rachelle Coba Band
6 – 8 p.m. – BBQ from the world-famous Wichita Wagonmasters grill
BBQ Brisket Sandwich, Cole Slaw & Baked Beans, $8
BBQ Brisket Sandwich, Brat, Cole Slaw & Baked Beans, $10

Monday, June 6

7:30-8:45 pm – Flatland String Band
Restaurant TBA

Tuesday, June 7

7:30-8:45 pm – Walnut River String Band
6 – 8 p.m. – Truffles
Choice of meatball sub or chicken parmigiana sub, pasta salad, chips, cookies, $7
Choice of pasta Caesar salad, garlic bread, roasted potatoes with vegetables, brownies $10

Wednesday, June 8

7:15-8:45 pm – Swing Daddies
6 – 8 p.m. – Caffe Moderne
Chicken Veggie Wrap with salad, chips & cookie, $10
Southwest Veggie Wrap with salad, chips & cookie, $10

Thursday, June 9

6-8:45 pm – Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band
6 – 8 p.m. – Hyatt Harvest Kitchen & Bar
Choice of dirty or white rice, chicken and Andouille sausage
jambalaya, crawfish & pepperjack cornbread, $8

Friday, June 10

6-9:30 pm – Mumblin’ Jones
6 – 8 p.m. – Toni D’s
Beef & pulled pork sliders, $10
Vegetarian sliders, $10
Both served with potato chips, choice of potato salad or
Italian pasta salad & homemade cookie

Saturday, June 11
4:30-6:30 pm – Smugglin’ Yo-Yos
7:00-9:45 pm – Ten Day Wish
Restaurant TBA

Beverages

Pepsi Products                     $3 or 2/$5.00

Budweiser                                          $4.00

Craft Beer                                          $4.00

Wine & Specialty Drinks            $5.00

Gaslamp Grille adds lunch

They’ve been talking about it for a while, and starting Monday, Gaslamp Grille and Lounge at 550 N. Rock Road will start offering lunch.

It’ll be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and will include upscale appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pastas. You can see the full menu here. (Twice even!)

Appetizers average about $8. salads are $12-ish, and the sandwich/burger/pasta dishes  range from $9 to $12. If I were going today, I’d probably order the Dagwood, made with three meats, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncinis, pickle, Italian style vinaigrette aioli, Gruyere and fontina on a French baguette for $9.95. Yum. The brie cheese fodue appetizer ($7.95) sounds good, too.

For more information, call 316-260-1432.

Question of the week: Who has great service?

News that The Anchor is shutting down for a few days to address service issues has many longtime fans applauding their decision to take action. It got me to thinking about restaurants that manage to offer good service, unfailingly, all the time. I’ve always wondered how they do it.

Which local restaurants, in your opinion, have consistently good service? What makes it so good?

Answer in the comments section below.

Wine and beer and food

Wichitans will have three opportunities over the next week to educate themselves on wine and beer and the food that makes them sing.

The first is tonight’s Gusto Social Wine Tasting, a monthly event at Gaslamp Grille and Lounge, 550 N. Rock Road. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and is $25 a person. Participants will be able to sample four different wines and have access to some light appetizers. Credit card reservations are required in advance by calling 316-260-1432.

Then, on Tuesday, Yia Yia’s Eurobistro at 8115 W. 21st will offer a $65-a-person wine dinner featuring the wares of the Paraiso winery. It’s a four-course dinner, and each course is paired with a Paraiso wine. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Call 316-634-1000 for reservations.

Wednesday is the day for Newport Grill’s Tallgrass Beer Dinner. The restaurant at 1900 N. Rock Road will charge $50 a person for the five-course meal, which will pair Tallgrass beers with dishes such as butter-poached halibut and cocoa-glazed beef tenderloin. The dinner starts at 7 p.m. Call 316-636-9555 for reservations.

Donut shop switcheroo

Squeek’s Daylight Donuts closed its 1845 S. Rock Road store about three months ago (though the one at 734 N. Waco is still open.)

But that doesn’t mean the McConnell-ish area is without a donut shop.

Prairie Donuts opened two months later across the street at 1652 S. Rock Road, next door to the Starbucks at Harry and Rock. It’s owned by Samie and Matthew San, who are relatives of the owners of the closed store. They are now are making the same type of donuts — glazed, cake, long johns, cinnamon rolls, bear claws, apple fritters and more. Samie says she’d like to try adding kolache and croissants to the offerings soon.

The shop is open from 4:30 a.m. to noon daily and has about four tables. For more information, call 316-651-5553.

The Anchor closed until Friday

One of Doug Pitts’ first orders of business now that he’s taken over The Anchor kitchen: clean house.

The Anchor, the popular pub at 1109 E. Douglas, closed down Monday afternoon and will stay closed until 11 a.m. Friday while Pitts and owner Schane Gross clean the kitchen, add new equipment and address plumbing issues.

They’re also going to use the time to address The Anchor’s infamous service issues. The popular bar, though never short on customers, has been known at times for long food waits and other problems. Gross recognizes those, and she’s working on finding new front-of-house management.

When the restaurant reopens Friday, customers will notice a few new menu items introduced by Pitts, though he promises that he’s keeping all the restaurant’s popular staples, from sweet potato fries to the Reuben to the Haystack. He plans to eventually introduce three separate menus: dinner lunch and brunch. And he wants to return the restaurant to serving food all made in-house, including homemade sausages and house-smoked pastrami.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to diversify the menu,” Pitts said. “I think people will appreciate the classics but also embrace what we’re going to do.

“Our own personal philosophy here is establishing that quality and consistency in what we do and how we do it,” Pitts said. “That has been at issue for a little while.”