Monthly Archives: February 2012

Old Mill Tasty Shop turns 80

Erna and Otto Oermke, Old Mill Tasty Shop's original owners.

I had fun this week writing my story about Old Mill Tasty Shop, a beloved  downtown restaurant that on Thursday will turn 80 years old.

Owner Mary Wright and her manager son Don sat down with me in one of the restaurant’s tiny but cozy booths to tell me everything they knew about the restaurant’s history and to show me a suitcase full of old black-and-white photos.

The restaurant is a true Wichita treasure. It was opened in 1932 by German immigrant Otto Woermke and his wife, Erna. The Wrights bought it after Otto died in 1981.

I particularly love the photo gallery of 31 pictures the Wrights and the Eagle photo staff helped me gather.

Happy Birthday, Old Mill. I and all your other green-chili, chicken-salad loving fans are glad you’ve made it this long.

Question of the week: Wichita’s best meatloaf?

Redrock Canyon Grill's yummy Persimmon Hill Meatloaf.

As I prepare my stomach for Saturday’s Loaf Off, a meatloaf cooking competition I’ll help judge, I can’t get meatloaf off my mind.

It’s a divisive dish. Some people love it. The rest of them loathe it. I fall into the “love it” category.

Serving meatloaf in restaurants has become a bit of a trendy thing over the past decade or so. One of my favorites in town is the sorta spicy Persimmon Hill meatloaf served at Redrock Canyon Grill, 1844 N. Rock Road. Oh, my, it’s yummy.

Granite City has a good one, too, and several local diner-y places often have it as a blue plate special.

This week’s question: Which local restaurant serves your favorite meatloaf? Answer in the comments section below.

Prepare your stomachs to Loaf Off

Meatloaf samples I ingested last year.

I’m pretty sure I should just not eat again until Saturday.

That’s the only way my stomach will be prepared for the job it’s been assigned at this year’s fourth annual Loaf Off, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas.

The event is a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas.

I’m one of three meatloaf judges, serving on a panel that also includes local foodie Joe Stumpe and his wife, Eagle biz columnist Carrie Rengers. As of the other day, there were 12 entries, and we have to sample them all to find the best.

Fashion maven Bonnie Bing will be there, too, but her job is picking the booth with the best appearance. (She loves meatloaf, too, for the record.)

My co-judge, Joe Stumpe. He's smiling because he hasn't eaten all that loaf yet.

Spectators are allowed to attend, observe and sample right along with us. Admission for spectator tasters is $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 5 to 12. The Anchor will offer side dishes as well.

It was hard to choose a winner last year, but we finally settled on the loaf cooked by Don Lucero, the head chef at Via Christi Hospital on East Harry.  He created his loaf in an angel food cake pan, stuffing it in the center with all sorts of cheesy goodness. (I found last year that I prefer any loaf that includes bacon and cheesy goodness.) I heard that Don will return on Saturday to defend his title.

Will you join us?

It’s National Pancake Day

It feels good to help people. It feels even better when you get to eat pancakes in the process.

Kansas IHOP restaurants are supporting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals with a pancake giveaway until 10 p.m. tonight. Customers who visit can get a free short stack of three buttermilk pancakes, (though it’s suggested that diners donate the cost of the meal to the cause.) Last year’s event raised $5,000. Participating Wichita IHOPs include the ones at 11855 E. Kellogg Drive, 3505 N. Rock Road and 515 S. Ridge Circle.

The fundraiser is being put on all over the country, and IHOP hopes to raise $2.7 million this year.

Velvet Cream Bakery’s bite of heaven

Kelly Duggan, owner of Velvet Cream Bakery and the winning dessert maker at Saturday's Cocktails & Cookies event.

Saturday night’s Cocktails & Cookies event at the Drury Plaza Broadview once again sent me into a sugar coma, but I regained consciousness in time to gather all the pertinent information about the Chef of the Hour, Kelly Duggan.

Duggan is the owner of Velvet Cream Bakery, and her cookie truffle was the winning dessert at the event, in which local chefs try to create the best dessert using Girl Scout Cookies as one of the ingredients. This is the second year I’ve helped judge at the event, which is a fundraiser for Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland. It’s a tough job…

Duggan, who started her bakery out of her home two years ago, created an amazing bite of lemon heaven she called a “cookie truffle.”

She used the Lemonades Girl Scout cookies, combining them with cream cheese for a soft center that she encased in white chocolate and topped with a limoncello lemon curd. (She’s posted the recipe on her blog.)

My fellow judges, KSN personality Barbara Baan and Old Chicago East manager Sean DiGiovanni, and I were pretty united in our love of her citrus-y creation, which packed a lot of flavor into a little package.

Duggan also told me that soon she will begin selling her cake pops and cake truffles out of W.O.W. Cakes, a wedding cake business at 2724 N. Amidon.

Cocktails & Cookies had an awesome invention called FanCam, sort of a social media photo booth. Here are me and my date, the lovely Katie Grover.

All the desserts were pretty fabulous, and other entrants included Chef Ben George of Tallgrass Country Club and Adam Courtney of AVI.

You’ll have another chance to sample Duggan’s creations at next month’s Death by Chocolate, an Exploration Place fundraiser scheduled for March 31.

I’m a judge at that one, too, so I’m already prepping for my next sugar coma.

Chick-fil-A frenzy officially begins today

The official opening date of Wichita’s much-anticipated Chick-fil-A is now 17 days away, and franchisee Brad Fuller is releasing details about how dedicated fans can be among the first people through the doors.

The restaurant, which specializes in super juicy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries that absorb ketchup perfectly, will open at the corner of Central and Rock roads on March 15. The building is nearly complete and ready to go.

Today, Fuller launched a scavenger hunt that will award tickets to a Raving Fans Premiere Night Dinner, scheduled for Tuesday, March 13. Today through Friday and March 5 through 9, fans can search for hidden stuffed Chick-fil-A cows using clues released by the restaurant. There will be 20 cows total (one already was found this morning) and those who find the cows get a ticket to the dinner. Clues are being revealed during the 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. hours on radio stations BOB FM, 97.1, and The Wolf, 100.5-FM, on the stations’ Facebook pages and websites, and on the Chick-fil-A Facebook page.

Fuller also told me how the big fan camp-out will work. It’s become tradition for fanatics to camp out overnight in front of about-to-open Chick-fil-As across the country, partially so they can be the first diners through the doors and partially because the first diners through the doors qualify for free Chick-fil-A for a year.

Here’s how it will work: Between 5:45 and 6 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, those who’ve gathered outside the restaurant all will be given a number. At 6 a.m., managers will draw 100 numbers. Those people will be invited to camp out until 6 a.m. Thursday morning, when they’ll be let in the doors and handed an envelope that contains their prize — the right to one free Chick-fil-A meal a week for a year. Campers have to stay in line for a full 24 hours or they forfeit the prize.

In other words, Wichita, you have 17 days left to enjoy the intersection of Central and Rock before it becomes completely unusable.

I kid. Kind of.

Old Mill seeking Otto’s secret chili recipe

Wichita’s popular downtown restaurant Old Mill Tasty Shop at 604 E. Douglas is turning 80 on March 1. And there’s only one gift owner Mary Wright wants: Otto’s secret chili recipe.

Otto Wermke was the original owner of the restaurant, which has a soda fountain and a menu of diner favorites. He opened it on March 1, 1932. The Wrights bought the restaurant from Wermke’s sister in 1982.

Otto was famous for the chili he served at Old Mill, which he prepared in a copper pot heated on a candy cooker. Wright has been searching for the recipe in vain for years. She knows it’s out there somewhere. In fact, the late Esther Moses, who owned Sam Zelman’s Clothing Store next door, used to tease Wright that she had it, but she refused to give it up.

In honor of the restaurant’s birthday (which I’ll write about in next week’s Go! section), Wright is asking anyone who might have access to the recipe to share it. Wright said she used to eat it when she was little and remembers it having no beans and no tomatoes but a mix of fabulous spices and a whole lot of meat. If she can find the original recipe, she plans to mix up a batch and serve it.

Anyone with the recipe or a tip on where to find it should call Wright at 316-264-6500. You will be a local food hero, for sure.

East Ted’s building won’t be a restaurant

Construction crews were busy this morning at the former Ted's space at K-96 and Webb.

I’ve been getting lots of e-mails and questions this week about the construction activity at the east side Ted’s Montana Grill building at K-96 and Webb, which has been vacant since the restaurant closed in November 2010.

People are wondering if the building, which construction crews are currently expanding, will hold another restaurant.

But the answer, alas, is “no.” When completed, the building will house the new offices of Kansas Gastroenterology and Kansas Endoscopy, a practice owned by Drs. Michael Lievens and Estephan Zayat.

Although I, like the rest of you, am sorry that the building won’t be home to a new restaurant, does anyone else get a giggle out of the fact that it will house doctors who specialize in digestive issues?

Chosen Wok opens Monday

Chosen Wok, a Great Bend-based fast Chinese restaurant, will open its new Wichita location on Monday in the old Starbucks building at 8971 W. Central. (If it can’t be a Starbucks, I’m glad it’s at least going to be something potentially good.)

Owners Michelle Chin and William Tsao will serve Chinese food prepared in a wok in open view of the dining room. I have a copy of the menu here. It includes a list of standard Chinese dishes made with chicken, shrimp, beef and vegetables.

Hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant’s phone number will be 316-721-3888.

The dining chat is today

It’s already been two weeks since our last live dining chat, so we’ll bring ‘er back at 1:30 p.m. today. We can talk about fish places, Mexican food, odd restaurant aromas or anything else that comes to mind. Just come back here at 1:30 p.m. and follow the instructions for how to join in.