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.