Monthly Archives: May 2012

Riverside Perk should reopen this summer

I just spoke with Mike Corley, who owns the building at 1144 N. Bitting that housed the Riverside Perk. (I told you earlier this morning that the coffee shop is closed as of today.)

He told me that he and Perk owner Maggie Ballard had agreed that a change in ownership was needed for the business. He signed a lease yesterday for new owners to take over at the beginning of July. He won’t say yet who they are but he says they own a restaurant out west, a couple of liquor stores and a place downtown.

The new owners plan to take over at the beginning of July, remodel the building and reopen it with the same coffee shop concept. Corley assumes they’ll change the name, but he’s not sure. The business should reopen by midsummer.

I’ll update this post when I find out who the new owners are.

It’s chat day

Please plan to join me for today’s live dining chat, which will happen right here at 1:30 p.m.

We have much to discuss, including festival food, The Perk (R.I.P.), and more.

See you then. Bring a friend.

The Riverside Perk is closed

After 17 years in business, the Riverside Perk — the neighborhood coffee shop at 1144 N. Bitting — has closed.

A sign posted on the door this morning says that, as of today, The Perk is temporarily closed.

Facebook postings on owner Maggie Ballard’s and an employee’s pages indicate that the business is for sale.

“It was just a business move that needed to be made,” Ballard wrote on her Facebook wall.

I navigated the branch-strewn streets of Riverside to see for myself if the rumor was true.

I found The Perk, known for its scenic front porch and flyer-plastered windows, quiet and empty during a time that it’s normally crawling with customers.

It was sort of eerie.

The Perk, as it’s often called, has for years been a neighborhood gathering place and a haven for artists, musicians and coffee fans.

I’ll let you know when I hear more from Ballard about what’s next for the shop.

Question of the week: Best froyo?

Wichita has no shortage of assemble-your-own frozen yogurt places. It seems like a new Peachwave or CherryBerry or Orange Leaf appears every day.

Now that school’ s out and it’s getting warmer, froyo sounds even better.

My question this week: Which of the many Wichita self serve frozen yogurt places is best? What’s your favorite flavor? And what do you put on top?

Let me know what you like in the comments section below.

Radio guys vs. Fat Tony’s giant burger

The Bobby Bones crew. Carlos is on the far left, and Lunchbox is on the far right.

Two of the personalities from the nationally syndicated Bobby Bones Show will spend Saturday in Wichita, and one of their planned activities is giant burger consumption.

I’ve told you about the food challenges offered at Fat Tony’s, the sports bar at 417 E. Douglas . Recently, I watched as blog reader Frank White tried, unsuccessfully, to prevail in the restaurant’s nuclear wing challenge.

On Saturday, Carlos and Lunchbox, two of Bobby Bones’ radio sidekicks, will visit Fat Tony’s to check out the restaurant’s burger challenge, which requires an individual to consume a 10 lb. burger with all the fixings plus a pound of fries in 45 minutes. Those who do get the $34.99 meal for free. No one has ever successfully completed this challenge.

The radio guys, smartly, don’t think they can, either. So they’re going to split the burger and see which one of them can finish it first. They’re inviting fans to come to the restaurant and watch — or take the challenge themselves. They’ll be at Fat Tony’s from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday. (Those who want to participate in the challenge need to sign up today by calling 316-303-9316.)

After that, they’re going to the Wichita Wingnuts game and then will be meeting fans from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Doc Howard’s Lounge, the nightclub owned by the Fat Tony’s folks at 252 N. Mosley.

The Bobby Bones show is broadcast out of Austin and airs on radio stations across the country. In Wichita, it airs at weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on Channel 96.3.

Just Catfish is just gone

This could be the most crooked picture I've ever taken.

I always loved the straight-forward name of Just Catfish…And a Few Sides, the restaurant that operated since 2008 at 3800 S. Seneca (after moving there from its original spot at 1555 S. Bluffview.) There was never any confusion as to what the restaurant served.

But now, Just Catfish is just gone. The restaurant, owned by Inez Sims, closed on April 30, according to a sign posted on the door. Several of her restaurant friends confirm that she was planning to close the restaurant, which had developed a devoted stable of catfish lovers over the past few years. Its sides included hush puppies, fried okra, slaw and homemade cakes and pies.

Catfish fiends: Who else in town serves good fried catfish?

Opening Wednesday: Popeyes on North Rock Road

Wichita’s fifth Popeyes is scheduled to open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the former Taco Tico spot at 3131 N. Rock Road.

The building has been remodeled, done and ready to go for a whiles now, and on Memorial Day, the manager was stationed in front of the building, intercepting would-be customers who assumed the restaurant was already open.

Popeyes, which specializes in spicy fried chicken, will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Wichita’s other Popeyes are at 1211 N. Broadway, 1623 S. Seneca, 4232 W. Central and 1350 N. Hillside.

Bann Thai’s grand opening is today

I’ve heard some good reports out of Bann Thai, the restaurant that took over the space at 6249 East 21st St. N. recently vacated by Siam Cuisine.

Owner Tui Jackson opened the restaurant on April 14, and she’s celebrating her grand opening though today. Those who spend $20 or more get 15 percent off of their bill, and she’s offering free samples of appetizers and Thai desserts today, too. She’ll have live music from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight.

Tui proudly makes everything from scratch, even her sauces. Wichita Eagle Dining Panel member Sigrid Trombley has been twice for lunch and says she likes the food. Her only word of warning: If you like your Thai food hot but not nuclear, order conservatively. Sigrid, who likes spicy food, ordered hers medium hot but was overwhelmed by the results.

The outside of the restaurant still needs a little work. The awning over the front is missing, and a giant banner hung on the front advertises “MASSAGES.” But pull in and you’ll see the restaurant’s name printed in the window.

Bann Thai is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 316-239-5485.

Cajun Food Fest, Wichita River Festival parting ways

The Cajun Food Fest that’s been a part of the Wichita River Festival for 26 years will probably happen this year — but it won’t be during the River Festival, which opens in a little more than a week.

Goodwill Industries, the group that always has put on the fundraising event, is planning to stage it on its own, sometime before the end of the year.

The group decided to leave the River Festival after learning that it would no longer be able to stage the event at its traditional spot on Kennedy Plaza. The River Festival is moving the main food court to an area on Douglas, just in front of Kennedy Plaza, and felt the two sets of food vendors would compete with each other too much, said Riverfest President Janet Wright. The festival offered Goodwill Industries the chance to move the Cajun Food Fest to the Waterwalk Pavilion area.

“We didn’t think it would work there,” said Goodwill’s Gayle Goetz. The Waterwalk Pavilion area is targeted at an after-work crowd, Goetz said, and the Cajun Food Fest is targeted at families.

Attendance at the Cajun Food Fest has fallen over the past several years, she said. Last year was fairly disastrous for the event. Just as it was about to begin, tornado sirens sounded in downtown Wichita, sending Cajun Food Fest-goers scrambling for cover. Goodwill donated much of the food to The Lord’s Diner the next day.

Goetz said that the group is about two weeks away from announcing a different date for the Cajun Food Fest, which always features red beans and sausage as well as other Cajun favorites. She couldn’t say yet whether it’d be staged on Kennedy Plaza or elsewhere.

Cajun food lovers still can find a fix at the festival this year, though. The Waterwalk Pavilion will feature a concert by The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band and catered food by Da Cajun Shak, including fried catfish, hushpuppies, gator bites, red beans and rice and bread pudding. That event will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 7.

The Wichita River Festival is scheduled for June 1-9.

Much phun and phood at Pho Hot

Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen supervises Rick Moonen's grilling.

Celeb chef Rick Moonen spent his last night in Wichita partaking in a fabulous Vietnamese feast offered by one of our local chef celebs — Danny Nguyen, owner of Pho Hot Bistro at 306 N. Rock Road.

Nguyen is known for preparing multi-course dinners for his friends, and he’s good friends with former Eagle food editor Joe Stumpe and his wife, Carrie Rengers. The two arranged for Nguyen to prepare one of his decadent dinners for Moonen, who seemed pretty impressed.

And who wouldn’t be? Nguyen brought out course after course after course — shrimp papaya salad, plates of crawfish, sweet and sour shrimp soup served in a hot pot, caramel salmon and fresh lychee fruit for dessert.

The ruins of the meal. In this photo, you can see the hot pot soup, and that platter with all the garnish contains and giant whole catfish.

The highlight was when Nguyen moved the party outdoors to have us grill beef and vegetables on a tiny, tabletop grill and assemble the fillings in rice paper wrappers. Moonen did the grilling for everyone and insisted he was having so much fun, he didn’t care if he got to try any. (He did.)

I was glad that Moonen’s friends arranged for him to visit Pho Hot because it’s one very good example of something Wichita excels in — fresh and flavorful Vietnamese food. We might not have the fine dining Las Vegas does, but when it comes to ethnic cuisine — especially Vietnamese and Mediterranean — we have more than our share of fabulous options

Here are a couple more pics from the evening.

The Pho Hot party: From left to right, John Smith, Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen, me, Rick Moonen, Rick's girlfriend Roni Fields, Don Hysko, Carrie Rengers, Joe Stumpe, Pat Hysko and Jackie Smith.

We stuffed the patio-grilled meat into rice paper wrappers with fresh veggies, herbs and sauces.