Monthly Archives: June 2012

Wichita has two new coffee vendors

Wichita has gained two new coffee places during the past week.

Coffee Bug, a new drive-through only coffee shop, opened Thursday at 3123 N. Rock Road. It sits next to the new Popeye’s and offers a lengthy list of coffee drinks both hot and cold, sweet and not-sweet. It also offers a few food items, including a ham and cheese “cinnawich,” which is a hot cinnamon roll filled with ham and cheese. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. The coffee shop’s number is 316-719-2284. See the full menu here.

And a week ago, Randy Ecker and Diana Mershon opened Common Grounds Coffee House at 2812 E. Douglas. The duo also own Seventh Direction Inc., an organization at 212 N. Hillside that offers treatment to recovering addicts.

They opened the shop inside the quaint house on Douglas as a place for their clients to congregate, but anyone is welcome. The inviting new business has plenty of seating downstairs, and rooms upstairs are used for client meetings. Common Grounds offers all the basic coffee drinks plus some pastries. It also offers free wi-fi. Owners might add sandwiches soon. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 316-295-4783.

It’s chat day

Sorry for the late notice, but IT’S LIVE DINING CHAT DAY! Join me back here at 1:30 p.m.?

From the restaurant that brought you the Chocolate Wonderfall!!!


I can’t decide if this is wacko or wonderfall wonderful. Golden Corral has added cotton candy to its buffet, and it will stay there all summer.

Anyone brave enough to admit you’ve tried it?

Wichita’s Golden Corrals are at 616 S. Ridge Road Circle and 11006 E. Kellogg.

Question of the week: Coveted restaurant recipe?

Here's Chef Aaron Whitcomb just before he revealed his amazing scallop recipe.

Back in the day, my former colleague Joe Stumpe used to persuade local chefs to share recipes from their restaurants. He’d publish them at Christmastime as as a gift to readers. Many years, it was the best gift I got.

I attended a cooking class lead by Newport Grill’s corporate chef Aaron Whitcomb last night, and he shared a recipe for scallops with vanilla corn sauce, frisee and charred corn relish that he hinted could be added to the menu this summer. (ADD IT, CHEF!) The very valuable recipe sheet he distributed now will go in my collection along side my other very valuable chef-issued recipes.

This week’s question: What local restaurant recipe would you most like to have? I want the salad dressing from La Gallette, and now that we’re talking, Chef Whitcomb, I’d take the directions for those rock shrimp cigars, too.

Let me know what recipe you wish you had and we’ll see if we can pressure some chefs to share.

Answer in the comments section below.

Now open: Jade Garden Cafe

Jade Garden Cafe is the newest tenant in the building at 206 E. Kellogg that’s recently housed Cathy’s Diner, Lili Mae’s and R&S BBQ.

The restaurant, which is visible from Kellogg, opened last week and is owned by Kwai Tam. He’s serving breakfast such as pancakes, waffles and omelets plus Chinese specialties for lunch and dinner. You can see the full menu here.

Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 316-265-8806.

Villar family closing one restaurant, opening another

Ben Villar's Mexican Restaurant will close for good on Saturday.

The Villar family, who founded Wichita’s first Mexico Cafe in 1970 at 1714 George Washington Blvd. and has gone on to open and operate several Mexican restaurants all over town, is moving its pieces around again.

Saturday will be the last day in business for Ben Villar’s Mexican Restaurant at 1930 S. Oliver. The restaurant has operated for two and a half years in the spot and was run by Ben Villar and his wife, Kim. It’s closing for “financial reasons,” Kim said. “The economy should be better,” she said. “It’s just been tough.”

But Ben Villar will not be out of work long if his brother, William’s, plans work out. William says he is very close to signing a deal to open Villar’s Mexico Cafe in the building at 1860 S. Hillside where his family operated a restaurant from 1970 to 1990. (The location most recently housed a Chinese restaurant.) If the deal goes through, the new restaurant should open in mid-July or early August, specializing in all the famous Villar family recipes, William Villar said. Ben Villar will run the restaurant with his brother.

William Villar also owns Mexico Cafe Delano at 555 W. Douglas and helped re-open El Mexico  at 2544 S. Seneca back in 2008. But he left that restaurant after a falling out with partner Brent Helm. Over the years, the Villar family has had a hand in 15 Mexican restaurants around town.

Ben Villar’s final Saturday hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. In a strange timing twist, the soon-to-be-vacated Ben Villar’s building was the last place Angelo’s operated before going out of business. Last week, Gina Fasciano-Hogan announced plans to reopen her family business in the old Barrier’s building at Douglas and Oliver.

I’ll let you know when William has more firm plans for Villar’s Mexico Cafe.

Wichita a test market for new Abuelo’s dishes

Restaurants sure do love to test their new dishes on Wichitans. Now, Wichita is one of eight markets testing out a new tapas and small bites menu at Abuelo’s, the Mexican restaurant at 1413 N. Waterfront Parkway.

The items on the menu range in price from $2.99 to $5.99 and now are available at both lunch and dinner.

Here are Abuelo’s descriptions of the new dishes:

Classic nachos – Crispy tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, seasoned ground beef, chicken or refried beans in any combination. Served with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and jalapeño slices

Acapulco shrimp cocktail – An individual-sized light and fruity Mexican shrimp cocktail, served with crispy flour tortilla chips
Jalapeño cheese fritters – Delicious minced jalapeño and cheese fritters, hand-breaded and fried to golden perfection. Served with ranch dressing for dipping

Mexican flat bread pizza – A flour tortilla baked with a white cream sauce and topped with fresh spinach, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and Monterrey Jack and Mozzarella cheese

Chicken and spinach mini chimis – Two small chimichangas stuffed with spicy, tender pulled chicken, spinach and cheese, golden fried and served with a honey lime ancho cilantro sauce

Bacon-wrapped shrimp – Three wood-grilled, bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeño and cheese

The other seven test markets: Peoria, Ariz.; Chandler, Ariz.; Lakeland, Fla.; Kissimmee, Fla.; Columbus, Ohio; Myrtle Beach, S.C. And Hampton, Va.

For more information, call Wichita’s Abuelo’s at 316-634-2230.

Filling in the “Chef Race” blanks

Lil' Bit of Britain will soon become a delivery business.

Last week, I told you about the food reality show that blew though Wichita, but I only knew a few details.

Now, I have a few more, including information about where the second set of chefs was filming and about two celebrity judges who were in town.

The show is called “Chef Race: UK vs. U.S.” It’s produced by Fresh One Productions, which is owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The show is set to air this fall on BBC America.

From what I was able to piece together when I found half the show filming downtown, it follows two teams of chefs — one from the United States and one from England — as they race from town to town, cooking and participating in challenges.

Back on June 14, I found a team of five British chefs set up in the Kress building at Douglas and Broadway, selling muffaleta sandwiches, “meatloaf and mash,” shrimp, tilapia and chorizo gumbo, Boston cream pie and Key lime pie. Office workers and construction workers were filmed as they filed in and out, curious to see what was going on.

I heard that the American competitors were somewhere else in town, filming their part, but people in the know — including Go Wichita’s Ken Vandruff, who helped organize the visit for the film crew, weren’t talking. And on-site producers wouldn’t say anything. (One even flat-out denied that Jamie Oliver had anything to do with the show, a fib I disproved quickly with Google.)

The British team of chefs films in the Kress Building on June 14.

This week, I received a call from Paula McLaughlin, a Brit-turned-Wichitan who had a whole lot of info about the other team in town that day.

McLaughlin is friends with Kim Fitts, owner of A Lil’ Bit of Britain at 633 N. Baltimore in Derby.

Several months ago, producers for the show called Fitts and asked her if she could round up 25 Brits in Wichita for filming. Fitts, who also hails from the U.K., spent weeks finding British friends and customers who wanted to be “on the telly.”

Later in the afternoon of the 14th, the group gathered at the Wichita Country Club, Fitts and McLaughlin said. The producers asked Fitts to bring saucers and teapots for a traditional high tea. The group waited for several hours before they were served traditional British dishes, some on red plates and some on blue. They were asked to judge which plate they preferred.

As they ate, they watched as two cooking celebrities — apparently the show’s judges — filmed scenes. One was Claire Robinson, host of Food Network’s “5 Ingredient Fix.” The other was Richard Corrigan, an Irish chef and cookbook author who’s famous in England for owning Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill and Corrigan’s Mayfair.

The Brits' lunch menu

The group of Brits also were unable to learn much about the show, except that it would air in September. Several of them were unhappy with the way producers treated them, though. Fitts in particular felt slighted after having worked so hard to gather people and dishes for the event with little recognition or gratitude.

My theory, though unconfirmed, is that the American chefs were cooking British food for a British audience and that the British chefs were cooking American food for an American audience. We’ll see if I’m right when the show airs.

In the meantime, Fitts tells me that she’s closing up her shop, which is a British grocery that she opened about a year ago. But she’s not going out of business.

Instead, she’ll sell all the goods she has now from her home and will deliver them to customers. “I’ll basically be like your Schwan’s Man,” she said. “I’ll deliver door-to-door.” She’ll call her new business Lil’ Bit of Britain on Wheels.

The shop’s last day to be open is Saturday. Fitts’ dream is to buy a London-style taxi to use for her deliveries.

She hopes to have the delivery business and its website up by July 1. In the meantime, she can be reached by calling 316-260-7966.

The official official opening date for Chick-fil-A west

It's getting close.

The corporate bigwigs met with the construction bosses, put their calculators together and came up with the magical, official opening date for new new Chick-fil-A under construction at 10515 W. 21st St.

Thursday, Aug. 9.

Until yesterday, they’d be planning on July 25, but the Aug. 9 date was arrived at using more exact Chick-fil-Science, said owner/operator Jason Lansdown. That means that the campout, which promises free Chick-fil-A for a year to the first 100 people through the door, will  commence on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Lansdown said he’d offer more details as the date grew closer. Here’s hoping that nasty 21st and Maize Road construction is well wrapped up by then.

Question of the week: Restaurant make-goods

We will definitely be going back to Bluebird Bistro now.

Over the years, I’ve had several experiences at restaurants where the service or the food quality was so poor, a complaint was in order. In some cases, managers sincerely apologized and tried to make it right by reducing the bill or offering a free dessert.

But not all managers handle problems so well. Some just grumble an apology or casually imply that the only real problem is your unrealistic expectations.

Last weekend, I was having brunch in one of my favorite restaurants in Kansas City — Blue Bird Bistro. I’ve been there several times and never had a problem, but Father’s Day morning started off poorly. We arrived just as the restaurant opened and were told they were out of syrup and orange juice, very bad news to those in our party who’d planned on French toast. An employee was running to the store and would return “eventually,” we were told.

But it got worse. Our food took more than an hour to arrive, and once it did, it was all cold. We were grumpy, hungry and late for our next activity.

My sister complained, and eventually, the owner came upstairs to apologize. She offered several explanations and told us she was going to issue us gift certificates for a future visit. She also sent up a round of free mimosas and took 20 percent off of our bill.

Here’s the shocker: She handed us three gift certificates on the way out the door, one for each adult in our party. And each gift certificate was for $50. We walked away with $150 worth of gift certificates, which is more than we spent on the whole brunch.

The experience got me to thinking about other dining disasters I’ve had and the various ways managers have handled them. My question this week: What ways have restaurants tried to make good with you over the years? Have you ever had a situation that was handled particularly well or particularly poorly? And what is your expectation of a restaurant when something goes wrong?

Tell me your story in the comments section below.