Monthly Archives: April 2013

Ruben’s move down Douglas is underway

Ruben’s Mexican Grill has started its move.

I had a taco hankering at lunch today, and I tried to go to my favorite nearby Mexican place – Ruben’s Mexican Grill at the corner of Douglas and McLean.

But I got the feeling it was closed, especially when I saw the booths and the oven sitting in the parking lot.

Ruben Acosta and his wife Anita are starting the move they announced they’d make earlier this year. They closed the restaurant at the end of business Saturday in anticipation of moving several blocks west to 915 W. Douglas It’ll be at least four weeks before they’ll be ready to reopen there, Anita said.

The duo said earlier this year that they were moving from the location they’ve been in since 2003 because the rent was going to increase substantially.

They’ve abandoned a plan to change the restaurant’s name back to Ruben & Anita’s Tacos, she said. The paperwork was going to be a mess, plus she likes the name Ruben’s Mexican Grill, she said.

The new restaurant, which is larger than the old one, will have a full bar, a patio, big screen televisions and more.

Several patrons have been calling lately, Anita said, wanting to know if the restaurant would still put on its annual parking lot party that it has thrown during the Wichita River Festival for the past few years. But they won’t be able to, Anita said. “We have to move on,” she said.

I’ll let you know when the move is complete.

Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys and brrrrrrrrrrs

The Flying Stove’s Jeff Schauf at last year’s Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys

I’m excited about attending Friday night’s Second Annual Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys at Botanica– though I’m not very excited about the non-springlike forecast. A 51 degree high on May 3? Unacceptable!

The event was fun last year and featured local restaurants such as Newport Grill, The Anchor and Scotch & Sirloin, competing to make the best Bloody Mary. The Candle Club won with a traditional concoction floating with green beans, gherkins and a hunk of beef jerky.

Those who have a $40 ticket will be invited to roam the grounds sampling each of the Bloody Marys, or if they choose, stopping for a beer. The best part: The Flying Stove food truck is catering, which means the Schauf boys will put out a whole lot of their best dishes, which patrons can just walk up and take. That’s worth the price of admission all on its own.

This year’s event starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Botainca, 701 N. Amidon It will include live music by Spirit of the Stairs, beer provided by Wichita Brewing Company and River City Brewery, and lots of Bloody Marys, made using sponsor Pinnacle’s vodka.

Tickets are $40 and available at 316-264-0448 or by visiting botanica.org.

The Candle Club’s winning Blood Mary from last year

Texas Roadhouse’s addition meant to cut down on the wait

The Texas Roadhouse wait staff will dance while you dine.

That Texas Roadhouse amazes me. I’m almost certain that there has not been a moment since the restaurant opened in 2005 that it hasn’t had a line of people waiting for a table.

It might be the steak. It might be the line dancing wait staff. It might be the permission to throw peanut shells on the floor.

It’s probably the yeast rolls they serve before the meal.

Whatever it is, the Texas Roadhouse at 6707 W. Kellogg took steps last weekend to cut back on that wait, though a manager admits that the plan has failed so far.

The restaurant just opened a new addition on its east side that provides for about 50 more seats. The addition was meant to help with wait times, which on weekends can top out at two hours, and to give the restaurant the possibility of having a private banquet room. But over the weekend, the waits were no shorter, and the addition was filled up. See? Amazing.

For now, the addition is open Thursday through Sunday evenings. Managers say they’ll likely open it nightly starting in a few weeks.

As for those waits, customers are advised to employ the restaurant’s call ahead seating. Those who want to eat at 7 p.m., for example, can call 316- 943-8722  and put their name on the list at 5:30 on a weekend night. By the time they arrive, the wait should be minutes rather than hours.

The Hopping Pita rolls out on Wednesday

The Hopping Pita, Melad Stephen’s new food truck that will be led by well-known local chef Roni Attari, will officially open on Wednesday.

Attari said he will park the truck near the corner of First and Mosley in Old Town and will open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu, which is peruse-able on the Hopping Pita Facebook page, offers items such as beef and chicken schwarma in pita as well as pitas filled with fish and falafel. There’s also hummus, tabouli, baba ghanoush, baklava and fresh brewed mint tea.

The Hopping Pita owners had hoped to have the truck out much earlier than now but were plagued by several problems, including a broken generator. Attari is still deciding where he’ll park and serve each day, but customers can find the truck via the Facebook page.

As summer approaches, it’s suddenly raining food trucks. Just in the past few weeks, Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria said it would open a food truck called Hopperoni Express within a month. A local German cook said she’ll open Let’em Eat Brats sometime in May. And another pizza food truck, The Rolling Dough, is planned for later this year.

Connie’s Mexico Cafe turns 50

Three generations of the Connie’s crew, back in 1984

I love doing stories about restaurants celebrating big birthdays. They’re hard to keep alive, so I love seeing old photos of the early days and hearing all the good decisions made over the years to help the restaurant survive.

Usually, though, I’m writing about 20th and 30th birthdays. This week, I got to write about a 50th.

Connie’s Mexico Cafe turned 50 this month, and earlier this week, I sat down with the many, many women who have kept the family business thriving.

The restaurant truly has a colorful history, including three separate incidents of cars crashing through the front of the building after hours.

Check out my story, which will be printed in Friday’s paper. I have several great photos of founders Rafael and Connie Lopez back in the day, as well as a picture of the whole family when the Garcia girls were little.

A big batch of new Asian eateries

I leave town for a month, and suddenly, my Asian dining options multiply.

I’m good with that.

Three new Asian restaurants recently have opened in different spots around Wichita, and I’m eager to try each one. Here’s a look at them:

1. Pho Mc, 1675 S. Rock Road, 316-440-5859: The new Vietnamese restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago. It serves pho, Vietnamese sandwiches known as banh mi, Chinese dishes and more. It’s owned by Minh Tran and his wife, Kim Chi, and is open daily for lunch and dinner

2. Koi Fusion, 6605 E. 37th St. N., 316-260-8218: This new restaurant, which specializes in Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food, opened on April 15. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The menu includes dishes such as pho, teriyaki bowls, hibachi grill meals and curry dishes.

3. Ninza Sushi Bar, 8428 W.13th St., 316-558-5111: The sushi restaurant opened in March and features lots of creative sushi rolls, including the popular honey stone — a piled high roll made with deep fried crab, avocado, shrimp tempura and cream cheese and topped with a sweet honey sauce. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.

German food truck about to hit the streets

The food trucks just keep rolling and rolling and rolling out. The latest one is German.

Manuela English plans to open Let’m Eat Brats, a German-themed food truck, sometime in May. It’ll serve German brats on crusty bread, warm potato salad, German cabbage, bierocks and strudel, among other items.

English, who is of German decent, has been working as a baker at Green Acres for the past eight years. She’s lived in the United States for 20.

Her children are grown and gone, and she’s decided to give the food truck biz a try. “I figured I’d jump on the wagon, so to speak,” she said.

Let'm eat these

Let’m eat these

The truck will park at various spots around town, although English is not sure exactly where just yet. She’s been getting tips from the owners of Espresso to Go Go and The Flying Stove. 

She’ll start with lunch only but may move into dinner, depending on how it goes.

I’ll let you know when the truck hits the streets.

Go mad with the Mudbugs this weekend

Your once-a-year opportunity to gorge yourself on crawfish without leaving Wichita is almost here.

The annual Mudbug Madness event at Prairie Pines is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, and if you order tickets online today, you can get a $5 discount.

The event features an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil and Cajun buffet plus music by the Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band. A barn dance party always breaks out.

Dinner is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. both nights. The band performs from 8 to 10:30. A cash bar is available.

Tickets are $32.95. To get them, you can either call 316-303-2037 or order online. If you order online, enter the code “Madness” for a $5 discount. This offer is good only through this evening.

Below is a video showing exactly how much fun it is to get mad with the Mudbugs.

Farewell for now

I’m off for some much needed R&R.

I’ll be somewhere fabulous drinking wine and eating fabulous food.

That’s the best kind of vacation.

See you on April 22.

Cajun Food Fest returns to River Festival

The Cajun Food Fest will return to this year’s Wichita River Festival.

The Cajun Food Fest, a popular Wichita River Festival event that was absent last year, will return this year accompanied by a big-name band.

The food fest, which traditionally has featured jambalaya, red beans and rice and more, is scheduled for June 6 on Kennedy Plaza. Nationally known band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which has performed at halftime of the Super Bowl and on ESPN’s ESPY Award Show, will perform.

The Cajun Food Fest had been a 26-year tradition at the River Festival. But in 2012, the festival reorganized the layout, putting the main food court on Douglas, just in front of Kennedy Plaza. Goodwill Industries, which put on the Cajun Food Fest as a fundraiser, was told the event would have to move.

Goodwill officials didn’t think that would work, so they decided to stage the food fest on their own separate from the River Festival. That never worked out.

The main food court is moving back to its longtime home on Century II drive this year, said Mary Beth Jarvis, the new president and CEO of the festival. Kennedy Plaza will be a main staging area, and the Cajun Food Fest will move back to its original home.

The Cajun Food Fest was one of the events people told Jarvis they wanted back, she said.

“One of the first things I did in the initial weeks of being here was read through comments made at public meetings and post Riverfest debriefings,” she said. “This was clearly an event we wanted to find a way to make happen again.”

The Wichita River Festival is scheduled for May 31 through June 8.

Festival buttons go on sale May 10 at local AAA, Dillons and QuikTrip stores. This year, the festival plans to sell 25,000 $3 children’s buttons in addition to the usual $5 adult buttons.

For more information, visit wichitariverfest.com.