Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bento Cafe serves Mexican food and sushi

bento exteriorMexican food and sushi are two great tastes. But do they taste great together?

Wichitans can find out at a new west side restaurant called Bento Cafe Mexican Grill & Sushi. It opened in April in the former Poblano Mexican Grill space at 550 N. Ridge Road. That’s in the little strip center that includes Bionic Burger and sits in front of Gordman’s.

The owner is first time restaurateur Phyu Kyi, who took over the business from the Poblano owners. Kyi wanted to open a sushi restaurant, but she spent six months working with the Poblano owners and learning how to make their menu, which remains intact at the business.

Rather than choose between the two cuisines, she decided to offer them both and just added sushi earlier this week.

The Mexican menu offers everything Poblano’s did, including burritos, tacos, bowls and more. The sushi menu is still growing but so far includes California rolls, spicy tuna rolls, nigiri such as tuna, salmon, shrimp and eel and more.

Bento Cafe is an order-at-the-counter place. The hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

For more information, call 316-944-7313.

A guide to Riverfest food, 2014 edition

Charlie Powers checks out a display of deep fried shrimp, chicken and  potatoes while having an ice cream cone for an appetizer at the Wichita River  Festival Food Court Friday afternoon.The Wichita River Festival opens tomorrow, and you know what that means. The Wichita River Festival food court also opens tomorrow.

The main food court will be back where it belongs on Century II Drive, and this year, there will be two satellite food courts, too: a sizable one near the Cox Kids Corner at the WaterWalk, and a small one open just in the evenings and on weekends at the Ackerman’s Backyard area near A. Price Woodard Park.

Visitors can find all the traditional foods they’ve come to expect, such as roasted corn, funnel cakes, NuWays and chicken on a stick. And there will also be a few new wacky additions: fied peanut butter and jelly, grilled lemonade, fried cookie dough, chicken and waffles and more.

My story about Riverfest food will be in tomorrow’s Go section, but you can read it now. It includes the whole menu so you can plan your deep fried dining adventure in advance.

For the record, my two absolute favorite things to eat at the River Festival are the shredded beef burrito from Tad’s Bodacious Burrito and the fried pickle spears at Hoopingarner’s Philly Steak, both of which are on the main food court.

What’s the festival fare you must have each year?

Angela’s at 21st and Amidon to reopen next week

More than year and a half ago, the Angela’s Cafe & Cantina at 2119 W. 21st St. closed, and the building has been vacant since then.

Next week, it’ll be like it never happened.

Roman Romero, the brother of the former owner of the restaurant, is reopening it early next week, possibly Monday or Tuesday, he said. His daughter, Adriana Romero, wanted to give the restaurant a go, so Roman agreed to help, he said.

It’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and will offer the same menu of Tex-Mex favorites it did when it closed.

The other two Wichita Angela’s, at  901 E. Central and 300 S. Greenwich, are operated by members of the same family.

For more information, call 316-832-1840.

Wichita bars, restaurants share summer cocktail recipes

For our Perfect Summer section, I was assigned to try and persuade a few local bars and restaurants to share recipes for favorite summer cocktails. That was an assignment I happily accepted.

Melad Stephan, who owns Sabor, Caffe Moderne and Oeno in Old Town Square, gave me the secret to Sabor’s sangria and mango mojito.

Emma Russell at Mort’s shared the recipe for a Golden Mean martini.

And Brooke Russell at Public at the Brickyard not only shared two drink recipes, including one for a very delicious concoction called Gordon’s Cup, but she also agreed to star in a how-to video, which you will see above. I sampled the Gordon’s Cup, and it was refreshing, potent and completely summer-rific.

You can find all those recipes here.

If you burn through this list of cocktails, you could move on to the list of cocktail recipes I got last summer, including one from Taste & See, the Monarch and Heroes.

Luau’s International Grill serves Hawaiian food

luau 1There’s a new tenant in the former Bali Cafe spot at 2716 E. Central: Luau’s International Grill, which focuses on Hawaiian and other International food and is open super late on weekends.

The restaurant is owned by Katie Lelei and a partner. Lelei grew up in American Samoa and has lived in Wichita since 2011. She has four kids and another full-time job at a bank, but she loves to cook, she said, and wanted to give a restaurant a go.

The menus offers items such as coconut chicken strips, coconut curry, a Hawaiian beef dish called manapua, and “spam musubi,” which is described as “two marinated cooked spam in sushi.” There’s also a deep fried burger, a Hawaiian burger and Hawaiian chicken wings.luau 2

The international side of the menu includes falafal, chicken scwharma and hummus schwarma.

There are a few tables and chairs in the tiny restaurant, which is decorated with Hawaiian touches.

Luau’s is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 316-477-0111.

Downtown restaurant Pasta Piazza is closed

I thought — and hoped — that Pasta Piazza had finally broken the curse on the space at 217 E. Douglas that has seen a revolving door of restaurants since I moved here almost 17 years ago. But it wasn’t to be.

On Monday, owners announced on Facebook that they’re closing the restaurant and relocating to Dallas.


The restaurant, owned by Kas Zendeli and his daughter Lita Zendeli, opened in October of 2012 as Bravos, serving the Italian dishes Zendeli had made famous at his previous restaurant, Bravo’s Italiani in Valley Center. Last summer, the Zendelis changed the name of the restaurant to Pasta Piazza to avoid a lawsuit from Italian chain  Bravo Cucina Italiana.

The Zendelis battled the same problems many of their 217 E. Douglas predecessors had, including lack of parking and sparse downtown crowds after hours on weekends, but over the past couple of years, they’d earned a loyal following for their homemade Italian dishes and heavenly yeast garlic rolls.1002897_545698792132341_1451567616_n

Among the restaurants that have come and gone from the space in recent years: Holy land Mediterranean Grill, Onyx Bistro and DK Kitchen.

We’ll let you know if another restaurant takes over the space.

Two Wichita restaurants add unique sandwiches to offerings

Sandwiches served on cream puff shells are new at Beard Papa's in Towne East Square.

Sandwiches served on cream puff shells are new at Beard Papa’s in Towne East Square.

A sandwich? In a cream puff shell? Count me in.

Beard Papa’s, the cream puff store in Towne East Square that opened last year and thrilled many foodies, has just started serving “puff sandwiches.” Diners can choose from four varieties: roast beef, smoked ham, smoked turkey or tuna salad. I also suggest you get a cream puff (or four) while you’re there.

Beard Papa’s is on the upper level of Towne East, just outside of Dillard’s.

Another local business also recently started selling sandwiches, and theirs cater to the Wichita’s gluten-free community.

Cravings Gluten Free Bakery owner Danielle Brittian also has added gluten-free sandwiches to the menu at her business in Clifton Square, 3700 E. Douglas.  She’s serving them from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and offerings include a BLT, a grilled cheese and a triple meat sandwich. Customers also can build their own sandwiches and choose from toppings such as hummus, avocado and cream cheese. Here’s the full menu.

Yo-B a good fit for Old Town Square

yo b interiorFor this week’s Go! section, I reviewed Yo-B Yogurt & Burgers, which is Old Town Square’s newest restaurant.

When I first heard what Nabil Bacha, owner of Cafe Bel Ami, was planning to do with the space that had previously held upscale restaurants Uptown Bistro and Luca Italian Kitchen, I wasn’t sure it would work.

yo b burgers

Check out the cheesy “skirt” on that burger on the left. Yummmmmm.

But when I visited Yo-B, which specializes in self-serve yogurt and inexpensive, tasty burgers, I found a bright, clean space catering to post-movie date nighters, fountain-frolicking families and downtown residents.

My favorite thing about the menu: A baked disc of cheese that Yo-B calls a “skirt” and puts on its skirt burgers. Yum.

Check out my review.

Oh, and by the way, kids love Yo-B.

A big bowl of pink goodness

A big bowl of pink goodness

‘Chef,’ a food truck movie, opens Friday

John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in a scene from "Chef."

John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in a scene from “Chef.”

I like movies about food, and I love Jon Favreau, so I think I’d better get to the movies this weekend.

“Chef” opens Friday in Wichita starring Jon Favreau as a chef who quits his dead-end job after being attacked by a food blogger, buys a food truck and goes on a cross-country journey with his crew and his young son, selling Cuban sandwiches along the way. The movie is getting decent reviews and sounds very entertaining.

The movie also stars John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale as Favreau’s food truck staff, Sofia Vergara as his ex-wife, Scarlett Johansson as his girlfriend and Dustin Hoffman as his restaurant boss.

It’s playing in just one theater: locally the east side Warren. Show times, starting on Friday, are 1:10 p.m, 4:10 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 10:10 p.m.

Wichita Restaurant Week will return in October

Wichita Restaurant Week, which Go Wichita, the Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association and The Boys & Girls Club of South Central Kansas teamed up last year to put on for the first time, will happen again in 2014 — but it won’t be until fall.

Last year’s event happened in late June and raised $8,000 for the Boys & Girls Club, said James Williams, communications manager for Go Wichita.


Organizers decided it was worth another go but decided to move it to Oct. 10-19. Those dates are better, Williams said, because other big events are going on in Wichita during that time, including the Tallgrass Film Festival and the Prairie Fire Marathon. “We want to show visitors to Wichita a lot of exciting things that are going on all at once,” he said.

The group got 24 restaurants to participate last year, including Harvest Kitchen/Bar, Newport Grill  and Chester’s Chophouse. Each offered three levels of prix fixe (price fixed) meals that would give diners a glimpse into the kind of food they serve. That’ll be the setup this year, too, with each participating restaurant offering a $10, $20 and $40 options.

Many of last year’s restaurants reported having very strong weeks during the event, Williams said.

To be included, restaurants must pay $150 if they’re members of Go Wichita or the Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association or $250 of they’re not. Restaurant owners and managers should call Go Wichita at 316-265-2800 to sign up.