Author Archives: Denise Neil

Second ChileHead competition will spotlight Hatch chiles

Jeremy Johnson roasts Hatch chili peppers at Johnson's Garden Center on Wednesday. Johnson's will host their annual "Chili Fest" this weekend. (Aug 21, 2013)Marty Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Garden Centers, has begun his annual August treks to to keep Wichita stocked with green chiles from Hatch, N.M.

And on Saturday, local chile fans can try some dishes made with the peppers and sample craft brews that pair well with them.

Johnson is putting on his 13th annual Chile Fest on Saturday and Sunday, during which customers at all three locations can stock up on Hatch green chiles and watch them being roasted. The three Johnson’s Garden Centers are at 2707 W. 13th St., 802 N. Ridge and 6225 E. Shadybrook

On Saturday, they also can participate in the Second Annual Iron ChileHeadcompetition at the West 13th Street store, which asks local food truck operators to prepare dishes using the chiles. A panel of judges, including me, will choose a winner. The food trucks participating are B.S. Sandwich Press, Let’M eat Brats, Hopperoni Express, Park-n-Pork and Chino’s Parilla. (Last year’s winner was Roni Attari, who at the time was operating the since-closed Hopping Pita food truck and prepared several delicious items, including green chile hummus.)

People who visit can buy dishes from the food trucks and get free samples of beers made by local brewers using green chiles. The participating breweries are Central Standard Brewing, Hank is Wiser Brewery, Hopping Gnome Brewing, River City Brewing, Walnut River Brewing and Wichita Brewing Co.

The Iron ChileHead competition is from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.

The Chile Fest is going on Saturday and Sunday at all three Johnson’s. Peppers are available at 20 to a plastic bag for $7.99 and are available either roasted or unroasted. They’re available in larger quantities as well and can be turned into dishes such as chile verde, chile rellenos, salsa verde and more.

Here’s a story I wrote last year about Johnson’s dedication to keeping Wichita in chiles through the fall.

The BBQ food truck fleet in Wichita keeps growing

stubbysYet another barbecue food truck has joined fleet in Wichita.

Kendra Hill, who was laid off from Cox last Spring, is in the process of buying the Stubby’s BBQ food truck from Ken “Stubby” Hutlman.  She’s been operating it occasionally downtown and will be among the food vendors set up for next weekend’s Blacktop Nationals in downtown Wichita.

Hill, who plans to eventually change the truck’s name to Lynn’s Curbside Kitchen, is serving items such as pulled pork nachos, hot link nachos, smoked chicken sandwiches, cupcakes and more.

She’ll be parked in a lot near the Planet Sub at 3526 N. Rock Road on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. then will be at BlackTop Nationals all three days. The event takes place around the Century II and WaterWalk areas.

Hill has a Facebook page for the business, which she plans to soon begin updating with her daily location.

This blog will be on vacation until Aug. 14

I am off to do some serious field research on pina coladas, margaritas, etc. See you in a week.

West-side Twin Peaks aims for Oct. 6 opening

The west side Twin Peaks is taking shape at 7325 W. Taft.

The west side Twin Peaks is taking shape at 7325 W. Taft.

Wichita’s west-side Twin Peaks restaurant is going up at 7325 W. Taft, near Kellogg and Ridge, and it should be open by Oct. 6, said Rusty Rathbun, the local Twin Peaks franschisee.

The new restaurant will have some perks that the original, which opened in 2011 at 8310 East 21st St N., doesn’t, including an outdoor fire pit and a 110-inch video wall inside. It’ll also have more seating than the east side.

The new Twin Peaks will start hiring staff members on Aug. 18. For construction updates and information about how to apply, visit the Twin Peaks West Wichita Facebook page.

Downtown’s District Taqueria to open early fall


The sign is up and demolition has begun inside the old Kelly’s Irish Pub to make way for District Taqueria, a new “urban taco bar” at 917 E. Douglas.

Owners Michael Farha and Marc Humsi originally hoped to have it open this month, but standard delays have pushed the date back to late September or early October, Farha said.

When it opens, the restaurant will have a full bar and will serve what Farha calls “inspired street tacos.” It’ll be open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays.

This restaurant, by the way, is right next door to the Wichita Eagle. We haven’t been this excited or hungry since the pre-Wasabi days.

New McDonald’s opening at 21st and Greenwich

The Regency Lakes development at 21st and Greenwich keeps filling up with new tenants, and now, there’s news of another one.

Crews are about to break ground on a new McDonald’s at 11130 E. 21st St. N. It’ll be owned and operated by Matt and Beth Raper, who have two other Wichita McDonald’s, including the one at 21st and Rock plus one in Andover and one in Haysville.


The restaurant should open between mid-October and early November and will feature the latest McDonald’s design, including LED lighting, digital menu boards, a split front counter, flat screen TVs and 24-hour dual drive through lanes. The store is accepting applications for assistant managers, manager trainees and crew at

Regency Lakes already is home to SuperTarget, World Market and Cabela’s, Subway and Chili’s and recently added a Hobby Lobby.

Chef Febres gets TV practice with ‘Bizarre Snacks’

Fans of local chef Jason Febres, owner of Taste and See at 255 N. Washington, know that he is not the least bit uncomfortable in front of the camera.

Nutella-dipped grasshopper, anyone?

Nutella-dipped grasshopper, anyone?

The chef has made several appearances on national television, working as a consultant on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and as a contestant on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

Febres also has been public on social media about his desire to have his own national cooking show and has hinted that some sort of a deal is in the works. His quest to land a show has resulted in a bizarre web series called “Bizarre Snacks.”

Febres started filming the short webisodes back in June, he said, following the advice of a producer who said that networks would be more likely to consider him if they could see more evidence of how he performed on camera.

In “Bizarre Snacks,” which can be found on Febres’ YouTube channel, jasonfebres1, the chef films himself and often his Taste and See guests trying outrageous, strange and rather gross ingredients. So far, he’s tackled fried silk worms, Nutella-dipped grasshoppers, ant and sesame candy bars and snake bites. His favorite has been spicy squid jerky, he said.

“It was so disgusting, but it was so good,” he said. “The flavor was nice but the texture was really bizarre.”

In each episode, Febres gives a little background about the ingredient’s actual use then films the various stages of revulsion as he and his guests choke down the snack.

Febres says he tracks down the delicacies at a variety of sources, including online and in local Asian and Indian markets. In September, Febres said, he will put on a free event in his restaurant where he will invite brave customers to come sample mystery ingredients if they agree to let him film their reactions.

I’ll let you know when he sets a date.

To keep up with the Bizarre Snacks installments, which Febres hopes to produce about once a week, like his Bizarre Snacks Facebook page or subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Glaine Russell, a member of the Wichita Eagle Dining Panel, has died

Glaine Russell: 1946-2014

Glaine Russell: 1946-2014

I was very sorry to learn this afternoon that an original member of the Wichita Eagle Dining Panel had passed away.

Glaine Russell, who became a foodie pen pal of mine shortly after I started the restaurant beat, died on Wednesday at age 67. He had written me earlier this year to tell me he’d been diagnosed with cancer and to chit chat about chefs in town.

Glaine’s job kept him traveling internationally, and he would frequently send me photos of exotic food he was trying in China, Portugal and more. He charmed the group with stories of his past in the restaurant business when we had our first offiical Dining Panel meeting in 2012.

We will miss you, Glaine. Here is his obituary. And here is a review he wrote two years ago of Walt’s Old Tyme Hamburgers.

Calling all baristas: Reverie having a throwdown on Saturday

Are you among the hundreds of local coffee shop workers who steams milk like a boss and crafts a killer latte?

For $5, you can compete in Saturday night’s Midwest Barista Collective Barista Throwdown at Reverie Coffee Roasters, 2611 E. Douglas.

The event will feature local baristas steaming milk and using it to make a latte. A panel of judges will decide who did it best.

Andrew Gough, who owns Reverie, said he’s expecting about 30 competitors, including some from as far away as Garden City.

The goal is to make the throwdowns a monthly event in Wichita, Gough said. Spectators are invited to watch, and while they’re waiting, they can get dinner from The Flying Stove, which will be parked outside from 6 to 8 p.m.

Those who want to register can do so starting at 5:30 p.m. The fee is $5.  The first pour will be at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call 316-201-1144.


QT Kitchens will be everywhere by year’s end

This afternoon, I stopped by the QT Kitchens tasting event at the QuikTrip at 37th St. N. and Rock that is about to open.

The kitchens offer toasted sandwiches, flatbread sandwiches, personal pizzas, soft pretzels with dipping sauce, breakfast sandwiches, fancy coffee drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, soft serve cones and Twisters, the QT take on the Dairy Queen Blizzard.

qt ktichen

The QT Kitchens tasting event included a life-sized milkshake.

The kitchens are being put into every QuikTrip in the Wichita area, one-by-one. So far, 20 stores have them up and running. The rest will be ready by the end of the year.

The convenience store chain introduced the kitchens, said Wichita division manager Terry Williams, because it wanted to provide good food for its customers. The company also is looking to fill a financial gap left by declining gasoline and cigarette sales, he said.

Samples of the QT Kitchens toasted sandwich with bacon and cheddar.

Samples of the QT Kitchens toasted sandwich with bacon and cheddar.

“This is a win for our customers and a win for us,” he said.

One interesting note: Customers order their QT Kitchen items at a touch screen, which then spits out a receipt. They take the receipt to the regular cash register, pay, then go retrieve their food when it’s ready.

During the tasting event, I sampled the much-discussed bacon shake, which was interesting for sure. It mixes soft serve with tiny bits of bacon and has lots of maple flavor. I’m not a big maple fan, but I asked a few colleagues to sample it, and they loved it.

If a Strawberry Shake offers to pose for a picture with you, never say no.

If a Strawberry Shake offers to pose for a picture with you, never say no.

I also tasted a pretzel with cheese, a slice of pepperoni pizza, a toasted sandwich with bacon and cheese, and a chicken bacon Ranch flatbread with nice, fresh slices of tomato and lettuce.

None of this is food you’d eat if you were watching your calories. It’s all buttery or sweet or melty. But it does taste good, and I could see it being popular with the crowd that already devours QT’s cold sandwiches and tube-shaped foods on the rollers. And the prices are in-line with other fast food places. My flatbread, for example, was $3.99, though the lettuce and tomato cost 69 cents extra.

Want to see a copy of the full menu? Keep reading. You also can find a list of stores where the QT Kitchens are already operating. If you don’t see your neighborhood store on the list, it’s not far behind.

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