Category Archives: Reader e-mails

Reader recommendations: I take them seriously

Readers often write in to tell me how awful a given restaurant they tried was. But it’s more rare when they write in to say how fabulous one was.

When they do, I take it seriously.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve received three such reader endorsements.

The first comes from a reader named Steve, who raved about Yellow River Restaurant, a small Chinese restaurant at 328 E Pawnee. It’s in the corner of a little strip center, and according to Steve, is run by an elderly couple originally from China. The moo goo gai pan is great, says Steve, who used to live in southern California and knows good Asian food.

Yellow River is open from 11 am. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 316-267-7030.

Jim Hull e-mailed me and encouraged me to “whiz your sweet little self right down to D’Cruz, at 2716 E. Central.”  He and his wife Judy recently sampled the food at the teeny tiny restaurant, which includes items such as carne asada tacos, burritos and more. The owner was nice, and even though service was’t speedy, it was worth the wait, he said. The restaurant is a year old and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

Also, I heard this morning from Ryan, who suggested I write a story about Clifton Square’s Fresh Roast Coffee Company, a little hut that serves up some seriously strong brew. “It’s a tiny little shop, but makes very good coffee, as well as flavored drinks and such,” Ryan said. “The owner learned roasting from Alfred Peet, of Peet’s Coffee fame in California (and elsewhere). He is also a unique and funny guy, and roasts his own coffee on-site with a very expensive roaster which takes up half the shop almost.”

Of the three suggestions, Fresh Roast Coffee is the only one I’ve visited, and that is some strong brew. It was a bit much for me, but I have plenty of coffee friends who would find it just right.

It’s at 3700 E. Douglas and is open from 7 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call  316-778-0846.

Gooseberry fervor

In yesterday’s Dining with Denise newsletter, I answered a question from a reader name Elizabeth who wanted to know where she could find gooseberry pie, which she said was easy to get in Missouri but not so much in Kansas.

I called around to all the popular pie purveyors in Wichita: Spears, Jeanne’s Cafe, Fat Ernie’s, even Carriage Crossing in Yoder. None of them have gooseberry, and none knew who did.

After the newsletter was sent out on Wednesday afternoon, I was deluged with gooseberry e-mail. Apparently, Elizabeth is not the only person interested in the sweet-and-tart dessert.

A reader named Linda wrote to point out that MarCon pies in Washington, Kan., sells gooseberry pies, and they’re even available for order online.

Debbie wrote to say that she and her husband recently had good gooseberry pie at the Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls. I confirmed this report with a phone call this morning. The cafe almost never runs out of gooseberry pie, the excited lady on the phone told me.

And a reader named Marci told me that the Bontrager family sells baked goods, including gooseberry pies, at the Kansas Grown Farmers’ Market at 21st & Ridge.

I also received a nice e-mail from Glaine Russell, a local foodie, reminiscing about his gooseberry days.

“The question on gooseberry pie brought back many fond memories.  My wife is from Carthage as well as her parents and grandparents.  Gooseberry pie was a favorite around her house as she was growing up.  I was born near Gainesville, Mo., and moved to Wichita as a small boy.  The only time I got gooseberry pie was when we visited my grandparents and we helped grandma pick the berries.  But I digress. The best I ever ate was made by my wife’s mother in the form of a cobbler.  Of course it would not be complete without some homemade ice cream to top it off.”

Attention pie makers in Wichita: I think I know a flavor that might be a good seller…

Spring roll emergency

I heard from a reader this morning who wanted to know who makes the best spring rolls and/or pot stickers in town. She’s having a dinner party for 12 and needs to supplement the menu with something she doesn’t have to make.

I love Saigon’s spring rolls, which are fat and fresh and bursting with shrimp, rice noodles and fresh herbs. They’re pretty inexpensive, too. But I know that Wichita, with its large Asian population, is literally springing with spring rolls.

Any other spring roll suggestions?

Dyne Quik review: I couldn’t have written it better

Local foodie Bill Pearce has been trying to get me to try out Dyne Quik with him, and since I haven’t been able to, he went without me yesterday.

The review he sent me after the fact was concise and hilarious, and I couldn’t have written it better. So for all of you wondering how the new Dyne Quik is, here ya go.

Bill writes:

“Not to be snarky, but lunchtime came and I thought, ‘What would be perfect, Bill? Oh I know, a Dyne Quik burger.” So I did. It was just the same as I remember, although there has been so much alcohol coursing through my brain in the intervening 30 or so years since I was last there, who can say? I remember the burger as exactly the same, which means all the weeks of cleaning was not spent in an inadvisable griddle cleaning. The fries weren’t as good, but I suppose that he now buys pre-made fries rather than cutting his own, and also changes in grease.”

It is sparkling and clean, and miracle of miracles, WHITE! Also, my burger was served in the same plastic basket as before. I was told that it took and entire day of washing to make them usable, including TEN trips through the dishwasher!”

My arteries cry out to you!”

Restaurants that start with ‘R’

River City Brewing Co.

A reader named Cathy wrote to let me know that she and her girlfriends had embarked upon one of my favorite type of dining adventures: Dining through the alphabet.

They’d arrived at “R” and were stuck. They asked me to suggest a “nice restaurant that serves alcohol.” And starts with ‘R’.

Here are a few of my ideas. Anyone else??

Redrock Canyon Grill, 1844 N. Rock Road: I do love Redrock, a restaurant with nice, dim lighting, plush furnishings and American food that’s approachaable and simple in a gourmet way. And do they ever serve alcohol. Try their “Perfect Margarita.”

Red Beans’ Bayou Grill, 7447 W. 21st St. N. One of Wichita’s oldest Cajun restaurants is still hagning on, serving dishes such as fried pickles, gumbo, jambalaya and more. There’s also a full bar. Hurricanes for all!!

River City Brewing Co.: The downtown brew pub has recently undergone a remodeling and added a few beers to the tap. People love their pizzas and their mac-and-cheese. But they have more high-falutin’ fare, too

Two good ideas for lunch

Martha and Alberto Valdez, owners of La Tradicion Tortilleria

When a reader takes the time to e-mail me about a little-known restaurant, I go ahead and assume that it’s probably pretty good.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received two such delicious e-mails. One was from Cindy Sundell-Guy, who urged me to try La Tradicion Tortilleria at 1701 N. Broadway. She raved about the $5.99 lunch buffet, the green chile with pork and the poblano and onion with cheese. Occasionally, La Tradicion serves mole, tamales and soups such as hominy stew.

“The first time I went in, the owner dipped me up a spoonful of everything on the buffet so I could taste it all,” she wrote. “I felt like I had gone to a Mexican covered dish dinner. What a treat.  He is really accommodating.”

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

**UPDATE** I went to La Tradicion for lunch today and enjoyed the buffet, which is different from a usual buffet in that the owners serve it up for you. Turns out it’s in the former Maharaja building.

Some things were better than others. And I smell like friedness now. But it was a fun experience. **END UPDATE**

I must admit I’ve never heard of the other restaurant that received reader praise: D’s Dairy Freeze. It opened last July in a former Pig-In Pig-Out space at 1935 S. Hydraulic.

The small restaurant, which has seating but does mostly drive-through service, sells ice cream, malts, shakes, burgers, salads, onion rings, pies and more. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, but starting at the end of March, it’s open until 10 p.m. nightly.

Reader Lou Ann Ward works nearby and says people need to know how good it is. She wants it to stay in business but at the same time is afraid she’ll have to start standing in line when people realize what a value it is.

Lunch is in an hour. Go!

Can we talk Mexican food?

Ole!

I recieved another e-mail from the ever-thoughtful foodie Mike Levand, most famous (to me) for the love letter to cake he sent this summer.

This time, Mike wants to talk Mexican food.

First, he wonders if there is a Mexican buffet being served in Wichita. The only one I’m aware of is at Cortez Mexican Restaurant at 344 W. 29th St. N. It offers an all-you-can eat Mexican buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Second, Mike asks for a top-five list of local, non-chain Mexican restaurants. I get the feeling he mainly wants Tanya Tandoc’s recommendations, but this is not Tanya’s blog (ha ha). So mine will have to do. Though Tanya, please do chime in if you are reading this.

I know that Tanya would agree with me that Frida’s, the restaurant that closed last year, was at the top of the list. The owners have promised to reopen, but my hope dwindles daily. Besides Frida’s, my favorites include Taqueria El Paisa, an authentic restaurant at 2227 N. Arkansas, and Ruben’s, 520 W. Douglas, which is more of a Tex-Mex standard but sells delicious flour tacos and a killer carintas dinner.

I’ve always sort of liked El Patio, 424 E. Central, too, though I tend to overeat there so must approach it with caution.

That’s only three. Who has other suggestions? Remember, Mike wants local.

Guilty as charged

kebabsI get e-mails of complaint on a fairly regular basis because — hey — you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Recently, I got a pretty good one from Mike Rediger that makes me laugh every time I read it.

He was commenting on my recent review of Kababs, an Indian restaurant out west. And he got me.

Here’s the text of the e-mail.

Denise,
Regarding your article about Kababs, I found the Ambience note incredibly insightful:
“The interior is small but cozy and well-decorated, WITH A MIX OF TABLES AND CHAIRS.”
I would venture to guess that most every restaurant you review has a mix of tables and chairs.  I would hate to see a restaurant that had chairs but no tables, or tables but no chairs!

Of course I meant to say tables and booths, or some variation of it, but when you’re on your 145th “ambience” note of your career, sometimes your brain goes on autopilot.

I thank Mr. Rediger for his astute attention — and dry sense of critical humor.

Vegetarian dining

20070613 Fresh foodA reader named Barbara wrote over the weekend to pose a commonly asked question: Where can vegetarians find the best dishes in Wichita?

Barbara noted that she loves the vegetarian offerings at The Anchor, where juicy portobello sandwiches are on the menu, but she wondered where else she should try.

Following are a few of my suggestions. By all means, chime in if you can think of others.

1. D’Sozo, 1812 S. Seneca: This restaurant isn’t very old and opened in sort of an unexpected area. But it has a trained vegetarian chef preparing very good vegan and vegetarian dishes. When I reviewed it a few months ago, I was impressed with some fresh and fabulous soups and sandwiches, and the chef offers daily specials as well.

2. Zen Vegetarian Cuisine, 3101 N. Rock Road: This vegetarian Asian restaurant does a great job of preparing food that eliminates meat but not flavor. The chef experiments with lots of meat substitutes and fills dishes full of fresh veggies. I’ve heard they updated their menu recently, but I need to investigate.

3.  Maharaja, 3008 W. Central: Indian food is a good choice for vegetarians, and Maharaja offers several exotic uses of the green and leafy-s. The chefs care about vegetarians, so much so that they recently put on a special all-vegetarian dinner.

What am I missing?

A love letter to… cake

I was on a road trip this weekend when an e-mail from a reader landed in my inbox and made me laugh halfway across Kansas and Missouri — and only partially because it took me that long to read it.

The e-mail was from Mike Levand, and as you will see if you click on to the next page, Mike Levand loves the tres leches cake at Juarez Bakery, a wonderful Wichita business at 1068 N. Waco.

Mike went on and on and on…and on about his love for this cake, in ever more descriptive terms. Just when I thought he’d sold it all it could be sold, he sold it some more. This ode to tres leches weighed in at an impressive 576 words.

I love Juarez Bakery and its fabulous Mexican pastries, which are bready but sweet without being too sweet. I must exercise great self restraint to keep myself stopping there every day. I’ve never tried the tres leches cake, but Mike has most definitely persuaded me that I’ve been remiss.

I will correct this immediately, Mike.

Read on and you will find Mike’s description of the pastry love of his life, which is so good, it makes him want to “weep very gently.”

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