Restaurants are embracing March Madness

UntitledSeveral Wichita restaurants are suffering from March Madness and offering their customers special discounts during the NCAA tournament.

One is Carlos O’ Kelly’s, which once again is practically giving away its queso and margaritas on days that the Shockers play in the NCAA tournament. They call it “Queso Madness,” and it starts on Friday, the first day the Shockers play in St. Louis. Since the team will be one of 64 teams playing on Friday, all Carlos O’ Kelly’s locations will sell individual chili con queso dips for 64 cents and “Mug-o-ritas” for $1.64. Should the Shocker’s advance, the deal will be offered on Sunday again, only this time the queso will be 32 cents and the Mug-0-Ritas $1.32. The promotion continues and the food and drink gets cheaper as long as the Shockers keep advancing. The deals are good all day on the days the Shocker’s play but are good for dine-in customers only.

The Carlos O’ Kelly’s at 527 S. Ridge Circle also is putting on a fundraiser for a charity called Our Daily Bread. The restaurant will be putting on a big watch party featuring $3 jumbo margaritas, $3 big beers and $3 loaded nachos all day on the opening weekend of the tournament — from Thursday through Sunday. Customers can get $1 raffle tickets for a chance to win an autographed Shocker team basketball and will have other ways for people to donate to the charity.

Knolla’s Pizza also is offering a tournament special it calls “Pizza Madness” that’s good today through March 25. It offers $5 off a total order of $20 or more.

And Newport Grill at 1900 N. Rock Road is asking customers who visit the restaurant and have lunch or dinner before Thursday to fill out a tournament bracket in the restaurant. If they do, they’ll be entered into a drawing to win a dinner for two.

Know of any other tournament specials? Speak up.

On the Border offering $1 margaritas on Saturday

The frozen house margarita at On the Border are just $1 on Saturday.

The frozen house margarita at On the Border are just $1 on Saturday.

This is my kind of week.

Tuesday, apparently, was National Drink Wine Day. (I tend not to celebrate that one, though, because EVERY DAY is National Drink Wine Day at my house.)

And Saturday is National Margarita Day. Now that one I can celebrate.

Mexican chain On the Border, which has Wichita locations at 1930 N. Rock Road and 2347 N. Maize Road, will observe the day by offering $1 house margaritas all day. Customers can order the 12 oz. house margaritas either frozen or on the rocks, and the restaurants also will offer their CoronaRitas, which are dramatically served with a beer turned upside down inside of them, for $5.

When I do go to On the Border, I’m usually lured by the restaurant’s giant frozen swirl margaritas served in glass that reminds me of a fish bowl, and I’ve also been known to visit Jose Pepper’s and Ziggy’s Pizza on its discount margarita nights. Don’t even get me started on those Carlos O’ Kelly’s margaritas in a plastic yellow cup that always tempts me at Intrust Bank Arena concerts.

Who has Wichita’s best margarita, in your opinion?

Red Stocking Breakfast is Thursday

Me on fruit duty, Brett Harris on cheese duty.

Me on fruit duty, Brett Harris on cheese duty.

I’ve always work as a server at the annual Red Stocking Breakfasta fundraiser for the Kansas Children’s Service League. This year’s is from  6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Carlos O’Kelly’s, 7703 E. Douglas.

I love this breakfast not only because it’s for a good cause but also because it features a buffet of food so delicious and decadent (biscuits and gravy, Mexican breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls, etc.) , you won’t be able to eat again for the rest of the day. This is a problem for me since our newsroom holiday lunch is just a few hours later, but oh well. I will make the sacrifice and pig out twice. It’s for a good cause, after all.

All the servers are recognizable politicians and media personalities. I’ll be on duty from 8 to 8:45 a.m.

Proceeds raised go toward KCSL programs and services. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Children age 10 and under eat free. Advance tickets are available online at

Dine Hutch-style, meet astronauts

Hutchinson can claim some good restaurants too, including places such as Anchor Inn and nearby Carriage Crossing in Yoder.

Hutchinson also has the Kansas Cosmosphere, a space museum capable of attracting real-life astronauts.

On Saturday, Hutchinson will combine those two attributes for the second annual Fly Around Dine Around reception at the Kansas Cosmosphere, 1100 N. Plum in Hutchinson.

Attendees at the event, which lasts from 6 to 9 p.m., offers tastings of food from Hutchinson restaurants including the above mentioned plus Carlos O’Kelly’s, Dillons Chinese Kitchen, Dillons Marketplace, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, Girst’s: Catering For You, Hog Wild, Hutchinson Town Club, Jillian’s Italian Grill, Pizza Ranch, The Raz Smokehouse, Serendipity Cupcakes, Spangles, Starbucks, and Sunflower Supper Club and Catering. Beverages will be provided by City Beverage and Egbert Liquor.

It also will be attended by eight famous astronauts — Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, Joe Engle, Richard Gordon, Fred Haise, Jeff Ashby, Steven Hawley and Bruce McCandless II.

They’ll share memories of missions and mingle with guests — but they won’t pose for pictures or sign autographs.

The reception lasts from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 620-665-9312. Tickets are $40 for Cosmosphere members, $50 for nonmembers.

My absence is the Shockers fault

I’m so sorry about my absence of late on this dining blog. Three weeks ago, my editors asked me if I’d travel with the Shockers to write stories about the fans and the experience in the tournament. None of us imagined I’d still be going now.

I’m in the airport about to head to Atlanta, and when I return next week, the blog will be back to normal. Rest assured that I’ve been eating in many fabulous restaurants over the past several weeks — it’s just that none of them have been in Wichita.

In the meantime, you should know that Carlos O’ Kelly’s is celebrating Shocker dominance by practically giving away queso and margaritas. All day Saturday, they’ll mark the team’s appearance in the Final Four with 4 cent queso all day. If the Shockers make it to the final game, queso will cost 2 cents on Monday.

Margaritas on Saturday will cost $1.04.

The offer is good at all Wichita Carlos O’ Kelly’s locations.

See you next week.

Red Stocking Breakfast is Thursday

Ah, memories. At last year’s breakfast, I dished up fruit and mugged with Brett Harris.

I feel a little lost this Christmas.

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t on the line of “celebrity servers” at the Red Stocking Breakfast, an annual fundraiser for the Kansas Children’s Service League.

But this year, they’ve scheduled it at the same time I teach a class, so they’re going to somehow have to get the biscuits and gravy and eggs ole dished out without me.

The event is from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Carlos O’ Kelly’s, 7703 E. Douglas Ave. It features a buffet of delicious and hot breakfast items served by recognizable politicians, media folks, etc. Proceeds raised go toward KCSL programs and services.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Children age 10 and under eat free. Advance tickets are available online at

First remodeled Carlos O’ Kelly’s in Wichita will reopen on Friday

The new Carlos O' Kelly's logo

Carlos O’ Kelly’s, the 30-year-old Mexican restaurant chain that’s headquartered in Wichita, is “rebranding” its restaurants, giving them an all-new look and a new menu.

On Sunday, the restaurant at  4872 S. Broadway closed down, and crews have been hard at work changing everything — booths, tables, carpet, paint, decor, setup. The result is a more modern-looking restaurant that even has new signage, featuring a multi-colored chili pepper.

“It’s very different,” president Jon Rolph said of the new look. “It opens the place up. And it’s a lot less cluttered as far as the decor goes.”

The under-progress interior of the remodeled Carlos O' Kelly's at 4872 S. Broadway.

That restaurant will reopen on Friday featuring a menu that has several new items, including a Cantina burger topped with chili con queso, sauteed onions, bell peppers, bacon and fried jalapeno bites. There are also brisket tacos, grilled fish tacos, seafood enchiladas and more. The chips and salsa will remain the same, and most of the restaurant’s most popular dishes remain unchanged.

A Carlos O’ Kelly’s in Lincoln, Neb., will be the next to be made over. Owners hope to have all 39 Carlos O’ Kelly’s, including the four in Wichita, redone within four years.

Wichita’s other three Carlos O’Kelly’s are at  7703 E. Douglas, 527 S. Ridge Road Circle and 3025 N. Rock Road.

Cinco de Mayo dining specials

Free 5 oz. Cinco de Mayo smoothies on Saturday at Taco Bueno.

I’ve gathered up a list of a few Cinco de Mayo dining specials local restaurants have planned.

I’m sure all the Mexican restaurants will be crowded, and some of them are planning food and drink specials, as well as live music.

You also can read about other Cinco de Mayo parties, all of which involve food, in the story I wrote for this weekend’s Go! section.

Here are a few other options:

Carlos O’ Kelly’s: The Mexican restaurant chain is once again offering its El Guapo Burrito Challenge. If one person can eat a 5-pound burrito in 30 minutes, it’s free. Two-person eating teams also can try to consume a seven-pounder. The offer is good on Saturday only. Wichita’s Carlos O’ Kelly’s are at 7703 E. Douglas, 527 S. Ridge Road Circle, 3025 N. Rock and 4872 S. Broadway.

Jose Pepper’s: Both Wichita’s Jose Pepper’s at 11423 E. 13th St. and 2243 N. Tyler Road will have a DJ from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, live music from 5 to 11 p.m., games, prizes, drink specials and super-loaded fiesta nachos for $6.99.

Margarita’s Cantina: The Mexican restaurant at 3109 E. Douglas will offer Corona buckets, $4 Cuervo shots, $5 Cuervo margaritas, food specials featuring shrimp, a DJ at 9 p.m. and house band Lotus at 9:30 p.m.

Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant: The location at 445 S. 119th St. West, for example, is having a fiesta on the patio from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday that will include a live DJ, giveaways and discount margaritas.

Taco Bueno: In honor of Cinco de Mayo, all Taco Bueno restaurants will give away free 5 oz. wild berry smoothies all day Saturday.

Carlos O’ Kelly’s celebrates 30 with specials

Carlos O’ Kelly’s sure is excited about turning 30. I hate to disappoint you, Carlos, but I’ve done it, and it’s no big whoop. (Ha. Just kidding.)

The Mexican restaurant chain, whose headquarters are in Wichita, opened its first restaurant on Dec. 16, 1981, in Marion, Iowa.

Now, 30 years later, the chain has 41 restaurants, including four in Wichita.

To celebrate the big birthday on Friday, the restaurant is offering several specials.

One is a 7-pound “El Guapo” burrito available on Friday for $19.81. The burrito is big enough to feed many, but if two people can eat it in 30 minutes, they can have it for free. And they’ll get a T-shirt to mark the occasion.

Also, from Friday through Sunday, all Carlos O’Kelly’s will offer half-price house rocks margaritas.

Diners also can pay $19.81 and get one appetizer and two entrees from a special 1980s-decorated menu, recently introduced in honor of the big 3-0.

Wichita’s Carlos O’ Kelly’s are at 7703 E. Douglas, 527 S. Ridge Road Circle, 3025 N. Rock Road and 4872 S. Broadway.

See you at the Red Stocking Breakfast on Wednesday?

A celebrity scene from last year's Red Stocking Breakfast

Wednesday is the day for the Red Stocking Breakfast, an event that has become as much a party of my personal Christmas tradition as blogging endlessly about the Chop Suey Palace.

This is probably my 10th year working as a server at the breakfast, which is staged from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Carlos O’ Kelly’s at 7703 E. Douglas. The breakfast raises money for the Kansas Children’s Service League and always draws a huge crowd. I’ve spent so many years on the line, I have the whole buffet memorized — fruit salad, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, eggs, spicy eggs, link sausages… the list goes on and on. I always leave high on Sterno and Christmas cheer.

Bonnie Bing and I will be on the 8 to 8:45 a.m. shift on Wednesday. Other servers on the list include KAKE’s Susan Peters, Mayor Carl Brewer, Spangles spokeswoman Rene Steven, KSN’s Stephanie Bergman and a whole mess of city council people, county commissioners and local businessfolk.

Tickets are $12 in advance at or $15 at the door. Read all the fine print here.

Here’s hoping I get cinnamon roll duty this year.