Question of the week: Best little-known gem

The dining room at the delicious but tiny Manna Wok.

This week’s reader question on my Dining with Denise newsletter comes from Frank, who wonders if I’ve ever tried Cafe Asia at 6546 E. Central. (I haven’t, but according to Frank, I need to change that.)

It got me thinking about all the little-known restaurants I’ve come to love, many based on reader recommendations. Manna Wok at 4865 E. Central comes to mind, as does Malaysia Cafe at 7777 E. 21st St. N.

My question of the week: What’s your favorite little-known restaurant in town? They’re not all Asian. I’ve heard from readers over the years about several teeny tiny Mexican places and underrated burger joints, too.

If you don’t mind your little-known place becoming a bit more well-known, would you mind nominating it in the comments section below?

A year and 48 lunches later…

A delicious offering from Manna Wok, 4865 E. Harry.

A year ago, local food fan Richard Bowman read one of my dining stories that reprinted local restaurant owner and foodie extraordinaire Tanya Tandoc’s favorite restaurants and her favorite dishes at each of those restaurants.

Bowman felt like he was stuck in a lunch rut, so he invited a couple of buddies to join him on a quest to eat their way down the list. For the past year, Bowman would get together with his Doug Ballard and Joe Wilson on Fridays and try out one of the places on the list. They’ve now traveled completely through it, and on Friday, they’ll go to Tanya’s Soup Kitchen for their final meal to mark their accomplishment.

Bowman told me that he and his buddies really enjoyed the quest and found several new eateries they would never have tried otherwise. Among his new favorites: Manna Wok at 4865 E. Harry. “I’d driven by that place for years and had just never stopped,” he said.

Bowman and his crew are going to have their picture taken with Tanya on Friday, and he promises to share a copy.

Teeny, tiny, tasty

manawokdiningroomWhy do I love teeny tiny restaurants that serve good food? Is it because they’re cute and tiny, like puppies? Or because the teeny tininess of them makes me feel like I’ve discovered a true hole-in-the-wall treasure?

Earlier this year, a friend introduced me to Manna Wok, a delicious little (emphasis on the little) Korean place at 4865 E. Harry. This place is tiny — so tiny it has room for only eight tables and only two people standing up at the same time. (I’m exaggerating on that last part, but it is a weeeee little place.)

The food, however, is big on flavor, especially the Korean dishes such as beef bul go kee, shown here. mannawokbeef

Manna Wok has been in business for 18 years, and the dining room is plastered with pictures of people enjoying meals there. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and offers lunch specials.

Today I met Cat Poland, the marketing and communications manager for Girl Scouts KS, for lunch at Manna Wok. I had the beef bul go kee, which is incredible. She had what looked like an equally incredible shrimp with ginger sauce. manawokphotos

(Cat and I, by the way, were meeting to talk about a very cool restaurant event she helps to organize called Cocktails & Cookies. It’s a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts, and I’m going to emcee the event at the Marriott on March 3).

Other teeny tiny restaurants I love: El Patio at 424 E. Central and Thai Five at 1523 S. Seneca.