Abuelo’s inching closer to west-side deal

WICHITA — Abuelo’s, the Mexican restaurant chain that opened at the Waterfront in April 2004, is working on a deal for west-side space.

“It’s been a good market for us,” Abuelo’s director of marketing Melanie Carroll says of Wichita.

She says the Lubbock-based company is always looking for growth opportunities and believes Wichita could sustain two Abuelo’s restaurants, but she won’t share details beyond that.

Landmark Commercial Real Estate president and CEO Brad Saville, who represents Abuelo’s in Wichita, says the chain is eyeing three west-side sites and hasn’t yet determined where it will go.

Other sources, though, says Abuelo’s is getting closer to a deal at a site near the Kellogg and Ridge Road corridor not far from where the new Twin Peaks is going to open.

Earlier this month, Have You Heard? reported that Twin Peaks, which already has an east-side site, is going to open at 7325 W. Taft. It will be in a building across Ridge Road from Carlos O’Kelly’s and Panera Bread, which is south of Maple and Ridge.

The area is becoming a hot spot for restaurants such as Applebee’s, McAlister’s Deli, Chipotle Mexican Grill, IHOP and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers among others.

Look for more news on Abuelo’s in the months ahead.

You don’t say

“Great service, great food at a great price – just like the King Air.”

– New York City resident Kenny Dichter, founder of Wheels Up (which just placed an order with Beechcraft for up to 105 King Airs) on his favorite Wichita restaurant, Abuelo’s

Former Wichitans Dennis Thompson and Doug Glendenning to bring Firebirds Wood Fired Grill to the Waterfront

The Waterfront’s Stephen Clark II stands in front of the future home of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill.

WICHITA — A visit home to his native Wichita is what’s leading Lone Star Steakhouse founder Dennis Thompson to bring his latest restaurant concept to the Waterfront.

Thompson and former Wichitan Doug Glendenning and a private New York equity firm own 23 Firebirds Wood Fired Grills and have six more under construction.

Thompson, who founded the company in 2000 in Charlotte, N.C., planned to go to Oklahoma City and Tulsa next but changed his mind.

“I happened to be in Wichita for a class reunion,” he says.

While here, Thompson toured the former Brooks Brothers store at the Waterfront development at 13th and Webb Road.

The 7,650-square-foot space is on the corner of the retail section of the Waterfront and is known for its decorative domed roof.

“It’s the most prominent spot in the retail center,” says the Waterfront’s Stephen Clark II.

Glendenning, the former president of Lone Star, calls the Waterfront “one of the best areas in the greater Wichita area for sure.”

“I used to live just a couple of blocks from there, so I know that area very well,” he says.

Glendenning is a founder of Firebirds, too, but he says Thompson really created it.

Thompson’s Aspen home inspired what initially was a Colorado lodge theme.

“Over time … it’s evolved,” Glendenning says. “It’s a lot less Colorado feel and more just kind of upscale casual.”

Thompson says he wanted to start a concept that was more upscale than an Outback or similar restaurants but not quite as high end as a Morton’s or a Ruth’s Chris.

“The theme is based around steaks, but we’re not perceived necessarily as a steakhouse,” Thompson says.

There are lots of wood-fired dishes, many of which have a southwestern flair.

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There’s a new menu for this year’s Zoobilee

WICHITA — It’s a safe bet that no one who goes to Zoobilee on Saturday will leave hungry, but there are several popular restaurants that have been involved with the Sedgwick County Zoo fund-raiser that won’t be back this year.

“I just don’t feel the event is the same for the restaurants as it used to be,” says Darrin Hackney, general manager at Heroes.

Heroes has been a participant for the last 15 years.

Hackney says the event is a good one, but it changed from a cocktail party atmosphere to “just watching people grab food like they’ve never eaten before.”

“When you have food flying out that fast . . . are they really trying your food or is it just (to) curb the alcohol?”

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