New York Times review surprises Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood owner; Wichita surprises restaurant reviewer

UPDATED — Wichitans were surprised to find a New York Times review over the weekend of Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood. No one was more surprised than Sarah Vo, who owns the Wichita restaurant at 1556 N. Broadway.

“Everybody asks me the same question,” Vo says. “Do I have connections?”

She doesn’t, but Bonnie Bing does.

Bing, The Eagle’s recently retired fashion writer, is friends with freelance writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who wrote the review and also is the author of “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”

“I went to Wichita for one reason: Bonnie Bing,” Tan says.

She and Houston Chronicle food editor Greg Morago know Bing from when she used to cover Fashion Week in New York, and for years they said they planned to visit Wichita.

“When I heard she retired this year, I thought this is finally the year,” Tan says.

Bonnie Bing (center) with friends Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Greg Morago.

She spent a week just “to kind of get away from New York” and work on her second book. Tan says it was an especially productive week.

“I guess whenever that book comes out I will have Wichita to thank.”

Tan still had plenty of time to tour and dine around Wichita, and she was impressed.

“This is going to sound probably bizarre,” she says, but, “I loved your grocery stores.” She was floored at how large Thai Binh is and says Wichita has some items New York doesn’t have outside of Chinatown.

Tan thinks the Wichita Art Museum is “just beautiful” and Watermark Books and Cafe, where signed copies of her book are on sale, is “darling” and she’s thrilled to see it thriving. She also enjoyed the Keeper of the Plains, the original Pizza Hut building, Riverside and Delano, where she shot pool at Club Billiards.

Sam Taylor, a poet who teaches English and creative writing at Wichita State University, is a friend of Tan’s and was one of her tour guides. (He also snapped the photo above.)

Tan loves the big sky in Kansas and all the space here, particularly because in New York “I live in a box pretty much.”

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Club Billiards changes hands

WICHITA — By Monday, Steve Yager says he’ll be the new owner of Club Billiards in Delano.

“Oh, yeah, everybody’s coming in really thanking me and everything else for keeping it open,” he says. “It’s the last old-time tavern in Wichita.”

Yager, who retired from a sales career five years ago, can’t say how long the bar has been open at 925 W. Douglas.

“Well, you know the building’s been here for over 100 years,” he says. “I’ve been coming here for 40 years.”

Yager may tweak the hours some, and he’s already updated the heating and air along with the kitchen. He says he won’t make any radical changes, though, because he doesn’t want to upset the regulars.

“It’s a daytime place for all the retirees and old farts that come in, and I’m one of them.”

Sugar Sister Kelli Sykes to reopen Sugar Sisters Bakery in Delano

WICHITA — The Sugar Sisters are back.

Kelli Sykes is reopening Sugar Sisters Bakery, this time in Delano, with a little behind-the-scenes help from her sisters Kristine and Katie.

The sisters closed their original Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe near Central and Oliver in January after struggling financially and with service issues for three years.

“I learned from our mistakes the first time,” Kelli Sykes says.

“My sisters kind of gave up (and) wanted to pursue their dreams, but I still wanted to do a bakery,” she says.

“In high school I went to Kapaun, and everyone called me Betty Crocker (and) Mom. They all wanted me to open a bakery. That’s kind of where my dream started.”

The new business will be in 1,200 square feet at 917 W. Douglas just down from Club Billiards.

Joey Ritchie and Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal.

Sugar Sisters mainly will be a bakery but will have some lunch items as well and seating for about 10.

Sykes says her bierocks will be a staple.

“Anyone who’s had them has been instantly addicted.”

She’ll also serve chicken salad, quiche and some deli items such as cold pasta.

Since the other business closed, Sykes says she’s been doing special orders and has been receiving great feedback.

For instance, one drug rep orders about 100 cupcakes a week.

“She says every time she takes them somewhere people go crazy,” Sykes says. She says fans of the restaurant have “been going nuts since we closed.”

For those who weren’t fans or were disappointed by a previous experience, Sykes says, “I would invite them to give me another chance.”

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You don’t say

“Most of my guys have fought in two or three wars. . . . It’s not fair. It’s not constitutional.”

Club Billiards owner Mike Chapple on how most of his customers are smokers, which he says means he’ll likely have to close if the smoking ban goes into effect