Chef George Youssef buys Food For Thought building for future business

WICHITA — The former Food For Thought space at 2929 E. Central is likely to soon have some food in it once again.

Caterer and former restaurateur George Youssef has purchased the building with a partner.

“I love the building,” Youssef says of the 15,000-square-foot space. “It’s a huge building.”

Though he says he knew he wanted the space, Youssef still isn’t entirely sure what for.

“There’s no plan right now,” he says. “I’m waiting for the right idea.”

That’s likely to involve catering and possibly a party rental business.

“We’re still in the process of studying it.”

Food For Thought, which billed itself as Wichita’s only full-service independent natural foods market left in the area, closed late last year. It had been in the building for the last two decades of its more than four decades in business.

Youssef, who used to own Uptown Bistro and Nouvelle Cafe, says he’ll let us know what he’s going to do with the building.

“It has character,” he says of the space. “So I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.”

Food For Thought to close after 42 years

UPDATED — More than four decades after opening, Food For Thought is closing.

“It probably should have been done before now,” owner Melinda Foley says. “The competition in town is just getting tougher and tougher.”

Foley says her store is Wichita’s only full-service independent natural foods market left in the area.

She says big-box competitors are an issue. The Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage chain opened in 2011.

“We kind of started seeing our numbers slip then,” Foley says. “And Bread and Circus is looming next year.”

That’s the Whole Foods chain that’s opening at the Waterfront.

“We are in a location where not as many people are shopping in this area as used to be,” Foley says.

The store has been at 2929 E. Central for the last 20 of its 42 years in business.

“It’s time for us to go out gracefully.”

The store has started a liquidation sale. Foley expects to close within a month.

“There’s going to be some awesome people out there looking for employment,” she says.

Foley says she didn’t try to sell the store.

“We just felt like it was time to just let it go,” she says. “We have so enjoyed serving this community, and we have made so many friends with our customers. That’s going to be really sad to let go.”

 

 

Mike’s Wine Dive owners to open the Hill Bar and Grill in the former Barrier’s space

Brothers Brent (left) and Brad Steven in front of the former Barrier’s building at Douglas and Oliver, which they’re going to transform into the Hill Bar and Grill.

WICHITA — As some residents of Crown Heights are organizing a group to protest a bar and grill going in the former Barrier’s space at Douglas and Oliver, the restaurateurs hoping to open it are ready to share details.

Mike’s Wine Dive owners Brent and Brad Steven plan to open the Hill Bar and Grill — named for the hill in College Hill — in 5,100 square feet of the building in March.

Mike’s is in the center at the northwest corner of the intersection. The Hill will be on the northeast corner.

Though Brad Steven says the Hill will be a great place to catch a game, he says, “It’s not going to be a sports bar.”

“Our focus will be a wide selection of craft beers as well as American food,” he says. “Basically, we’re going to be specializing in beers the way we specialize in wine at Mike’s.”

There will be 25 beers on tap and craft beers from around the world.

Brent Steven describes it as “kind of like an ale house.”

He says the idea is “a place that’s totally different than Mike’s.”

Where Mike’s is more fine dining, he says, he and his brother envision the Hill as “more of a hangout spot.”

“It will appeal to a wider audience than Mike’s does.”

There will be seating for about 150 customers.

There will be an outside patio facing Douglas that is within the front of the building and will serve as an area for smoking. There will be another patio that wraps around the east side of the building.

There will be another 2,400 square feet left in the building for another business.

The Hill’s hours aren’t set yet, but the Stevens are thinking 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. most days and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends.

The hours are a key issue for some residents.

“You can go on the news and see all the time what happens in Old Town at 2 a.m.,” says Melinda Foley, who is president of the Crown Heights Neighborhood Association.

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You don’t say

“We just think these young people that are tackling this project are kind of awesome and wanting to save what we consider a treasure of Wichita’s past … instead of tearing something down.”

Food For Thought owner Melinda Foley on why she’s holding a Sept. 22 fundraiser (with carnival games and a silent auction) for the Joyland Restoration Project

You don’t say

“Yes Jimmy Kimmel we are Wichitawesome.”

– A sign outside Food For Thought, joking about the late-night comedian’s spoof of Wichita as a Wichitawesome spring break destination

Delish, a gluten-free cafe, to open within Food For Thought on East Central

WICHITA — It’s been 13 years since Food For Thought had a cafe. Now the natural foods market, which is two blocks west of Hillside at 2929 E. Central, is going to have one again with something of a twist.

Delish, a gluten-free cafe, is going to open at the store Monday.

“We just felt there was a real need for this type of offering,” says owner Melinda Foley. “There are so many people who are gluten-free either by choice or because they have celiac disease.”

There also will be a lot of organic items along with raw and vegan options.

For instance, there will be raw, vegan tacos, which Foley says “sound kind of weird, but they’re phenomenal.”

Whole-wheat bread will be available for those who prefer it, but Foley says there will be no cross-contamination with gluten-free products.

“We’ve been working on it since the beginning of the year,” she says.

There’s seating for about 20 people, and all items will be available to go as well. Lunch will be served daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The store is closed Sundays.

Foley says smoothies and bakery items, such as gluten-free cupcakes and muffins, will be available all day.

Foley is working with local vendors who are supplying food, such as bread, and ingredients.

“It’s kind of cool that we’ve got so many local people who are able to supply us.”

 

Don Bearden brings his Five Star Grill and Dinner Sauce to Wichita

WICHITA — The Bearden family has long been known for its work in stained glass, but Wichita native Don Bearden wouldn’t mind being known as the sauce guy, either.

Bearden, who now lives in Kansas City, is bringing his new Five Star Grill and Dinner Sauce to Food For Thought’s Spring Fling this weekend at 2929 E. Central. He’s also selling it at Yoder Meats.

Bearden first started making the sauce 15 years ago.

“There’s really nothing like it out there,” he says.

Red and golden delicious apples are the main ingredients. There also are tomatoes, raisins, jalapenos, onion, garlic and vinegar.

Bearden says the sauce, which he’s selling for $6.99, is great as a marinade on anything or as a dipping sauce.

“It’s weird how it just came out so versatile,” he says. “It’s kind of like the new ketchup, if you will.”

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