Luca Italian Kitchen closes; YO-B to open

UPDATED — Melad Stephan has sold his Luca Italian Kitchen.

Another downtown restaurateur, Nabil Bacha, took possession of it this afternoon.

“We wanted to bring something a bit different,” says Bacha, who owns Cafe Bel Ami at 229 E. William.

He considered doing something possibly called Bel Ami Bistro, which would have been similar to Stephan’s popular Uptown Bistro that was at the entrance to Old Town Square before Luca.

Bacha decided that’s too much like what is already in Old Town, though.

“They’re all competing against each other,” he says of sit-down restaurants there. “There’s just too many.”

Bacha decided to go another route with yogurt, custard and one really, really tasty burger, which he says will be similar to the popular In-N-Out Burger on the West Coast.

The name is tentatively YO-B, for yogurt and burgers.

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Jason-Paul Febres to open second Taste & See in part of former Doc Howard’s space

UPDATED – Jason-Paul Febres is heading back to Old Town.

“Now I’m moving back to my roots,” says the man who became known as Sabor Latin Bar & Grille’s first executive chef.

The Venezuela native is returning to Old Town with his own place — a second Taste & See.

“Well, first of all, it’s about time,” Febres says. “I don’t think it was a matter of if we were going to expand. It was a matter of when we were going to expand.”

Febres is taking 4,532 square feet at 252 N. Mosley, which is part of the space developer Dave Burk is converting at the former Doc Howard’s Lounge building.

“I love Old Town,” Febres says. “I like the crowded scene. That’s what I’m made for.”

Febres bounced around to various restaurants before opening Taste & See with a partner at Office This in the former Wichita Mall. Febres says he plans to keep that site, which will be open for lunch, classes and private events. It will be known as Taste & See The Venue.

The new Taste & See will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Febres is planning a “very, very upscale tapas lounge” and “a beautiful patio.”

He’s also working on a new menu.

“It’s going to be a little more out there, and it’s going to be more fun,” Febres says. “I’m going to have the chance to play with more food than I was able to.”

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Melad Stephan to debut Schwarma Truck

WICHITA — You knew it was just a matter of time.

The ubiquitous Melad Stephan has done just about everything else related to food – bars, restaurants, catering – so naturally now he’s going to have a food truck, too.

“I’m pretty much about 90 percent done with the deal,” he says.

He hopes to debut his Schwarma Truck in November. Stephan plans to sell dishes popular in his native Lebanon, including chicken and beef schwarma, gyros, falafel, hummus and fattoush, among other things.

Like the other popular food trucks spinning about town, Stephan will rotate his among businesses and events.

“We’ll definitely want to do one day in Old Town and compete with myself, right?” he says, joking about his Old Town businesses – Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Luca Italian Kitchen, Oeno Wine Bar, Caffe Moderne, the coming Revolution Rock Bar and his Empire Catering at Eaton Place.

“I got too much going on, don’t I?” Stephan says. “Honestly, it’s just one of my kid’s idea.”

His son Jordan, 21, will operate the truck.

“He’s been bugging me about it for a couple of months,” Stephan says. “I’m just going to let him live the American dream.”

The food business is not Stephan’s dream for his children.

“I didn’t think I wanted any of my kids to do what I do,” he says.

It’s happening anyway, at least with one of them.

“I don’t know, must be in the blood or something,” he says.

Melad Stephan to open Revolution Rock Bar and move Empire Catering into Eaton Place

WICHITA — Melad Stephan is growing his Old Town empire, literally and figuratively.

Stephan’s Empire Catering is moving into Eaton Place at Douglas and St. Francis where Eaton Steakhouse used to be.

“We’re really going to attack the catering big time,” he says.

Instead of spending money to put in a kitchen there, Stephan is taking over the former Whiskey Creek space, which most recently was the Air Capital Grill, to use that kitchen for all his catering.

In the front of that space, which is at 233 N. Mosley, Stephan is putting in a bar called Revolution Rock Bar.

The building isn’t as visible as some restaurants in Old Town.

“It’s more like a bar-hopping place,” Stephan says of that area. “By putting a bar in there, it fits right in there with the other bars.”

Unlike Stephan’s Oeno Wine Bar in Old Town Square, which caters to an age 30-and-up crowd, Revolution will cater to a younger set.

“We’re going to do some exciting things in the front of the building to attract people in,” Stephan says. “We’re going to play music from the ’80s and things like that.”

He’ll have a DJ and show music videos on the wall.

The bar should open by early October.

Stephan hopes to open at the Eaton by early September.

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Press to close at the Waterfront; new business to open in its place

WICHITA — If you’re one of the people who purchased a Groupon from Press, you’d better use it soon.

Aug. 6 is the Waterfront bar’s last day in business.

“As of August sixth . . . something is going to happen there,” owner Melad Stephan says.

He has three offers for the space — two are local, one isn’t. The potential owners have three different ideas: One wants a restaurant, one wants a bistro-style business and one wants a combination bar and restaurant.

Stephan isn’t sure which one he — or his landlords — will accept. He’s hoping to get out of his lease, which still has four and a half years.

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Old Town’s Uptown Bistro to close April 2

WICHITA — After months of speculation — and some denials — Melad Stephan says he’s closing Uptown Bistro in Old Town Square on April 2.

“That store hasn’t lived up to my standards in food and service and sales,” he says. “I’ll take the blame for some of it. Or most of it.”

Stephan signed a new 5-year-lease last month.

“I’m not going to leave that spot. I’m going to do something with it some day.”

He’s working on a new concept, but he won’t share details yet.

Stephan grew fed up with Uptown Bistro.

“I told them the other day, if I hear one more complaint, I’m shutting the doors down,” he says. “I’m done with everybody.”

Stephan says he couldn’t be there enough to oversee and correct operations.

He also owns Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Egg Cetera, Oeno and Press.

So has he considered perhaps limiting himself to only one or two restaurants?

“I have in the past,” Stephan says. “You know what? You do one thing     . . . you get bored with it.”

He says he could don his chef’s coat and revive Uptown Bistro on his own, but he doesn’t want to.

“Do I have the passion and the time and the effort to do it at this stage in my life? I don’t.”

He’s been in the restaurant business 25 years.

“You know, just the routine kills you. You want to advance your life.”

Look for an update on the space as soon as Stephan makes a final decision.

Melad Stephan plans cocktail lounge for former Sabor space at the Waterfront

WICHITA — When Melad Stephan closed his Sabor Latin Bar & Grille at the Waterfront in February, he said a number of things could happen with the space.

He considered bringing a new concept or finding someone else to take the space.

“We were hoping someone would buy it or take it over,” Stephan says.

That hasn’t happened, so he’s now chosen to put a cocktail lounge there.

D’Vine is the working name.

“That’s what I’m leaning to. Someone said it wasn’t manly enough,” he says, laughing.

Stephan plans some remodeling, including taking out the island bar.

“It was just so inconvenient when we (got) busy.”

He’s going to darken the atmosphere and expand the outside patio, where he plans to have live music.

Stephan will serve tapas along with “a lot of good cocktails Wichita hasn’t seen yet.”

Unlike a restaurant, which costs more to operate in part because of a larger staff, Stephan says the lounge should be more profitable.

“The break-even will be a lot less,” he says of what he’ll have to make.

Look for a mid-to-late August opening.

“It’s going to be a cool place.”

Jason-Paul Febres and Roni Attari to open Latin restaurant near Central and Tyler

WICHITA — Jason-Paul Febres once again has left Sabor Latin Bar & Grille.

Last year at about this time, he left to start his own restaurant amid differences with owner Melad Stephan, but another restaurateur nabbed the space he wanted.

Febres and Stephan reconciled, and Febres returned to Sabor last summer.

Now, he’s teaming with Roni Attari, another employee of Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management, to open Yuca Latin Bistro.

The restaurant, which will offer Latin fusion food, will open within a month in the former Quiznos building on Tyler just south of Central.

“Everybody was telling me, ‘Open on the east side! Open on the east side!’ ” Febres says. “But I guess the west side has a lot of potential.”

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Sabor Latin Bar & Grille closes at the Waterfront

– Despite numerous protestations that it wouldn’t happen, the east-side Sabor Latin Bar & Grille has closed.

When first contacted late last year about whether the restaurant was closing, owner Melad Stephan had a good laugh over how rumors get started.

Then last month, Sabor district executive chef Jason-Paul Febres said those rumors would disappear for good with some changes that were coming to the restaurant.

But Saturday was its last day in business.

“I just got fed up with it, not having the sales,” Stephan says. “It’s cheaper right now for me to shut it.”

He has five years left on his lease.

“I need to visit with my partners about it to see what we might want to do.”

Selling is an option.

“I’m willing to entertain an offer,” Stephan says. “I’m willing to walk away.”

He’s also considering bringing a franchise to the space.

The fondue restaurant the Melting Pot is his most likely choice.

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Sabor at the Waterfront is not closing

WICHITA — The hot restaurant talk at the end of last year has continued into this year, and that’s that the east-side Sabor Latin Bar & Grille is closing or converting into a new business.

“There were some rumors that we were closing, but right now we’re going to keep it open,” says Sabor district executive chef Jason-Paul Febres.

Febres says the Old Town Sabor had a better reception than the one that opened in late 2008 at the Waterfront.

“Downtown people . . . they’re more open to try Latin food,” Febres says.“They’re more open to new ideas.”

The economy has been a factor, too.

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