Must Eats . . .
Please to enjoy/debate (and SERIOUSLY, Wichita restaurant community, your websites pretty much all suck - but you can click on the names of each place for their sites (where applicable)) . . .
1) The Beacon - I already told you why . . . classic greasy spoon diner and great people watching.
What I Get: Egg whites, melted cheese, (English) muffin. Don't worry - it all tastes like sausage anyway.
2) Ziggy's - The BEST pizza in Wichita and a fantastic little spot within walking distance of all three of my Wichita homes (two past, one current - I only have one home at a time). I've not been back for dinner since, the "incident" but . . . I will return.
What I Get: Cheese Johnson and as many Diet Dr. Peppers as they will pour me.
3) N&J Middle Eastern Cuisine - Wichita has a PROUD hummus history. This is among the better and most of their food is terrific but the ambiance is seriously lacking. Take good company with you and you'll never even notice.
What I Get: Hummus & Kafta
4) College Hill Deli & Catering - Another terrific small eatery in College Hill. Will seat about 20 - usually only has about half that. Delicious food and easy-going staff.
What I Get: Hummus
5) Bite Me BBQ - While not as celebrated as the better known Kansas City (of which more of is in Missouri than Kansas) barbecue scene, we have our fair share of good, slow cooked meats. This place is my favorite if only because it is in the space that was once the office of my ex-wife's creepy chiropractor. Go on Saturdays for lunch and hit Old Town Salvage before or after. Amazing shopping right next store.
What I Get: Sliced brisket sandwich with pickles and yellow mustard on top and regular fries on the side.
6) The Anchor - Wichita's favorite "always improving" eatery is fantastic for the scene, the bar options (for those who partake) and for the fantastic "pub" food. If you're really lucky you can see the Greteman Group Girl Army on selected Fridays. Fantastic women with killer shoes and cool attitudes.
What I Get: Pub-Grub Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup OR the side Caesar with chicken. Also . . . surprisingly good hummus there AND they have flavored iced tea from the Spice Merchant.
7) El Agave - Wichita has exactly 539 Mexican restaurants that are all EXACTLY the same. Seriously. El Agave is no better or worse than any of them but they are hardly ever crowded, the kitchen is even faster than average, and they have great friggin' queso.
What I Get: Cheese quesadilla (Mexican = Milk + Meat so my options are slim)
8) The Hill - I like Mike's Wine Dive (same owners) and I don't know why I prefer this place (it is 100 yards closer to my house, maybe?) but I love The Hill. I've had five or six great meals there including a blind-ish date (for KMUW) that went rather well in the fall. Good space and vibe.
What I Get: Black Bean Burger with fries but I do NOT use the salsa that comes with the burger (often very hot and really inconsistent in spice level - go yellow mustard instead).
9) Bella Luna - The first meal I ever had in Wichita in 2004 and still a favorite spot. NOTHING on the menu disappoints and the crowd is always lively and fun. Great service, too.
What I Get: Hummus and fattoush (no olives) OR the sampler platter (Bradley Fair location only)
10) Public (at the Brickyard) - This place is a welcome refresh to the restaurant side of one of the better spaces for open air drinking and music partaking in Old Town. I've only been a handful of times but have never been disappointed and I love that the tabs come inside old books.
What I Get: Caprese sandwich. Fantastic portions of each ingredient.
11) Mediterranean Grill - You would not think a restaurant wedged between a car dealership, a Target, a mall, and a Red Lobster would be any good. You would think wrong. Not only does this place have a water feature inside for no apparent reason but it has great food.
What I Get: Hummus and lamb burger or fish sandwich
12) Da Cajun Shak - Yes. I'm suggesting you eat Cajun food in east Wichita. Yes. You can get gator there. No. You are not reading that wrong. The place has great prices, HUGE portions, and a stark enough environment that you'll never confuse it for the actual bayou.
What I Get: I have not been since ditching crustaceans and pork from my diet. Before that . . . Red Beans and sausage.
13) Zaytun - Fusion at its finest. This place is a KMUW underwriter (so you have to love it) and they are also one of the better kept secrets in Wichita food. Delicious. Truly. Great for a weeknight meal.
What I Get: Mutton Karhai or anything else that strikes my fancy. Sooooo good.
14) Riverside Cafe - You can KEEP your Copper Kettle. I'm all in on Riverside Cafe. Sure, sure, sure . . . breakfast all day, big portions, easy going atmosphere. All fine and well but they have the dessert to end all Wichita desserts (see below).
What I Get: Anything that won't take up too much space before my SUGAR FREE PEANUT BUTTER PIE!
15) Popcorn Express - No. It is not a restaurant. Yes. It is in a super awkward part of town (between 1st and 2nd against 135) but you can get flavored popcorn there by the garbage bag (or any smaller gallon increment) and it is cheap. Perfect for making gift baskets, hosting movie/slumber parties, or eating your way through a divorce . . . or so I have heard.
What I Get: Cheddar. Your fingers will be greasy and orange for days. Delicious, delicious days.
16) Tanya's Soup Kitchen - I didn't live here the first time spunky, wonderful, pixie-dust fueled Tanya ran her soup empire but I'm very glad she decided to reboot the soup machine and make us happy again. I love Tanya (she's a big KMUW lover and her food reviews make me happy and I had the pleasure of doing an hour of pitch drive with her and I'm smitten with her energy). VERY busy during lunch but you can go early or late and have no trouble getting a table.
What I Get: Croquadille and a vegetarian soup (they change daily)
17) My Tho - Random-assed pool hall on Central at the edge of downtown? Yep. Random hours? Yep. Frequent closings for months at a time while the staff goes home-home? Yep. Totally worth the battle to get in there when they are open? YEP!
What I Get: Whatever Carrie Rengers (I always go with her) orders for us but usually the pot roast tho.
18) Wings & Things - Like any other wing "joint" but better because it is not part of a chain, there are not 10 TVs within view of every seat in the house, and there is less crowd and noise to contend with.
What I Get: Wings. Duh.
19) Warren Old Town - It is no longer novel or exciting to have a movie theater that will sell and deliver food and snacks directly to and from your chair while you watch the movie but the Warren Old Town was once a true innovator. I worked diagonally from the theater for about four years and I still love to go on Wednesdays for $5 movies.
What I Get: Spicy Buffalo Wings and Fries. I would not even want to see what they look like in the light but they are DELICIOUS while watching a movie.
20) Cafe Asia - If you like your "Asian" food to cover a wide swath of the continent vs. just be Americanized crap over rice . . . Cafe Asia is for you. If you don't mind authentic, mom-and-pop-places where one of the dining room tables is the "office" for the management and another table is the play space for the kids of those making and serving your meals, Cafe Asia is for you. If you like sporadic hours, Cafe Asia is for you. If you want some amazing friggin' food - Cafe Asia is. for. you.
What I Get: Tomato Fried Rice w/ Medium "White Person" Heat