Archive | October, 2010

Mi Familia Mexican Restaurant and Mini Mart (Formerly Laura’s Super Tortas and Tortas Del Sol)

30 Oct

8-15-13 UPDATE: This restaurant is now called Mi Familia and hopefully still serves good food

6-14-13 UPDATE: This restaurant has changed its name again, but still appears to be a Mexican food establishment. I have not had a chance to visit yet.

*Since the posting of this blog Laura’s has been bought out and the name changed to Tortas Del Sol. I have not visited yet, but I am told that the menu has remained the same.

“It’s right next to the plasma bank on East Central” Those are the directions I gave my friend in order to locate Laura’s Super Tortas. This is a great dive located just to the east of Cleveland and Central. When you are located next to a plasma center and have bars on the doors and windows you know that the place has good food. I think the bars are there to keep Torta junkies from tossing a trash can through the window at 2 in the morning to get their torta fix. On this particular day I was not able to convince my friend to try Thai food, so we fell back on option two or should I say option torta.

There are two Laura’s in town and at this particular location the restaurant is rather small and combined with a small store the specializes in Hispanic food items. I have been to Laura’s several times now and each time I never know whats going to happen as far as the chips are concerned. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t. On the occasion I was lucky enough to get the chips and salsa they were pretty good, so I don’t know what the deal is. To balance out the absence of chips they do serve Mexican Coke, which is made with sugar cane instead of corn syrup and in my opinion is much better than the USA stuff. But don’t tell the corn syrup lobby about that comment, I can only imagine them coming to my door like the Jehovah Witnesses like to do. Anyway when you’re at this place you must order a torta, which is basically a Mexican sandwich. They do serve other typical Mexican dishes, which my friend indulged in, but the tortas are too good to pass up. This time I had the Victoria torta, which comes with sliced pork, ham, a slice of queso blanco cheese, mayo, guacamole, lettuce, jalapeno, and tomato all on a homemade toasted bun. Hmm lets see here, two kinds of piggy meat, cheese, guac, and mayo. Ummmm yeah, I think I’ll take one of those. Throw in a side of rice and beans and you won’t have to eat for 12 hours. Like always the Torta Victoria was bangin’ and if you like it a bit hotter they do bring out some salsa verde to throw down on it. I think my friend was satisfied with the outcome of his meal, although he was a bit suspicious of the atmosphere and surroundings.

If you go to Laura’s you must remember you are going there for the food and not the ambiance or the fact that they use knorks (Laura’s actually serves you nice pre-packaged plasticware). So if you are looking for a cheap place to get some good lunchtime grub check them out and when you are done go next door and sell some plasma. And if they ask you whether you have done any drugs or alcohol recently just say, “No, but I did just eat a torta.”

One Tasty and Busy Weekend(La Posada, Nu Way, and Cinnamon’s Deli)

27 Oct

Phil and I were able to enjoy three different restaurants this past weekend. Only one of them was new, but we are blogging about all three. Friday night I had my school carnival, so to say I was in a crappy mood would be a slight understatement. Twelve hours with children can do that to anyone though. Onto the food. Phil decided to cheer me up by taking me out for some Mexican food since it is one of my favorites. We went to La Posada, located in a strip mall south of  Kellogg and Oliver.  This was our first time to visit the establishment and were greeted by two young girls watching the Disney Channel. One of which was still in her school uniform at 9pm on a Friday. I really felt for this poor girl, back in the day I couldn’t wait the get those school uniforms off after school. The place was devoid of humanity except for the family that owns/runs the operation. This was a very good sign in my opinion. Chances are if you see a family working at the restaurant, the food is going to be top notch. The place is brightly decorated and has plenty of room, but I think they get more of a lunch crowd than dinner. Two more tables did show up while we were eating though. We were quickly served chips and two varieties of salsa. Besides your typical red they also served a salsa verde. My advice would be to hold off on the salsa verde till you have a beverage in front of you, it has a bit of a kick.

I ordered the combination plate which contained a cheese enchilada, tamale, and chicken flauta with beans and rice. Let me get the bad news out of the way. The chicken flauta was atrocious. There was absolutely no flavor to it. I had to dip the flauta in the salsa verde to get some flavor. If I am having to use spicy salsa to get some flavor, something is very wrong. The tamale was pretty bland too but not nearly as bad. Nothing that made me want to come back. Now you are probably wondering what the good news is, well my friends I think Felipe’s may have some serious competition in the enchilada race. So serious Felipe’s may be moving down to second. That enchilada was mouth watering and perfect. The sauce in it was spectacular and we decided that it must have been bathed in a bath of  butter. They must have gotten the recipe from Paula Dean. Think buttered toast taste. The enchilada was so good I caught someone reaching over for second and third helpings with his fork.

I, Phil, ordered a corn huarache meal not really knowing what in the world I was in for. It turned out to be a thick corn tostada piled with carne asada, lettuce, and beans. It was good, but could have used some cheese to top it off. The rice and beans were nothing to get excited about. All in all La Posada is really good at making enchiladas, but the other food we tried needed some more seasoning to them. So if you decide to check out La Posada we suggest you just order a platter of enchiladas and skip the rest of the bland stuff.

Saturday we needed a quick meal in between making our costumes for a Halloween party and leaving for the Halloween party. We have a Nu Way close to our house at Central and Woodlawn. We tend to forget about it, but decided it sounded good. Now most people who have lived in Wichita are quite familiar with “the crumbly is good” Nu Way burger. If you are unaware and only eat at McDonald’s for unbeknownst reasons, Nu Way is famous for having crumbly hamburgers. It makes for a greasy messy meal to say the least. We of course got an order of curly fries and a large root beer as well. The root beer at Nu Way is the ultimate. If you are really down and out, go get a root beer float and I promise your day will improve. We can’t say that Nu Way has the best burgers in town, but with pickles and mustard they are certainly special.

On Sunday we were able to coax our family into Cinnamon’s Deli. Our families are very supportive of our chain free eating ways, but we have some “picky” eaters in our family and we try to work with them. It may have helped that those picky people weren’t going to lunch on Sunday. Cinnamon’s is one of our favorite places for sandwiches. They have a wide variety sandwiches served on fresh, toasted, homemade bread. So take that Subway! Fair warning, unless you are in training for cage fighting or an eating contest, the half sandwich will be more than enough. I ordered the Turkey-Avocado-Cream Cheese-minus the avocado. Why people eat raw avocados I don’t know. I also got a bread bowl of tomato bisque. The food was good, but I was only able to eat half of my half sandwich. I suggest getting the soup in a bowl though, for the mere fact that I don’t like the bread bowl soaking up my soup and getting soggy. However, the rest of my family loves the bread bowl. I am one picky pain in the butt. Most of the time when we have come to Cinnamon’s everything was great. Unfortunately we can’t say 100% because there have been times we have been served cold soup or the service was less than friendly. But whenever we go on Sunday afternoons, we never have a problem.

I, Phil, had a Reuben sandwich on this occasion. You could tell that all the ingredients were fresh and homemade, although the corned beef was a bit on the fatty side though. It was still a very good sandwich and went well with the delicious tomato bisque .

So that wraps up our weekend dining extravaganza. We found a great place for enchiladas, reacquainted ourselves with an old favorite, and experienced what is in our opinion one of the top sandwich places in town. That should keep you entertained until the next time.

Upcoming Teaser: I am taking a good friend of mine out on a Chainfree mission this week. Stay tuned to see which crazy place I decide to take my less than adventurous friend.

Pho Hot Bistro (Pho: It’s pronounced fu like in fudge) – Wichita KS

15 Oct

Steph and I were aimlessly driving around the other night trying to think of some local place that was still open at 9:15 on a weeknight. Unfortunately many chainfree places do not serve past 9. I had the urge to try out a new 24/7 Mexican place on West St., but our stomachs would just not tolerate the long haul to the west side on this night. We shamefully fell back on plan B which was going to be a Freddy’s steakburger, but as we pulled into the parking lot on N. Rock I spied our salvation and its name was Pho Hot Bistro. Pho Hot Bistro specializes in  Vietnamese cuisine. It has been open on Rock for perhaps a year, and until recently had a sister location called Pho Hot on Pawnee. For those of you who have never tried Vietnamese food or are still scared about venturing off of Rock Rd. to eat, this is the place for you. It is safely tucked between McAlister’s Deli and Freddy’s and has recently been remodeled. It also has ample seating, so in other words it’s not your typical dive that we are so fond of. Some may complain that it is too sanitized and Americanized, but I think it is a good concept that may encourage people to try new food.

The menu is rather accessible to those who may be a bit leery of Vietnamese food. They have some of your typical appetizers that you would find in most Asian restaurants. The spring rolls are very good, although for the price I wish you would get a bit more. The Pho, which is a Vietnamese broth served with thin sliced meat, noodles, cilantro, peanuts, and bean sprouts is just the thing to warm you on a cold day. This time we both tried new dishes. Steph tried the Pork Po Boy sandwich, which came with thin sliced sweet pork, cilantro, a mayo sauce, and some julienne carrots served on a toasted bun. The sandwich was very good although it could have used a bit more pork. But in my opinion everything could use a bit more pork. I tried the combination vermicelli noodle bowl. It was piled high with shrimp, pork, pieces of spring roll, vermicelli, and sprouts. It came with a traditional Vietnamese sauce that is a combination of sweet, salty, and tangy tastes. Both of these dishes were great and we would highly recommend them.

If you happen to walk into Pho Hot with the intention of eating a steak from Amarillo Grill you would, surprisingly be in luck. The owner bought the rights to the old Amarillo Grills that were in Wichita, so they offer their famous steak at Pho Hot. Now I have never tried this, mainly because I have common sense, but if anyone out there has let me know!

So, your homework for this weekend is to go to Pho Hot so you can tell everyone that you tried Vietnamese food. Trust me they will be really impressed with you and probably ask if you have recently stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

Pho Hot Bistro on Urbanspoon

Annual St. George Lebanese Dinner(Grape Leaves of Wrathful Delight)

13 Oct

It appears that after my now infamous (or famous depending on your point of view) rebuttal to the “Reader’s Choice” awards last week this blog has been getting a lot of love from people. Thanks so much for all the evangelizing! I do fear that perhaps this blog has hit the high water mark though. Can we continue to amuse our readers week in and week out or will we burn out like so many food blogs before us? We will push on doing what we have been doing and I hope you will continue to laugh or at least keep telling us that you are laughing.

This weekend St. George Orthodox Church had their famous Lebanese dinner fundraiser. This is one of my all time favorite Wichita traditions that dates back to my childhood. When you arrive at the church there are two options available for you, either dine in or drive through. Both options will get you great food with speedy service, although if you dine in they throw in a free tour of the church. This dinner is an easy sell for me,  where else can you get drive thru kibbe and baklava?

 It is too bad that the Roman Catholics parishes in town don’t have anything similar to this. If you took some of the major food cultures that are predominantly Catholic you could come up with a great dinner. Tacos (from Taco Bell of course), beer, lasagna, wine, lamb stew, whiskey, and more beer. I think I’m on to something.

Your meal comes with a small salad with a tangy dressing that is similar to a fattoush, kibbe, ruz and yaknee, stuffed grape leaves, and baklava. Kibbe is a mixture of ground beef or lamb, spices, and some type of grain that has been molded into a square of tasty goodness. Ruz and Yaknee contains green beans, tomato sauce,  and sirloin beef on a bed rice. The stuffed grape leaves have a ground beef and rice mixture. To top the meal off two pieces of baklava are there for your enjoyment.  The most impressive part about this meal extravaganza is that all the food is made by parisoners of the church. Many of them actually grow the grape leaves in their backyards and spend months preparing for the onslaught of diners.  Now that you are all craving some Lebanese food I must refer you to the first word in the title this entry: “Annual”. So sorry you will have to wait until next year to try this place out, but there are a few places in town that serve some of this food. A few places that come to mind are N and J’s, MIF, and Byblos, all of these places should serve most of the above mentioned food. And at some point in the not too distant future we will do reviews of N and J and Byblos.

A Commentary on the Reader’s Choice Awards

7 Oct

Note: If you are here looking for a restaurant review I’m sorry, but I am taking the time to write a response to the Wichita Eagle Reader’s Choice Awards.

Recently the Reader’s Choice winners were announced in the Wichita Eagle. The online and write-in voting  by Wichitans took place in July and covered categories from best buffet to best video store. Looking back I wish I would have taken the time to stuff the ballot box a bit. I will focus on some of the food “winners” in this post.

First off is the Best Beer Selection category:  The winner was Old Chicago, which does have a large beer selection. The Anchor did come in second, which made me happy. I think after the remodel at the Anchor they will have quite a few more beers on tap to better compete with Old Chicago, although the Anchor has quite a few bottled beers and a nice selection of regional brew choices already. Granite City came in third, which is interesting because they only have a few different beers to choose from. I guess people must be really impressed with their shiny brewery.

Best Breakfast: The winner was Jimmy’s Egg, maybe because there are about 26 of them in Wichita right now. In my opinion this place is nothing special. The Beacon, The Anchor or Good Egg is much better.  In second place was IHOP, which is just ridiculous. At least Copper Oven got some love in third place.

Best Chinese: The winner was Buffet City. WTF? I have never been to Buffet City, but I can only imagine with “over 200 selections daily” that quality must be sacrificed. Maybe someday when every other Chinese place in town closes I’ll go check it out. Great Wall came in second and PF Changs third.

Best Italian: The winner was Olive Garden. Now I know that Wichita is short on Italian places, but DeFazios and Sweet Basil are much better than this weak place. Now they may not offer never ending bowls of whatever, but at least they have good quality food.

Locally Owned: The winner was Freddy’s. I guess people really love those paper thin hamburgers and their noble attempts to make great custard. This is a dumb category in my opinion, because of how wide open and ambiguous it is.

Best Mexican: Felipes was the winner of this category. I was glad to see that a good restaurant beat out Abuelo’s and Carlos O’Kellys. There are quite a few others I would stack up against Felipes, but I’ll take this small victory for a local place.

Best Mongolian: Genghis Grill won this dubious honor. I really hate this stupid fad of  “Mongolian Grills”. These places are always packed with people chowing down on cut-rate stir fry. Shockingly enough according to Wikipedia the actual Mongolian cuisine has nothing to do with all you can eat shrimp and chicken teriyaki stir fry. They eat alot of goat which I have never seen offered at one of these grills, but maybe a return to the roots of Monglian fare is coming at Genghis Grill. Anyway, don’t go to one these places and if you do don’t tell me about it. You are better off staying at home and make your own stir fry.

Best Thai: The winner is Thai Tradition! Finally a category untouched by chains! Amazing. It probably helps that I cannot think of any Thai food chain places. Thank God atleast one cuisine has been left alone for now. Thai Tradition is a great place located in Carriage Parkway near Central and Edgemoor. Thai House, which is also a great, came in second.

Best Bakery: The winner is Panera, which angers me to no end. When you walk into a bakery you want to see people covered in flour and smell the intoxicating aroma of warm bread. When you walk into Panera you experience none of this. Instead you get a gas fireplace and free WiFi. Panera is not a real bakery people. Now if you would like to go to a real bakery go to Great Harvest. They have two locations on each side of town and although it is a franchise it is locally owned by a good family. I cannot express how great all of their baked goods are. There is also the Delano Bakery and Juarez Bakery in Wichita.

Best BBQ: The winner is Hog Wild. Oooo yum. The last time I went to Hog Wild my poor spare ribs tasted like they had been left in the smoker for a few days. Their brisket and pulled pork are nothing to get excited about, but once again they have many locations and have a catchy jingle on the radio. So I see a connection here, if you have alo t of locations and advertising you automatically have good food. Funny how that works. Well if you want the best BBQ in Wichita go to Pig In! Pig Out!. Their brisket and ribs are awesome. They are also the only BBQ place that routinely competes in local competitions. Atleast Famous Dave’s was not on this list. They are not a BBQ place!

Best Burger: The winner is Feddy’s. I personally like a bit more meat to my burger, but I won’t complain too much because their burgers are alright. I will complain about the fact that Spangles came in second. REALLY? Their burgers taste like styrofoam dipped in beef broth. The Stevens family must have all voted 50 times or something.

French Fries: Once again Freddy’s won. Gee it must be the only place to get a burger and fries in this town. Freddy’s fries are good, but I don’t like the shoestring type. Too hard to dip into ketchup if you ask me. Here is a list of  places you can get better fries: Barn’rds, Scotch and Sirloin, and The Anchor.

Best Subs and Sandwiches: The winner is Subway. Of course! How can they not win? Their frozen bread dough is so good. This is just terrible. You can go to any other Subway in the world and get the same damn thing. Just go to Cinnamon’s Deli or Cafe Moderne to get a good, unique sandwich.

Best Pizza: The winner is Knolla’s. Hooray for another local favorite. Their deep dish pizza is mighty good and gives AJ’s a run for its money.

Best Steak: Texas Road House. I have never been to this place, but I doubt they dry age their beef, which is the key to perfectly tender steak. I don’t even know if they serve USDA Prime steak. Sadly there are not a lot of great steak choices in Wichita. Scotch and Sirloin (which came in second) has a good, yet pricey steak. The same can be said for The Hereford House out in Andover. Chester’s is really overpriced for what you get. So you are left with few options.

Best Taco: I have saved the best for last my friends. I would recommend you sit down before reading the following. Taco Bell is the winner for best taco in Wichita. I don’t really know where to start on this one. I guess Wichitans really like taco meat made from old sick cows that has been crumbled down to micro sized bits of crap. Or maybe it’s those delightful hard taco shells that have been aged to perfection in someone’s Y2K fallout shelter that people go for. I don’t know, but this the last place on earth I would want to go for tacos. Wichita has a great selection of local Mexican places that cannot even be compared to Taco Bell.

So what does all of the preceding mean you ask? Well it means that whoever voted in this stupid poll knows as much about good food as France knows about winning wars, but hopefully we can change that( The food part that is, France is hopeless).  There is much work to do to turn the tide in favor of the local places, but next year I will launch a large,  rather unscrupulous, and determined campaign to set the record straight. Whilst pondering this list of “winners” I find comfort in the wisdom of my grandfather: “Remember, the masses are asses”.

AJ’s Sports Bar

1 Oct

Steph and I recently had a strong and mutual craving for AJ’s pizza. AJ’s Sports Bar is located in the front of Northrock Lanes and has been a constant of pizza goodness since I can remember. I believe their pizza recipe has not changed over the last 20 years.

AJ’s is your typical sports bar. There have many large TVs and sports memorabilia adorned on the walls. A few pool tables are also available for your enjoyment. Thanks to Wichita’s smoking ban(we are big fans of this if you couldn’t tell)  AJ’s is much more enjoyable than it used to be. I typically would rather not have a side of Marlboro with my pizza.

The last couple of times that I have had AJ’s pizza were at bachelor parties, one of them being my own. Unfortunately due to circumstances out of my control I was forced to lay of f the AJ’s following my bachelor party after things went terribly wrong that night…

As far as food goes at AJ’s most of their menu is your typical bar offerings, but where they make their mark is with the pizza. The crust is thin, yet has a unique flavor, while the cheese is generously loaded onto the pie. One other reason that AJ’s pizza distinguishes itself from others is the way they cut their round pizzas into square pieces. On this particular night we decided to try the new super pepperoni pizza. We knew we were in trouble when the waitress warned us that it was rather greasy. It turns out the super pepperoni pizza consists of sliced pepperoni on top of the cheese and a hidden treasure of pepperoni bits beneath the layer of cheese. And yes it is greasy, but delicious. We both thought it was too greasy and would probably stick to the regular pepperoni next time, but it never hurts to try new things.

So AJ’s pizza is still good after all the years, although with some of the newer pizza places are better in my opinion.

NOTE: It is my understanding that the super pepperoni pizza will soon become illegal under the conditions of Obamacare. So you need to get in there before Jan 1st so you can try some greasy goodness.

A J Sports Grill on Urbanspoon

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