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”.