April 2013 Update: It appears that Chef Mike closed the venerable mall cart, but you can still enjoy his sandwiches and flair at his freestanding Metro Grill at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb.
One conundrum that occurs with the chain free establishments are the limited hours that some choose to operate. Many of the places we encounter have a lunch service only or they may be closed after lunch until the dinner crowd arrives. Most places are usually closed by 9pm and due to some of the locations you really wouldn’t want to be there after 9. Damn those snazzy chain places and their ability to sling out food till midnight! This anecdote leads to the problem my sister and I were having trying to locate a place to have a late lunch at 3 pm on a weekday. Suddenly, as if I had been shot with a bullet, a diamond bullet through my forehead I suggested going to the mall food court. Yeah, you guessed it, I had a craving for Sbarro pizza.
There was actually some method to my madness. In the eastside mall food court there exists a unique place that while it may look simple, is serving out really special food. Denise Neil of the Eagle as well as Tanya Tandoc(local celebrity chef) rave about this place, so I had no reservations about trying it out. As we approached the small stand located near the mall Santa display, the loud beat of salsa music was emanating from within. One look at the menu and you know this is not your typical mall food. It starts out with a list of fairly intricate sandwiches, but they also offer pasta dishes and hot dogs. The menu could stand up next to any dine-in free standing restaurant out there. Mike Gonzalez who is the owner/operator was busy cooking, chatting, and singing away as we placed our order. My sister, mom, and I all ordered the Infamous Bob sandwich, with sides of asparagus ( I don’t think Aunt Annies offers asparagus). We watched in awe as Mike donned black PVC-coated gloves and went to work on our sandwiches looking like an ninja attacking the dreaded panni press. The Bob sandwich came with chunks of grilled chicken, a nice balsamic dressing, greens, a large chunk of mozzarella, and the optional pepper to kick it up a notch. This sandwich was amazing! It was a perfect blend of sweet, spicy and savory. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our selection. The side of asparagus was equally pleasing.
This is one place that I really want to go back to, because if the rest of the menu items are as good as this sandwich its going to be real enjoyable. For those of you leery about going to the mall don’t worry, there are plans to open a Metro Grill II in Andover at the beginning of January. There is a rumor that it will be a BYOB type establishment. But you shouldn’t wait for the Andover location to open up. This Holiday season when you are at the mall doing some power shopping why not stop by for a power sandwich?
For my birthday I decided the family would eat high on the hog or in the case of the Hereford House it would be upper-middle of the cow. I talk of that magical area on the cow where the succulent ribeye cut comes from. The Hereford House has long been a KC mainstay with several locations in the metro area, although the original downtown location mysteriously burned to the ground a few years ago. The owners recently allowed a third-party to buy the name and open a location in of all places Andover. It is located in the opulent and sizable Terradyne Country Clubhouse. Due to the layout of the clubhouse there is a decent walk between the parking lot and the entrance. If you are lucky you can get a ride in the golf cart shuttle. Just make sure you keep your hands and feet inside the cart at all times. The decor of the restaurant has a western theme to it, yet still remains upscale. Large windows make up the north side of the dining area allowing you a glimpse of the golf course. While you enjoy a nice medium rare filet, you can watch the poor guy who has just lost his 20th ball due to the unforgiving links style nonsense of the golf course.
Alright, so if you go to the Hereford House you should probably order a steak, because that is what they are known for. As a recovering Filet Mignon addict I decided not to tempt fate and went with the ribeye (medium rare of course). It had a great flavor and was cooked to perfection. My only gripes about the restaurant are the fact that their side dishes are rather underwhelming and their steak is about $5-10 more than it should be. My mashed potatoes were rather lacking, they came with no gravy and were devoid of any seasoning. Steph was also upset that they were no longer offering what was probably their best side dish, mashed sweet potatoes. I won’t dwell on their deliciousness since they can no longer be enjoyed here.
So the HH serves a good steak, but I would not say it is a life changing experience like some steaks can be. The high price makes it a tough place to visit often, but if you were ever in need of a date night location, the HH would be sure to impress. To put the HH in perspective I would rank it maybe a touch above the Scotch and Chesters, but they are all very close. Remember, if anyone should ask you where they can find the best steak around here, tell them to drive to OKC or Omaha. It’s worth the extra driving time.
Well it has been several days since we updated this blog. I apologize to all those who have been waking up every morning in anticipation of another masterpiece of blogging literature. Anyway on with the show.
After much family deliberation on Sunday it was decided we would subject everyone to the terrors of a new place. Steph and I have been to Pacific Coast Pizza once before, but were happy to be going again. PCP is located at 37th and Rock on the northwest side of the street. The interior is nice and open with an obscene amount of TVs tucked into every corner. There is also a full bar with seating. If you are looking for a laid back place to watch NFL football with the family this is the place to go. They have NFL Sunday ticket, so chances are your game will be on TV if you really need to watch Buffalo play Cleveland.
This time around I tried the Mojave pizza, which is a BBQ chicken type pizza. It was good, but not great. There was just something missing between the bbq sauce, cheese, and chicken. Steph was feeling adventurous and went with the simple pepperoni pizza. It was also good, but we were not blown away with it. The nice thing about PCP is that they have a nice selection of specialty pizzas to choose from. Although they are hit and miss, there are several that are really good. The mexican themed pizza is one of my favorites. They also offer a s’mores desert pizza that looks really good.
While PCP probably does not have the best pizza in Wichita, they have an extensive menu of specialty pizzas that are a nice change from your ordinary pepperoni.
I received a phone call from my dad the other night inviting Phil and I out to dinner at the Da Cajun Shak close to 21st and Woodlawn. Phil had to miss out since he was at work. Just to clarify, because apparently a couple of customers were confused, Da Cajun Shak serves Cajun food. I know the name can be misleading, but perhaps this young couple had no idea what Cajun food was. The Mardi Gras decorations throughout the restaurant should also be a good hint. The menu includes more well known items like red beans and sausage (red beans and rice), fried shrimp, fried catfish, and jambalaya. There are more adventurous items including gator on the menu. And of course Cajun food can be on the spicy side depending on what you order.
I decided to go with a mini platter not realizing that it came with 3 sides. So to say it was lots of food is a bit of an understatement. Phil enjoyed the leftovers. I chose the red beans and sausage and fried shrimp for my two entrees with the fried okra, french fries, and a salad for my side. My dad ordered the same thing but he got crawfish etouffe and cajun meatloaf with a salad, dirty rice, and jambalaya. My food was wonderful. The shrimp had a light amount of breading on it so you could actually taste the shrimp. The fries were actually the spiciest part of my meal due to their seasoning but they were good. And fried okra…(think of that sound that Homer Simpson makes when he sees a donut) yep that delicious.
Dad’s food was pretty darn good too especially the etouffe. It was very creamy and was supposed to have crawfish in it. I was excited to try the crawfish because I had not ever had it before. I think my dad ate most of the chunks before I stole a bite, that or crawfish has such a mild taste I didn’t notice it. The only dish we were disappointed with was the meatloaf. It was dry and just odd. When you describe a dish and use the word odd, it code for “will not be trying again”.
I looked up some information on Da’ Cajun Shak and found that it is owned by the Granger family. There seemed to be two family members waiting on us-I would guess mom and son. The restaurant is located inside the strip mall where Felipe’s actually started out. It isn’t anything too fancy, but you get your drink in a mason jar, the food is good, and the place is clean. That makes it a top notch place people. So go to Da’ Cajun Shak (which is a huge pain to type when you teach and want to correct the spelling) “Where a taste of Louisiana comes to Wichita.”
Another week and another restaurant. After last week’s adventure I feel rather embarrassed and dirty to be writing about Bella Luna. It seems too mainstream and clean for me to really get revved up about. I even went to the Bradley Fair location to make matters worse. But a chain free restaurant it is, so I don’t want to hear about it. At lunch time Bella Luna was pretty busy, but we were seated rather quickly. The decor inside the Bradley Fair location is sleek and trendy except for one glaring problem, a flat screen TV by the bar. What is the deal with TV’s at every restaurant you go to these days? It seems that when these sexy-wall mounted flat screens came out every restaurant in the country went out and bought several to entertain guests. Now TV’s do have their places in dining establishments, but I don’t think Bella Luna is one of them. I can’t really complain too much, during lunch I was able to catch Blake Griffin highlights on SportsCenter. On a completely different topic Bella Luna often offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights. So if you like Jazz check it out and impress the musicians by asking them to play some Wes Montgomery
As for the food I typically get the chicken shawarma, but today I went crazy and ordered the Gyro. It was rather tasty, with good lean lamb and beef and a tangy taziki sauce all wrapped in one of Bella’s delicious pitas. I of course ordered a side of fries because they are some of the best in town I believe. It only makes sense that a Lebanese type place would serve great fries. We also enjoyed an order of hummus, which is pretty good served with their fresh pitas. Bella Luna actually has an entire building located at Woodllawn and Central devoted to pita making. I have often fantasized about what happens inside that building. Do they have elves baking pita chips around the clock? Are they in need of a quality control pita person? Are they actually baking pitas in there or is it all a front for an urban meth kitchen? These questions will probably never be answered in my lifetime.
I know this post has probably not revealed anything too terribly profound to most of our astute readers, but perhaps it may serve as a reminder that even in the midst of the decadence and depravity that is Bradley Fair one can still enjoy some chainfree eating.