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Kosta the Greek(CLOSED)

16 Jun

For those who have been waiting for an actual Greek restaurant to open here in the Air Capital, your time has come. There will be no more settling for one of the many Mediterranean places in town, somberly eating hummus and wishing all the while that you could just have a piece of Spanakopita. Kosta Kiosses and his wife are the knights in shining armor(or in this case ,Greeks with feta cheese) that have brought  their food to Wichita.

Kosta the Greek is located on south Meridian just north of Pawnee in a small, yet cozy space. They have done a nice job trying to bring in some Greek flair to the interior with pictures of what I assume is Greece, chalkboards with Greek phrases, and some nice Greek pop music playing, which apparently our son is a fan of.

The Kosta Burger: Greek Fusion at its Best

The Kosta Burger: Greek Fusion at its Best

The menu centers around the traditional meats of gyro and souvlaki, but also features some more familiar American fare. Gyro is a mix of ground beef and lamb that is formed together and thinly sliced, while souvlaki is marinated chunks of pork. The meat is available on pita sandwiches, in sampler platters that include sides and salad, and nestled on top of hamburgers. I was intrigued with Greek/American fusion action that Kosta has going on by offering a burger with gyro meat and “Greek fries” that features feta and lemon dressing. Tzatziki, a tangy yogurt based sauce, is featured on just about every dish. Off the menu specials are offered several times a week as well.

It was a tough call between the Souvlaki and the Kosta burger, but the cashier talked me into the meat disk. It wasn’t a hard sell because it sounded delicious. They start with a hamburger patty and then pile some gyro meat on, add tomatoes, onion, and tzatiki then top it off with the super trendy pretzel bun.  Steph went with the special, Spanakopita, which also happens to be on the regular menu. Spanakopita is a spinach and feta mixture that is wrapped in fillo dough.

My burger lived up to its lofty expectations despite the fact that the burger patty was a bit overcooked. The large amount of gyro meat and tangy tzatiki sauce made up for that issue. Unfortunately the pretzel bun could not stand up to such

Who Needs Quiche When You Have Spanokopita?

Who Needs Quiche When You Have Spanakopita?

mass and it suffered CBF(Catastrophic Bun Failure). I got some basic fries with my meal, which were fine, but for an extra $1 I should have upgraded to the Greek fries. Steph’s plate contained ample amounts of Greek goodness including a salad, roasted red potatoes, and two pieces of Spanakopita. The Spanakopita was a similar to a spinach quiche, but much more creamy and flaky. It is definitely worth a trip down south for. The salad was accompanied by a homemade Greek dressing with plenty of oregano and tomatoes. The roasted potatoes rounded out a satisfying lunch.

The cashier and Kosta himself were friendly and appreciative of our business. They even brought us out a free juice box for our son. If you are looking for a new cuisine to try in Wichita, Kosta is a good bet for a quick  lunch or dinner. Check out their Facebook page for daily specials.

https://www.facebook.com/KostaTheGreek

Kosta The Greek on Urbanspoon

Fat Tony’s Grill and Sports Bar(CLOSED)

28 Sep

With the beginning of football season comes the beginning of sports bar season as well. Although I lack any concrete proof, I imagine that the period from September through January is probably a sports bar’s best season. Wichita has a good selection of local sports bars and it seems like everyone has their favorite. Fat Tony’s, located at 417 E. Douglas, is a somewhat recent addition to the scene, but with their giant TV screen and food challenges they are trying to separate themselves from the rest.

Your Basic Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

The first thing you are drawn to at Fat Tony’s is the large projection screen at the back of the building that displays life size sporting action. Other TVs line the adjoining walls, making it rather challenging to concentrate on any one game or even the person sitting next to you. Glancing over the menu, all seemed rather mundane with the typical offerings of burgers, salads, sandwiches, etc offered, until I came upon the food challenges. The three challenges include: A 9 pound burger with all the fixings and a pound of fries that must be consumed in 45 minutes, a wing challenge with Tony’s signature nuclear sauce, and a five pound Philly cheesesteak with a pound of fries that has to be eaten in 30 minutes. All of these feats seem a bit daunting given the time restraints, but I’m sure that some highly trained eating athlete could pull them off.

Steph and I were both in the mood for a burger, so we went with the basic half pound burger with cheese. The small kitchen is set up in the middle of the dining area,  giving patrons the opportunity to watch the cooks in action. One thing I did catch was the bag of frozen fries that the cook pulled out and dumped into the fryer. It was a bit disappointing to see them cutting corners like that.

I was happy to see that our burgers had not been overcooked when they arrived. There was still a bit of pink in the middle, which is hard to get in a burger these days. The patties were moist, but could have used some additional seasoning. All in all I would have to say it was a slightly above average burger. The fries could not overcome the fact they had been pulled from the freezer bag, as they tasted rather industrial.

Fat Tony’s passes the litmus test for a respectable sports bar. Decent food, obscenely large and numerous TV’s and plenty of cold beer. Plus they are one of the few places in town that offers eating challenges.

http://www.fattonysgrill.com/

Fat Tony's Sports Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Las Tias de Beto (CLOSED)

20 Aug

Always on the lookout for a good Mexican place we tried the recently opened Las Tias de Beto (The Aunts of Beto) the other day. This restaurant is conveniently located next door to the wonderful Juarez Bakery in the small shopping center at 1068 N. Waco. It appeared that we had picked a good day to try this place because a small sign outside the restaurant listed the daily specials as fish tacos, barbacoa tacos, and menudo.

Fish Tacos With Delicious White Rice

Inside Las Tias you will find a newly remodeled space that is clean and inviting. The menu at Las Tias is small, but I have heard that it will be expanded in the coming months. For now there is just a short list of typical Mexican fare including burritos, sopes, enchiladas, and tortas.

Beef Sopes

Much to my dismay there were no pork options on the menu, but for now I am willing to let it go in hopes that they will add them later on. Steph and I were both intrigued by the specials, so we ordered the fish taco plate and a barbacoa taco. I also got a beef sope plate to sample something off the menu. While we waited, the obligatory chips and salsa came out to our table. The salsa was average, but the chips were warm, thick, and homemade.

Simple Yet Amazing Barbacoa

As it turned out the specials of the day were truly special, the fish tacos were lightly breaded and served with corn tortillas, a fresh vegetable garnish, and rice and beans. Another highlight of this dish was the white rice. Seasoned with whole cloves of garlic and herbs it was simple yet delicious. The barbacoa was probably the best I have tasted in Wichita. The meat melted in your mouth and had a wonderful velvety texture. Served with just a corn tortilla, cilantro, and onions it was a classic Mexican dish. The sope platter was a hit as well. The chewy masa shells were topped with ground beef, lettuce, and queso fresco.

True to its name, Las Tias appeared to be operated by an entirely female staff.  They were very friendly and appreciative that we had visited their restaurant. Although I would have liked to see a few more menu items, what we sampled was great.  If you like to eat REAL Mexican food and not something covered in layers of Monterrey jack cheese this is definitely a place you need to check out. Just remember to leave yourself room for dessert, because Juarez Bakery it just a few shorts steps away.

http://www.lastiasdebeto.com/Home/
Las Tias de Beto on Urbanspoon

Sit @ Thai Express(CLOSED)

17 Feb

As some of you may know, Wichita holds the dubious honor of being one of the top ten cities in the US for fast food restaurants. Yes we are choc full of fast hamburger, chicken, and taco places, but at least we can boast of a place that serves fresh Thai fast food. No, Spangles is not rolling out a new Pad Thai bowl, I’m talking about Sit @ Thai Express(Note: The use of the “@” lets people know this is a trendy and happening place that they should definitely frequent). In order to compete with other fast food joints, Thai Express even has a drive through window. But please do not  attempt to eat that steaming bowl of Red Curry on the drive home. Even though it maybe tempting, it will probably end badly for you and your car.  Thai Express opened last fall in the old Taco Shop location just east of Oliver and Central. With the new paint job you would have to be colorblind to miss its beautiful fluorescent green exterior.

A Can’t Miss Paint Scheme

After changing managers not long after opening, Thai Express has revamped their menu and now everything is made fresh to order. The cozy dining space has a few small tables and ordering is done at the counter. The decor is sparse and modern, but the Happy Halloween doormat was a nice touch I thought.  It seemed they were having some climate control issues on the blustery day that we decided to dine there, so perhaps take out is the way to go during extreme climatic events.

Their menu consists of 20 Thai dishes that are displayed along with pictures on the front wall, most are offered with your choice of chicken, beef, or shrimp.  Appetizers and a few Thai specialty drinks are also available. The three of us each ordered a different type of curry, I went with my favorite Panang. We also tried out the 3 piece dumpling appetizer. The food came out within a few minutes served in styrofoam to-go boxes minus their lids. Besides the main dish, each meal came with a small egg roll, steamed rice, and sweet dipping sauce.

Panang Curry Meal

It was not the best  bowl of Panang that I have ever had, I definitely would have liked some Thai basil on the side, but for the quick service and value it was acceptable. The small egg roll was very good and left me wanting several more of them along with the dipping sauce. The dumplings made for a nice light appetizer complete with a tasty filling of some unknown ingredients. The other two people I had lunch with both enjoyed their curry meals.

Tasty Dumplings

Thai Express offers a tasty alternative to the typical fried fast food options in the surrounding area. Although it may not be the best Thai food available in the city, it is certainly convenient. With many menu options it is a good place for a quick lunch or dinner during the week.

http://sitatthaiexpress.com/

Sit @ Thai Express on Urbanspoon

Bocconcini (Home of the Pork^2 Dish) CLOSED

7 Jan

CLOSED

2011 has been officially dubbed by many experts of the Wichita dining scene as the year of the Italian restaurant. After years of lacking many solid options for people to get their carb and tomato sauce fix, almost overnight Wichita had just added 4 new Italian places. Bocconcini was one of the first to open, taking over the vacant Sugar Sister’s location at Central and Oliver. They were an instant hit and actually had to close for several days to streamline their operation due to the high demand.

The day we stopped by was no different, as we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table for 5 to open up and unfortunately there are not many large tables. If you have a party over 4 I would highly recommend getting a reservation or you run the risk of getting stuck in the queue for a bit. The dining area is largely unchanged from the Sugar Sister era although a 4 seat bar has been built and it seems more tables have been added to the open dining room, which can create some noise issues if you are there during a busy dinner or lunch crowd.

The menu offers all your favorite Italian dishes from homemade TR(toasted ravioli of course) to chicken alfredo, but also has some more unique dishes including a salmon sandwich and homemade seasonal ravioli. There were many dishes that caught my eye, but one dish in particular took my breath away, the Pork Saltimbocca. There was no way I could pass up a “thin sliced pork tenderloin wrapped with prosciutto”. Mmmmm pork wrapped in more pork. Steph decided to try the seasonal ravioli, which at this time of year happened to be filled with winter squash and served with a light white sauce with zucchini.

The lovely winter squash ravioli with garlic toast.

My dish was a delightful plate of salty goodness. The pork was tender and although a bit overcooked it was wrapped in prosciutto so I wasn’t complaining. Served with polenta and a marsala sauce it was good stuff. Steph really enjoyed her ravioli dish, so much so that I barely got a sample. You could certainly tell that the ravioli was homemade. I was also able to sample some of the home fries that my sister had ordered. Booconcini’s fries consist of  large chunks of roasted potato that are drizzled with a garlicky olive oil. The are certainly worth a try.

Sweet delicious Pork^2 dish

Overall we enjoyed our visit to Bocconcini, although I would have liked a side salad or perhaps some garlic toast to come with my pork dish to add a bit more food for the price. This is probably not the best place to take a large family,  but is good if you are looking for a nice “upscalish” option for lunch or dinner. The menu is top notch and offers alternate options to the old tired Italian dishes.

Note: Unlike some Italian places there is no never ending bread basket at Bocconcini, so if you are expecting that keep going go to Olive Garden.

Just in case you were struggling with Bocconcini’s name here is the pronunciation and translation: boh-kohn-CHEE-nee, which means small bites. Bocconcini are also small nuggets of fresh mozzarella cheese. Mmmm nuggets of cheese.

http://www.360wichita.com/Restaurants/Italian/BocconciniItalianEatery.html

Bocconcini on Urbanspoon

Luca Italian Kitchen (CLOSED)

5 Oct

CLOSED

A few Sundays ago, Phil and I found ourselves with only my parents for Sunday lunch. This was a nice surprise because it allowed for us to be a bit more adventurous and we were able to try a new spot. We decided Italian sounded good, and as much as we love us some Olive Garden and its endless salad and bread sticks and non-authentic food we opted first for Bocconcini’s but discovered they are closed on Sundays, so we headed to Luca Italian Kitchen in Old Town Square. Phil and I had visited the restaurant once before on a Saturday night, but passed it up once we found there was a long wait.  We were pleasantly surprised to find no wait on Sunday. In fact, there were only two other tables in the whole place.  The waiter quickly brought us out a carafe of water sans ice. How very European of them we thought, as long as they don’t charge us $15 dollars a carafe(FYI: They do that in France).  The waiter also provided us with a little background on the chef and his culinary philosophies. The chef is originally from Italy and up until a few months ago had been working in Denver before he was lured away to open this venture. He puts an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients as well as making just about everything from scratch.

Now I feel the need let you know that  you are not going to find “traditional” Italian dishes that we are used to on Luca’s menu. The menu is small with a good blend of pizzas, foccacia sandwiches, pasta dishes, and main entrees. You wont find plain old spaghetti, manicotti, or mac n cheese, so if you have a problem with that I guess you can stick to Olive Garden. Phil and I started off with a house salad to split and my parents ordered a grilled Caesar salad. Both salads were wonderful and rather large. The Caesar consisted of a split head of grilled Romaine drizzled with dressing.The house vinaigrette on our salad was very good as well. For lunch, I went ahead with the Gnocchi Sorrentina. Gnocchi is a potato based pasta that came in a tomato sauce with homemade mozzarella. The dish is much more simple than I had anticipated. The sauce was fantastic and the pieces of pasta were cooked perfectly. The mozzarella was the star of the dish with large chunks of it hiding in the sauce. I only wish I had added some type of meat to the dish-shrimp was an option and would have been great. Chicken and beef are also options. Phil ordered the Prosciutto Focacce. Think of it as a warm sandwich with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and arugula served on foccacia bread. Phil really enjoyed the sandwich and I even stole a bite of it because the prosciutto was dang tasty. Our only complaint was that the sandwich came with a side of french fries. This was kind of weak for a restaurant that prides itself as being a traditional Italian place. Our favorite dish of the visit ended up belonging to my mom. She ordered the crespelle di spinachi e ricotta which were savory crepes stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese and topped with a very rich parmasean sauce. The dish is extremely rich and mom was able to eat about half of it. We happily helped her out with the rest. Luca does have a slightly different dinner menu so there are options like ravioli that are not available for lunch.

Overall, we enjoyed our experience. Our server was very knowledgeable and attentive, we had a nice quiet lunch, and enjoyed our food. I would love to go back and try out the spinach ravioli at dinner sometime. If you are in a hurry this is not the place to go. Since their dishes are all made to order you will find the wait a bit longer than what would typically be expected, but I think it’s worth it for the food you get.

<a href=”Luca Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon“>

Farewell Kwan Court

20 Sep

As of Sunday the 18th of September one of Wichita’s landmark Asian restaurants has closed. Kwan Court had a 20+ year run as having arguably the best Chinese buffet in town as well as some darn good sushi. Kwan Court was one of the first places to get in on the sushi craze before it had really caught on in Wichita. Their extensive Chinese and Japanese menu appealed to just about everyone’s tastes, but unfortunately they fell on hard times.

I had been to Kwan Court a number of times growing up, but it wasn’t until I started dating my wife that I started eating there regularly. After years of having a disdain for sushi, Kwan Court was the first place I broke down and tried it. That experience was the springboard for my adventures in sushi as well as my overall exploration of new and exotic food. Besides the sushi one of my all time favorite dishes was served at Kwan Court. I’m talking about the Crispy Walnut Shrimp. If you ever had this dish then you know what I am talking about. It is hard to think that I may never get to have this dish again.

Last week we had a family birthday bash at Kwan Court and even though they were closing in two days their food was as good as always. It was a great way to say good bye to a beloved restaurant. And although the owner would not give us his Walnut Shrimp recipe he did present me with a gallon of the sauce as a parting gift.

The restaurant business is tough, especially in the current economy. With the many dining choices out there, it  is important that people continue to support our local places. The more unique places we lose, the more homogenized and bland out restaurant scene becomes.

And The Wiener Is – Wichita KS (CLOSED)

24 Jun

In honor of Congressman Wiener’s recent troubles we hit up a place that he would have loved to tweet about. And the Wiener Is has had a tumultuous few years on the Wichita restaurant scene. They have changed their name and location several times and currently reside on the northwest corner of Douglas and Grove. The Wiener has a simple concept, serve lots of hot dogs. 47 varieties to be exact, although a few were not available on the day we visited, thus we were left with only 44 some odd dogs to choose from.

The restaurant is trendy and cozy with about 10 tables in the place and some nice wiener inspired art on the walls. All the hot dogs are listed on a wall next to the counter where you place your order. I would recommend taking your time to read through all the offerings to find the perfect dog for your mood that day. Whether you want Italian or Mexican food they can accommodate your cravings. One highlight of the menu is the PB and J dog. Perhaps after a night in Old Town that might be a delicious combination, but not at 3pm on a Wednesday, so I passed that bad boy up. I eventually decided on the Cob Dog which was modeled off of a Cobb salad with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and blue cheese dressing. Steph went with the Tater Dog which contained bits of potato, cheese, green onions, and sour cream. The Wiener offers several sides including chips, mac’n’cheese, fries, and cole slaw as well as throwback RC Cola. I went with the mac’n’cheese and Steph tried the slaw out.

After settling in at our comic book surfaced table our food was quickly delivered to us. The different flavor profiles of my dog  worked well together. It was basically a salad stacked on top of a hot dog and stuffed into a bun. Speaking of buns, The Wiener Is does not use your typically store bought buns. Their buns are light, flaky, and slightly toasted. As for their wieners, they use a nice plump version that has plenty of flavor. My mac’n’cheese was as it should be, cheesy and creamy. Steph’s wiener was masterpiece of flavors and visual appeal. On top of the dog were cubed fried potatoes, cheese, sour cream, and green onions. It was great on so many levels. One word of caution with these hot dogs is do not attempt to eat them with your hands. These guys are large, overstuffed, and messy. Do yourself a favor and grab a knife and fork. It will save you from unnecessary spills, burns, and general embarrassment.

And the Wiener Is does a good job at being a specialty hot dog establishment. Their side dishes are nothing to get excited about, so I would suggest ordering two varieties or doing the double dog. The Wiener is a good option for a late night meal, a quick lunch stop, or any time you are in the mood for an exotic hot dog.

<a href="http://And the Wiener Is... on Urbanspoon“>

Gaslamp Grille and Lounge- Wichita KS (CLOSED)

14 Jun

4/27/12 After months of rumors Gaslamp Grille has closed. A sad end to what was initially a great fine dining restuarant.

NOTE: Much to my dismay, Gaslamp has dramatically changed its menu around and no longer offers some of the more upscale options we mention in the following review.

Words to live by: A special celebration deserves a special restaurant. For Steph’s birthday we decided to splurge a bit and go to one of Wichita’s fine dining establishments. We picked the Gaslamp Grille because it is relatively new and we had not heard much about it. Gaslamp is located in the old Shadow Lounge at Rock and Central. The owners did a considerable amount of remodeling to transform the space into a classy, upscale place. As you walk into the lounge area you are met by a large wrap around bar with a giant fish tank in the middle. The main dining room is spacious and there appeared to be a second level as well as outdoor seating. All in all a big place.

I had glanced at the menu several times online and was rather intrigued with what I saw.  Luckily the menu we were handed was not very far from the online version. Although it was small, it packed a culinary punch that is not seen too often in Wichita. We recently traveled to France and fell in love with the cuisine there. Gaslamp is the best place we have found locally that offers some French influenced dishes. For appetizers they offer escargot, fondue, and pork belly. Main dishes include salmon confit and braised duck breast. We were intrigued by the pork belly with port cherry sorbet and decided to go with it as our appetizer. When it was served there was some alarm on our part because our piece of pork belly was about 1 x1 inch. Rather small for two people. It was delicious though as was the sorbet that accompanied it, if we could have had a bit more pork belly it would have been perfect.  All menu items are served a la carte so we hoped that the portion sizes would better than what we had just had as an appetizer. We were both drawn to the braised duck breast, since both of us had wonderful duck in Paris and have been looking for some local place that serves it. Since Steph was the birthday girl I let her order it and I went with the apple bourbon pork chop(surprise surprise I ordered pork). I took a calculated risk ordering the pork chop because I knew that things could go terribly wrong, but I had faith that the Gaslamp would know how to cook pork.

When our food was served I was delighted to see that it was a pork rib chop, which is the Cadillac of pork chops because it contains a nice 2 inch thick center-cut pork loin as well as a back rib.  I anxiously cut into the chop to find out what we were dealing with and sure enough it was cooked just right. I would say the internal temp was about 145 degrees which is how you should serve a nice cut of pork. The mushroom pan sauce was great with the pork as were the potatoes au gratin. All in all this was one of the best pork chops I have ever had. Steph’s duck breast was delicious as well, although not on the same level as those severed in Paris. The fruit gnocchi and poached pear were a great accompaniment to the duck. We were both pleased to see that our entrees were of decent portion size. For dessert that night they were offering a goat cheese cheesecake, their signature Gran Marnier pot du creme, and mint chocolate dipped bacon. The fact that they offered chocolate bacon made me want to cry sweet, bacony tears of joy. Steph had her heart set on the cheesecake and unfortunately they had just sold out of it so we decided to pass on dessert at the Gaslamp. One last note about the Gaslamp is the fact that they dry age their rib-eye steaks in-house, which is very impressive. You can either order the 28 or 55 day aged steak. Next time I am going to hit that up.

It is safe to say that the Gaslamp has quickly become our favorite fine dining destination in Wichita. They have the perfect combination of unique, masterfully prepared food, ambiance, and top-notch service that one would expect to find at an upscale restaurant. Make no mistake you will pay a premium for your meal, but you will have the opportunity to enjoy food in a way that you have probably never experienced in Wichita.

On a side note, if anyone knows of a place in Wichita to get a good duck breast I would like to know.

<a href=”http://Gaslamp Grille & Lounge on Urbanspoon“>

Just Catfish-Wichita KS (Beware of the Catfish Coma) CLOSED

5 Apr

CLOSED

This being the season of Lent Steph and I headed out for a fish dinner on Friday night.  We tried out a new place with the straightforward name Just Catfish(although they do serve fried chicken as well). Just Catfish is quaintly nestled between I-235, an old sandpit pond, and a trailer park. The restaurant is decent sized for a local place with large picture windows that overlook the sand pit lake. There is also an outdoor deck with tables that would be nice when the weather is warm and the pond level is not so low. The place was busy with take out and dine in customers when we got there. While waiting for a table we took a look at the menu to decide if we should have the catfish or the catfish.

We both decided to go with the fried catfish and for sides Steph ordered fried okra and I went with hushpuppies. While waiting for our meal Steph noticed a young child who had hit the wall of fried fish consumption and had fallen into a dreaded catfish coma. The poor child was passed out on the table whilst his parents finished off their meal and attempted to keep the little guy’s head from falling off the table.  Steph and I wondered if this too would be our fate after polishing off our plates. The fish soon arrived and we quickly dug in. The cornmeal breading had  the perfect combination of spices and saltiness and was very good. The tartar sauce tasted homemade and was a good compliment to the catfish. My only complaints were the lack of lemon slices and fact that some of the edges of the fillets were too crispy for me. We both agreed that this was very good fried catfish, although I would rate it just below Scotch and Sirloin’s catfish. All the waitstaff at Just Catfish were very friendly and appreciative, so much so it was very hard to turn down the offer of a plate of homemade cobbler to go.

Just Catfish is a no frills, straight up kind of place. They are a catfish house and if you go there expecting something else you are going to be disappointed. If you go there looking for great catfish at a reasonable price you will be a happy person as you stare out into the depths of the sand pit, feeling yourself slipping into yet another self-induced catfish coma.

http://www.justcatfish.com/contact.html

Just Catfish on Urbanspoon

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