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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

Yen Ching(CLOSED)

9 Jul

Amidst the ever changing intersection of Rock and Central sits Yen Ching, one of Wichita’s older Chinese restaurants. The building certainly sticks out with its decorative green pagodaesque awnings and some strange stone bridge in front of the entrance. Inside, the classic Chinese restaurant motif continues with various statues, paintings, and furniture.

Hot Soup on a Hot Day

I doubt the interior here has been updated since 1990 and for evidence of this I submit the vintage cigarette machine that is proudly displayed in the dining room. Although devoid of smokes, it is a reminder of the good old days when anyone could buy cigarettes from a machine. Yen Ching’s dining layout is just as unique as the interior design. The main dining area consists of about 10 tables, but there is also a balcony type level with additional seating.

We went to Yen Ching during the noon hour and were presented with the abbreviated lunch menu. It consisted of about 15 of your typical Chinese dishes and a few appetizers. All of the lunch dishes come with egg drop soup, a salad, fried rice, and a crab rangoon. I decided to try the Shrimp Chow Mein, while Steph ordered the special of the day, which was a combination plate of Sweet and Sour Pork and Chicken Chow Mein. The egg drop soup and salad appeared quickly after we put in our order, but neither of us were impressed with the first course. The egg drop was ok, but it is tough to enjoy soup  on a 100 degree day. The salad was basically just some lettuce with an average ginger sesame dressing. We liked our appetizer order of eggs rolls better than the soup and salad, but they tasted a bit bland.

A Heaping Dish of Shrimp Chow Mein

Our main courses were much more enjoyable. Both dished contained generous servings of the main entrée as well as fried rice and a crab rangoon. I was very happy with the Shrimp Chow Mein dish. It had plenty of well cooked and fresh tasting shrimp, a good variety of stir fried veggies, a savory sauce, and wonton chips. Although I would have liked  more pieces of broccoli, the wonton chips made up for that shortcoming. They provided an extra crunch and were a unique addition to the dish.  The Sweet and Sour Pork was a hit with both of us. Besides the fried bits of pork, slices of pineapple and veggies were mixed in the dish. The Chicken Chow Mein was just as good as the shrimp, although if you are not a fan of dark meat, like Steph, you may want to steer clear of it. Last but not least, the crab rangoon. Unlike most rangoon, they were not overly sweet, but very creamy and rich. I could have easily eaten several more of them.

While we were not completely blown away by the food at Yen Ching, they still turn out a decent product. With a lunch menu ranging from $6-$9, it is a good value that will leave you rather stuffed.
Yen Ching Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pour Haus(Closed)

16 May

What better way to get ready for a Tom Petty concert than to enjoy cold brews and burgers at a local tavern? That was our thinking when we tried out the newly opened Pour Haus at Maple and Seneca. Expectations were rather high after reading about their large selection of beers on tap and a menu that featured many beer infused items. Unfortunately our experience at Pour Haus was less than desirable.

Mmmm, So Many Beer Taps

The building where Pour Haus currently resides has been several different enterprises over the years, a gentleman’s club and pizza place come to mind. I don’t think Pour Haus remodeled much of the interior judging by the holes in the ceiling where the “entertainment poles” used to be. The lack of redecorating at least makes for a good conversation piece at this upscale dive bar.

The Basic Cheeseburger with Delicious Parmesan Fries

Pour Haus does deliver as promised with their large selection of beers on tap. At the time of our visit they had a unique variety of craft beers that typically are not available at bar taps in Wichita. They also have an even larger assortment of bottled beers. If you cannot decide on a certain tap beer they offer “Beer Flights” that provide you with samples of several types.

The menu is typical for a bar and grill with burgers, sandwiches, salads, comfort foods, and a few desserts. The twist is the menu was designed on the night that beer was the secret ingredient on Iron Chef as nearly every item has some infusion of malty goodness into it.

The Hangover With Extra Crispy Fries

Everyone in our party decided that the stout infused burgers sounded too good to pass up. I went with the basic PH&T with cheddar cheese, while Steph ordered “The Hangover” which came adorned with a fried egg, cheddar cheese, and bacon. The menu explicitly states the burgers are cooked to order, so we asked for medium doneness. Like many places there are several choices of fried potato to accompany your meal, I went with the Parmesan fries, while Steph ordered sweet potato fries.  After a moderate wait time our meal was finally delivered. The burgers were presented in dramatic fashion with a steak knife driven right through the heart of these meat disks. Unfortunately upon further inspection every burger at our table was cooked beyond well done. It looked as if they had been thrown onto the grill and then forgotten about for half an hour. I did like the pretzel bun that came with the burger, but it was hard to get past the dry beef. On a positive note the Parmesan fries were very good. They were fresh, thick cut, and crispy with a dusting of cheese on top.  Steph was unimpressed with her burger as well, although if the meat had been cooked correctly it would have been good with the fried egg and bacon. The sweet potato fries were overcooked as well and heavily salted. For our trouble the manager did send out orders of scrumptious bread pudding for the entire table, although we were never given an explanation as to what happened with the burgers.

I hope that we just happened to hit Pour Haus on a night when the kitchen was a bit off, because I like the concept that they are trying to achieve. Others that I have talked to have had good experiences with their food, so I am willing to give them another chance at some point.

Pour Haus

 

Pour Haus Restaurant & Tavern 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“>

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