Tag Archives: restaurant review

Jeanne’s Cafe-Wichita KS (Two Words: Coconut Pancakes)

12 Sep

In search of some late Sunday morning delight, we decided to try out a College Hill favorite, Jeanne’s Cafe. Jeanne’s is located at Douglas and Oliver just down the sidewalk from Watermark bookstore. This is a solid little neighborhood eatery that appears to have quite the regular following. Jeanne’s has your typical diner fare breakfast and lunch choices. Eggs, pancakes, french toast, burgers, sandwiches, and daily specials.

As we walked in, I noticed that Eggs Benny(Eggs Benedict) was gloriously displayed on  the chalkboard. I knew it was going to take something quite marvelous on their regular menu to sway me away from the perfect combination of eggs, muffins, ham, and hollandaise. Surprisingly enough I found some competition in the form of coconut pancakes. Typically I lean towards pure, unadulterated pancakes, but I just can’t pass up things with coconut in it. So I took the plunge and ordered up some hotcakes.  Steph opted for one of the popular favorites, French Toast.

The pancakes were good, but what really set them over the top was the shredded coconut that was grilled into the bottom of each one. It may sound like a strange combination, but it was most excellent. Steph’s thick cut French Toast was good as well.

If you are looking for a no frills cafe that offers some good home cooking Jeanne’s is your place. Who knows, you may try some of the those delightful pancakes and become a regular for life.

Jeanne's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bella Vita- Wichita KS(The Trojan Horse of Fine Dining)

4 Sep

This weekend we decided to give Bella Vita a second chance visit. On our first attempt we drove all the way over to the west side only to find they had locked the doors 3o minutes before their supposed closing time. Well after a few months of trying to push that out of our minds we were up for round two.

Bella Vita is located in an inauspicious strip mall on West  St. just north of Douglas. You could call it the Trojan Horse of fine dining in Wichita. From the outside it looks like you might be walking into some retro supper club where the Saturday night special is meatloaf with brown gravy. Once you get inside though you start to get the vibe that there is something big going down. We showed up with no reservations on a Friday night(the staff told us this was a no no) and luckily were able to get a table after a short wait. Beware: They like to keep the small waiting area rather cold, so make a note to bring a snuggie to prevent frostbite while waiting. The dining room at Bella Vita is small with only about 12-15 tables set up in two rooms.  The decor of the restaurant, while nice, felt a bit dated. Fortunately the food made you forget all about your surroundings, well almost.

After being seated, our waiter rattled off the specials of the day. Although we were considering the calamari as an appetizer, the stuffed eggplant special won us over. It consisted of thinly sliced eggplant that had been stuffed with rice and peas and then fried. It was served with a delightful marinara sauce that complimented the fried eggplant nicely. Most menu items are A La Carte, so we both ordered side house salads before our entrees. The house salad comes with a lovely sweet balsamic dressing and is plated very nicely with strings of carrot and beet adorning the top. There were many tempting entrees, but in the end I decided to try the Osso Buco Veal special, while Steph went with the Cannelloni Crepes. My veal came served with a nice tomato based sauce and pappardelle noodles. The veal was wonderfully tender with the rich flavor that is expected from this meat. Strangely when I offered Steph a bite of baby cow she was a bit put off, but I eventually coaxed her into trying it. Steph loved her savory crepes. They came with a tasty Black Angus meatsauce and were topped with a wonderfully creamy bechamel sauce. We both thought the crepes were as good as those we had in France.

Bella Vita is the real deal when it comes to fine dining in Wichita. The food is top notch and perfectly executed. Although the environment is a bit lacking, they are planning to remodel in the coming months. Our biggest knock on Bella Vita was the noise level. When you combine a small dining area with a boisterous  Friday night crowd, it can get a bit loud. At one point a woman who may have polished off a bottle of wine by herself was dropping F-bombs. Rather entertaining.

Bella Vita – http://www.bvbistro.com/index.htm

Bella Vita Bistro on Urbanspoon

Deli Bocco- Wichita KS

27 Aug

Due to its convenient location Steph and I tried out Deli Bocco this week. Deli Bocco has been open for about a year on Central, just west of Hillside. Now I would not consider this area part of College Hill, but according to their website it is. Although this may be a moot point,  I’m sure there are some people up there on Belmont street who would get a bit riled up if they knew such liberties were being taken with the established imaginary boundaries of their beloved College Hill neighborhood. But I’m just here to review a restaurant, so what do I know?

Bocco is a small place with an even smaller parking lot, so don’t expect to roll up in here with your Hummer. They have a simple dining area with table cloths made of bolts of fabric. There is also some eclectic original artwork scattered about the area, some of which appears to be for sale. One corner of the dining area is devoted to Native American and Western artwork and also contains various cookbooks. The menu consists of the three S’s of deli fare: Salads, soups, and sandwiches. They also have a marker board with several daily specials as well as the current homemade ice cream flavors. Just to clarify things, even though this is called a deli, don’t go in expecting to buy potato salad and prosciutto. They do not sell any deli items to the public.

I went with the BLT sandwich with a side salad, while Steph opted for the roast beef with tomato bisque. My BLT was very good and for the price it was a decent amount of food. The sweet pepper bacon and foccacia bread really made the sandwich. As for the side salad, I’m pretty sure they forgot the balsamic dressing. Luckily the lettuce was fresh and the tomatoes had been lightly salted, so I was able to get by. Steph and I both enjoyed the roast beef sandwich as well. It came all jazzed up with caramelized onions, sharp cheddar, and more delightful foccacia bread. The tomato bisque soup was fine, although probably not as good as Tanya’s. Even though they are known for their tiramisu dessert, we just went with a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.

So the next time you are close to the “College Hill Neighborhood”  and are just about to pull into Panera, remember you have another option. Although they may not have an extensive menu, they do their food right and that is the most important thing.

http://www.360wichita.com/Restaurants/BoccoDeli.html

Bocco Deli on Urbanspoon

Hana Cafe-Wichita KS

13 Aug

To commiserate the last day of summer break Steph was in the mood for sushi, so we headed to Hana Cafe. Hana is located in Old Town Square which happens to be a great place for chain free restaurants. You have Hana, Imbiss, Sabor, Caffe Moderne, and Lucca all in one convenient  location. This was our first time visiting Hana since its recent renovation and we were impressed with the changes, although the entrance looks like you are going into a dance club.

As you enter the normal glass door from the sidewalk you find yourself in a small entry area with a windowless door that must be passed through in order to feast on Asian delights. Upon entering we were met with an upscale looking interior with a bar and divided dining area. They had clearly done quite a bit of expansion and renovation to the former space. We were seated in one of the oversized booths and began our menu deliberations.

We decided to try one of their Korean specialties, Bi Bim Bap as well as  some maki sushi. Hana cafe offers a “bento box” lunch special which is like the Japanese version of a frozen dinner except that it’s not frozen and it doesn’t taste like steamed socks. You simply pick from one of several maki rolls and it comes served in a  partitioned box that includes and egg roll, salad, and steamed rice. We ordered a shrimp tempura roll with our bento box and tried a crunchy California roll as well. The shrimp  tempura roll was fine, but nothing spectacular. The crunchy Cali roll was very good served with a sweet sauce drizzled over the top. The best part of the meal was the Bi Bim Bap, which is a Korean dish with rice, eggs, spinach,  carrots, sprouts, and your choice of meat. It is also served with a bowl of moderately spicy sauce on the side. This sauce must be mixed in with the rest of the food to get the full experience. I really liked the Bi Bim Bap, but Steph thought it was a bit too spicy for her.

Wichita has an ever growing list of sushi places and I think that Hana is one of the better ones. They do not have as large a selection as other places, but their prices are reasonable and their proximity to delicious gelato at Caffe Moderne are big pluses. Don’t forget about their Korean dishes because they are solid choices as well. So the next time you are preparing for a wild night of clubbing, just head toward all the pretty lights of Old Town Square and check out one of the aforementioned chain free places.

Hana Cafe on Urbanspoon

Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria- Wichita KS

6 Aug

What object possess the power to get us to drive all the way over to the west side of town at 8pm on a Thursday night just for pizza? A gift card of course! While flipping through our gift card stash the other night we happened upon one from Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria and decided we would give it a try.  Avivo is located in New Market Square at 21st and Maize. It is a bit hard to find because the actual building is not very visible from Maize, but once you get into the shopping center just drive around aimlessly for several minutes and you will probably find it. There were few customers present when we walked in about 30 minutes before they closed. The setup at Avivo is very similar to Il Vicino, another brick oven pizza place in Wichita. You order your drinks and food at the counter and then seat yourself. Inside Avivo there is ample table seating as well as a bar and patio seating.  Much of the kitchen is visible to the patrons so you can watch your pie get shoved into the large “wood fired oven” they use.

Besides a wide selection of Italian and American influenced personal sized pizzas, Avivo offers salads, pastas, and panini. We both decided to try pizzas on this visit. I went with the Pizza Con Salsiccia (Pizza with Sausage), which consisted of sliced Italian sausage, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Steph went with the Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese), which included alfredo sauce, mozzarella, provolone, feta, and parmesan. I was a bit disappointed with the end result of my pizza. I would have liked a bit more sausage or perhaps larger chunks to spice up the pie. The pizza crust itself was alright, but not anything spectacular.  The caramelized onions were on the other hand were very sweet and well done. The portion size was reasonable and left me feeling satisfied although I do wish I had tried a side salad. We both enjoyed Steph’s selection better. The alfredo sauce was a nice touch that added creaminess to the basic cheese pizza.

Although I was not blown away with the pizza I had at Avivo, I am willing to give it another try. With their expansive menu there has to be something there that will suit my fancy. The next time I am way out west checking out the Eddie Bauer outlet store I might just swing by.

Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Usuluteco (Pupusa King of Wichita)-Wichita KS

25 Jul

Steph and I finally got around to heading to the south side the other day to blog about one of our favorite places in Wichita. Usuluteco is a Salvadoran restaurant located at Hydraulic and Northern, just south of Pawnee. In my opinion, this is one of the best gems of the Wichita dining scene.

Usuluteco is a family run restaurant where the husband works the front, while his wife dominates the kitchen. There is always ample seating at one of the many tables, or if you want to test out your conversational Spanish, there is a counter which the owner is happy to share with customers. As well as having delicious food, Usuluteco also has a nice collection of futbol posters. Every wall is adorned with teams from around the globe. Now I have no idea if there is an English translation of “Usuluteco”, but if I had to guess it would be something along the lines of “we make awesome pupusas”. If you’re wondering what the hell a  pupusa is then I feel sorry because you are missing out on something wonderful . A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran tortilla made from corn flour that is typically filled with cheese, refried beans, and ground pork. The pupusa is flattened into a disk and then cooked on a griddle. It is similar to a mexican quesadilla, but much better. And if you are thinking to yourself, ‘I bet they aren’t as good as the pupusas at Sabor’, well then you are terribly wrong. Besides serving inferior pupusas at Sabor, they also cost about triple the price.

Usuluteco offers a wide range of Salvadoran dishes including fried plantains, tamales, fried pork chunks, and some of the best refried beans in town. Steph and I both ordered two pupusas and some fried plantains. As I have already mentioned the pupusas were great, especially when dipped in the salsa and curtido (Salvadoran cole slaw basically)  that are provided. Our fried plantains were wonderful as well. They had a sweet fried glaze on the outside while inside they were soft and warm. Served with crema and refried beans it is a great dish. While we did not have the fried yuca and pork meal this time around I certainly recommend it as well. The yuca is fried so perfectly that it actually tastes like you are eating a french fry.

This filling meal while delicious was also affordable, costing us only $15. Usuluteco is a great dining adventure and definitely worth the drive to the south part of town. Don’t let the outside of the building or the area scare you off, inside you will find great food and friendly service.

<a href="http://Usuluteco Restaurant on Urbanspoon“>

Kanai-Wichita KS(A Near O.D. on Sushi)

9 Jul

We were looking for a special restaurant for our anniversary recently and had narrowed it down to two West side places. Unfortunately, our first choice must not have any working clocks in their establishment, because they were closed when we arrived 30 minutes before their listed closing time. Luckily we had Kanai as our back-up, a place we have been wanting to check out for a while. Kanai is a newer Japanese and Sushi restaurant located way out there at 119th and Maple. In its short time in Wichita, Kanai has quickly become one of the best places to get sushi and it is easy to see why.

As we walked into the nearly empty restaurant we were promptly greeted by the hostess as well as the Sushi chefs. The restaurant is nicely decorated on the interior with a small bar as well as a sushi bar on one side. The other side has a mix of tables and booths for your sitting pleasure. The only TV in the place was playing a soothing tropical fish DVD. That really set the mood. Our waitress brought out a sample of their Japanese version of chicken salad with fried tofu and sesame oil flavor. It was a nice start to our meal. Their menu covers a lot of bases as far as Japanese and sushi dishes are concerned. The sushi menu is rather expansive and has many unique maki rolls, including one that features a whole lobster tail. We had a difficult time deciding which maki rolls to go with, but soon narrowed it down to 4. We decided to try the crunchy California roll, a snowcrab and avocado roll(Dragon roll), a tempura shrimp and asparagus roll, and the snowball roll which featured asparagus and a crab mixture on top. We also ordered some tempura calamari because we were both pretty hungry.

While we sipped on $8 dollar cocktails our food was prepared by several sushi chefs. The calamari was brought out first in a large bowl. This was not your typical little rings of squid, there were nice thick strips that had been fried in a delicious tempura batter. A scallion sauce was drizzled over the tempura for added flavor. We both enjoyed the dish, but wished the sauce would have been served on the side because some the calamari got a bit soggy. Our sushi came out soon after we had finished the calamari. Two large platters were placed before us with 4 large rolls of unparalleled beauty begging us to devour them. I started off with the snowball roll and was impressed. The crunchiness of the asparagus complemented the creamy crab mixture which was elegantly placed on top of the roll. The tempura shrimp roll was very good as well with fresh asparagus balancing the fried shrimp nicely. Next was the Dragon roll which was excellent and good-sized. It was topped with a delicious sweet sauce with bits of what our server told us was Unagi. Unagi is freshwater eel, but don’t let that turn you off from this roll. With the sauce there is no real discernible flavor from the eel. Just think of it as a mushroom. The final roll was a colossal California roll that had been dipped in tempura batter to make it warm and crunchy. It came out as six huge pieces that required some fine skill to eat with chopsticks. It was wonderful of course. The most impressive part of our dinner was the sushi rice. Sometimes when attempting to dip the piece of sushi into soy sauce and shove in your mouth the piece has a tendency to fall apart. None of these rolls did that, because the rice was perfect. I have read that the real hardcore sushi chefs of Japan study for years to learn the art of making sticky sushi rice and I think the chef at Kanai has done that. His rice was perfection.

While consuming all this delightful food I became increasingly aware that my stomach was reaching capacity. I tried to wiggle into the corner of the booth in an effort to ease the pressure, but there was no denying the power of sushi. It has a way of sneaking up on you “like a thief in the night” so to speak. Thus, stuffed and satisfied Steph and I managed enough power to roll ourselves out of, in my opinion, the best place for sushi in Wichita.

Kanai on Urbanspoon

Paleteria La Reyna – Wichita KS ( The Perfect One-Two Punch)

1 Jul

What happens when you combine great Mexican food with homemade Mexican ice cream and fruit pops all under one roof? You get Paleteria La Reyna of course. I feel rather embarrassed that I had never heard of this magical place till just a few weeks ago. Somehow it had slipped below my radar, but luckily that has been remedied. La Reyna is located at 29th and Arkansas, just south of the intersection. First off let me break down the translation of Paleteria La Reyna, so we are all on the same page. A paleta is “a Latin American ice pop, usually made from fruit.” So a paleteria is a place where these frozen treats are sold. La reyna translates as “the queen”. Put it all together and you have, Latin American ice pop shop of the queen. Sounds pretty damn fantastic doesn’t it? Now after doing some internet research La Reyna, not surprisingly, is known for their frozen treats. With this knowledge I was curious as to how their savory food would fare.

The Amazing Al Pastor Burrito with Chile Verde

On first glance La Reyna checked out. Traditional Mexican restaurant exterior, vibrant decorations and paintings inside, clean and decently sized dining area, Hispanic soap opera on TV, and festive music blaring from speakers. From what I could tell the soap opera was set during the mid 1800s in Old Mexico and revolved around the love life of General Santa Anna. As we walked up to the counter it was hard to focus on the lunch menu due to the large amount of ice pops and ice cream located in the freezers. I managed to pull myself away to order a pork burrito, while Steph ordered beef enchiladas, and my mother went with the chicken tacos. Their food menu is not expansive, but all the popular Mexican dishes are well represented. All the food is picked up at the counter so make sure you have a good line of sight between your table and the counter.

Our food came with an ample serving of chips and salsa, both homemade. The tortilla chips are a bit thicker than most places, which means you can shovel even more delicious salsa into your mouth. The salsa had just the right amount of kick to it with some cilantro to balance it out. Our food came out quickly and I immediately regretted all the chips I polished off because the portion sizes were huge. My burrito was good sized and came with a side of beans and rice. This pork burrito is one of the best I have had in Wichita. It ranks up there with El Paisa’s burrito. Inside this big boy were tender chunks of pork, avocado, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. A lovely chili verde sauce put the finishing touches on the burrito. The beans and rice were fine, but nothing to get excited about. Steph’s enchiladas were finished with chili verde as well and complimented the sweetness of the enchilada sauce nicely. My mom really enjoyed her chicken tacos which came with chunks of white meat chicken, lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, and sour cream. Although it was served in a fried shell it would be a lighter selection for those who find Mexican food too heavy.

Although all three of us were stuffed, there was no way we were leaving without trying their frozen delights. La Reyna makes all of their ice cream and paletas in-house and offers a wide variety of flavors. Each of us decided to go with a scoop of ice cream. I sampled tequila, Steph had pecan, and mom went with vanilla. All I have to say is that I have a new favorite ice cream place. The creaminess and distinct flavors are unrivaled by the likes of Cold Stone, Marble Slab, Spangles, and even Baskin Robbins. Their ice cream is also very affordable as three generous scoops only cost around $5.

Even if La Reyna did not serve ice cream I would still rank it as one of my top Mexican restaurants in Wichita. The fact that they also serve awesome frozen treats makes it very hard to compete with. If you are looking for so

The Visually Stunning Strawberries and Cream

The Visually Stunning Strawberries and Cream

me relief from this unrelenting heat swing by and check out La Reyna’s frozen treats after feasting on a burrito or two (just don’t go on Wednesday, as they are closed).

UPDATE: We continue to frequent Paleteria and love all of their food and desserts. If you are looking for a break from ice cream, try the raspas, a milk and shaved ice concoction that is awesome, or Steph’s favorite the Strawberries and Cream.

<a href=”http://Paleteria LA Reyna on Urbanspoon“>

The Donut Whole-Wichita KS

30 Jun

If there is one thing Americans love it is donuts. In fact donuts even have their own day on the second of June each year. The great thing about donuts is the variety of flavors you can get them in. And no one knows variety like the Donut Whole on east Douglas. I had the chance to try out the Donut Whole last Friday after attending a riveting performance of “The Ugly Duckling” with my mom and three year old niece.

The Donut Whole is part donut store, part coffeehouse, but also includes a small art gallery and stage. The art changes each month with Final Friday and they have different bands perform on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. This is not your typical donut shop and in turn they do not serve your typical donuts.  According to their website, all of their donuts are made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients. I guarantee that Krispy Kreme cannot claim this, in fact their batter is made in North Carolina. The Donut Whole also offers over twenty-five varieties of cake donuts each day. Phil and I have visited the Donut Whole once or twice before but we seem to hit it after a large crowd and several types of donuts are missing. This time though I hit the jackpot.

I was able to try the cherry cordial which is a chocolate donut with a chocolate and cherry icing. It was dang tasty. My niece ordered the Homer J. She is an avid fan of the Simpsons. Actually she probably went after it since it was pink with sprinkles. I was able to steal of a bite of hers (got yelled at for it) and kind of liked it better than mine. The icing had a strawberry taste to it. My mom ordered the Rainbow which had chocolate icing with sprinkles. She enjoyed it immensely. The crowning achievement of this visit however, was the chance we had to finally try one of their famous Maple Bacon donuts. These guys are topped with maple icing and bits of bacon. Phil was quite pleased to find one at home waiting for him. That donut is freaking fantastic people! A little bit of savory with a lot of sweet, and it completely works. The bacon is not overwhelming and the whole thing just feels like Easter morning breakfast as a kid.

I know it maybe difficult to give up the overly sweet and stomach churning Krispy Kreme (not to mention they have several more stores), but let’s not only support a local restaurant but one that only buys local ingredients. This is pretty rare even for chain free. And just a FYI: drive-thru is open 24 hours a day.

http://www.thedonutwhole.com/

<a href="http://The Donut Whole on Urbanspoon“>

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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