It’s that magical time of year again when the Eagle releases its annual Readers Choice Award Winners. A LEGITIMATE best of the best restaurants, shops, services, and other random stuff voted on by the knowledgeable citizens of this fair city. So here are some selected winners from the restaurant category with some pithy, highly opinionated remarks from me.
Breakfast- Jimmy’s Egg. For the second straight year again people chose quantity over quality here. I don’t think there is anything special about Jimmy’s Egg. They serve typical breakfast food at reasonable prices, there just happens to be 34 or so of them around town. At least The Beacon and The Good Egg were runners-up. Either of them should have won, but then again what do I know.
Chinese– P.F Chang’s. Hey big surprise here! With Kwan Court gone P.F. is clear to dominate the Chinese market in town. Wichita has a great Asian restaurant scene and I guarantee most of them have better food than this place. But Chang’s does have giant stone horses and a nice lakefront location. So beat that. Buffet City is listed as a runner-up, I have no idea where this place is and probably never will unless some deranged person forces me to go there at gunpoint. Great Wall and Yen Cheng were also in the running, but the most confusing honorable mention was Ya Ya’s. Ummm they call themselves a “Euro Bistro” and a quick check of their menu confirms my suspicion that you cannot order General Tso’s chicken there. So what the hell? Is there no quality control in this silly ass competition?
Fast Food– Freddy’s! As you will see later, it apparently is one of the best restaurants in Wichita judging by it domination in 4 four categories. And who did Freddy’s beat out? Why Spangles of course. This may cause some bad blood between these two bitter rivals, I feel a media blitz coming from Spangles. Prepare yourselves for Rene Stevens by TV, Radio, Tweetage, and Facebook. They will reclaim the top spot next year I guarantee.
Italian– Olive Garden. Yes! I know Wichita has been weak in the Italian restaurant scene, but c’mon. With two new good Italian places recently opening I think Olive Garden and their all you can eat breadsticks and salads will be going down next year. DeFazios and Sweet Basil, longtime bastions of Italy fare, were runners-up.
Japanese– SUMO. Surprisingly PF Changs was shut out of this category. This was one of the few categories that was dominated by chainfree places. As far as SUMO winning , I personally think that Kanai is a better place, but I won’t complain too much. Hana Cafe, Wasabi, and Kanai were all runners up.
Locally Owned– Spangles. Yeah take that Freddy’s you just got served. Tanya’s, El Mexico Cafe, and Bella Luna were runners-up in this rather ambiguous and open category. My choice for locally owned: Usuluteco.
Lunch– Twin Peaks. I have nothing. The category was “Best Lunch” not “Best Scantily Clad Waitresses”. Just reading Denise Neil’s review makes me never want to go to this place. Shockingly enough Freddy’s was once again a runner-up as were Bella Luna and Doc Greens.
Mediterranean-Bella Luna. This is a tough category that includes about 50% of all restaurants in Wichita. I don’t have a problem with Bella Luna, but it is not the most authentic Mediterranean place in town. I would give N & J’s and Byblos the edge over Bella Luna, but at least this was another category that was all chainfree. Although I don’t know of a chain Mediterranean place, maybe that is something I should look into. I’m thinking never ending bowls of hummus and some costumed character that will entertain the kids by weaving grape leaves into animals.
Mexican– Felipes. Yeah a legit place finally wins! Is there better Mexican food in Wichita? Yes, but Felipes has some solid stuff, just not their salsa. Three runners-up in this category were chains, which is unacceptable. Wichita has wonderful local Mexican places that most people don’t know about because they aren’t located on Rock Rd. or at the Waterfront. Shame on you if you claim you like Mexican food, yet have never eaten on Arkansas St. El Mexico Cafe and Playa Azul were the other runners-up in this category.
Mongolian– This is a worthless category. If you voted for or frequent these “Mongolian” places then you need serious restaurant counseling.
Thai– Thai Tradition. Surprisingly neither Freddy’s or Ya Ya’s got any vote in this category. What a shame. Anyway, Thai Tradition is a great place that you must go to and try the spring rolls. They will make you forget all about those stupid horses at PF Changs. There were a few places in this category that I need to try out, namely Bangkok, Promise Thai, and Sit @ Thai Bistro.
Bakery– Panera. Sure they bake things here I guess, but when I walk into a bakery I want to smell warm bread cooling in racks, I want to see a baker covered in flour, and I want a delicious sample for free. That is why I go to the runner-up, Great Harvest Bread, for my bread needs. There are also Delano and Bagatelle bakeries in Wichita that you might want to check out.
BBQ– Hog Wild. I like to think I know quite a bit about BBQ, but apparently I am at odds with the general public because I think Hog Wild is one of the worst Cue places in town. I guess if you like dry, chewy ribs they are your place, but I will stick with Pig In Pig Out and B & C. When Pigs Fly and Bubba’s were also runners-up. I have yet to try these places, but I have heard good things. Much to my satisfaction Famous Dave’s was missing from this list. I guess people finally got tired of asking for some meat with their sauce. One more oddity with this category was the fact Buffalo Wild Wings was a runner-up. If you think BWW is a BBQ joint, please get in touch with me because there is much for you to learn.
Burger– Freddy’s! The domination continues. Everyone loves those thin, crispy wafers of meat. Everyone except for me. I like a nice thick patty where the meat still contains some moisture and pinkness. At least TJ’s Burger House and Bionic Burger made the list. They were right up there with proven winners Five Guys and Spangles. On one end you have an average burger that will set you back $9 and on the other, a patty that tastes like it costs, cheap.
Hot Dog– In tough competition Sonic beat out Quik Trip for best wiener. Why not throw in the concession stand in section 24 of the IBA? And the Wiener Is and Dog N Shake were runners-up.
Pizza– Knolla’s. Here we go, a local place fends off the big boys of pie making to take home the prize. I was sad to see that Wichita Pizza Co. did not make the list. In my opinion it is one of the best pizza places in town.
Steak– Texas Roadhouse? Smack in the middle of cattle country we let Texas Roadhouse win best steak. That is like having McDonalds win best baguette in France. Judging by their prices I would guess they are serving USDA Choice which is inferior to the meat you will find at runners-up Chesters, Red Rock, and the Scotch. Although the steaks at these places are much more expensive, their taste cannot be beaten.
Subs and Sandwiches– Subway. Hooray for frozen tubes of bread! Once again Subway is voted the best in Wichita. I just don’t understand. Does anyone go to Cinnamons Deli, The Artichoke, Tanya’s, or the Metro Grill? There is no comparison with these places and Subway. At this point I just don’t the energy to complain anymore.
Taco– Drumroll please…Taco Shop. Okay I guess this is an improvement from Taco Bell, but really? Back in high school, I enjoyed the Taco Shop for all you can eat Mondays. There wasn’t much to the taco so you could really pack them down(My PR was 14 by the way). I just keep telling myself, “Could be worse, could have been another year of Taco Bell perched atop the pinnacle of Wichita tacos.” At least El Mexico and Felipes were runners-up in this category. Four of the six restaurants in this category had the word “taco” in their name and just to clarify things for next year, there is no rule requiring the establishment to have the word “taco” in order for them to win.
So there you have it, a rundown of selected winners and losers of restaurants and food as voted on by the folks. There was some decent representation from chainfree places, but not as much I would like to see. For those of you who didn’t vote or who perhaps did not choose wisely, fear not you will have a chance to redeem yourself next year and all will be forgiven. The biggest question for next year is: Will Freddy’s pull it out and win every single category? I hear they are working on a steakburger maki roll that will blow our minds.