It is my opinion that some of the best food you will find in Wichita, or any other city for that matter, comes from ethnic, hole-in-the-wall places. My Tho, located at Central and Emporia, just so happens to be one of those dives that delivers good eats. There is little on the outside of My Tho that would lead you to believe that it is a restaurant, the small yellow sign doesn’t help matters as it advertises “Star Billiard”. But if you were to venture inside you would quickly learn that this is a place where one comes to dine and dine well.
My Tho: Conveniently located next to Baysinger Police Supply so you can get some Pho and then buy a taser
When we first entered on an early Friday afternoon I noticed the lack of a pool table, even though I could have sworn I have seen a pool table in the window while driving by at night. Where were they hiding this damn thing? Do they move it out every night and replace it with tables and chairs for lunch the next day? Anyway they had a good lunch crowd on our visit, but luckily there was a a deceiving amount of ample seating available. The decor was an instant classic and wins my award for “Best restaurant to utilize white trellis and fake flowers in a design scheme.” The menu is strictly Vietnamese and consists of several types of soups and Banh Mi sandwiches. Steph decided to go with the ever reliable Pho with brisket and meatballs while I branched out and tried Bo Kho, which is a beef stew/broth with rice noodles. We also ordered some French bread to accompany our soups. While waiting for our meal to arrive I had the pleasure of observing a mother whip out a small pair of scissors and proceed to cut up her small child’s bowl of noodles. Wow, what a great trick to deal with those awkward rice noodles that never fail to slip off spoons and chopsticks alike causing violent eruptions of broth in every direction.
Our soups arrived within a few minutes accompanied by the usual Pho condiments including basil, lime slices, and sprouts. We were both glad we ordered the regular sized bowls because the portions were generous. Steph enjoyed her Pho although some of the brisket pieces were a bit fatty.
Delicious beef stew with bagette
My Bo Kho was very good as well. It was very similar to Pho, but with a darker beef broth and chunks of beef. Our small loaf of baguette was perfect for dipping into our respective soups. Throughout the meal both waiters were very attentive and frequently refilled out water glasses. I was particularly pleased with this since I had spiced my soup up with rooster sauce.
NOTE: Since the time of this review we have visited both the north Rock and Old Town Wasabi locations and have never been disappointed. Our favorite roll is the Stonehenge, a mammoth deep fried roll filled with crab, avocado, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and topped with masago.
Although Wasabi has had an Old Town location open in Wichita for a while, it took the opening of an eastside location for us to finally make a visit. About a month ago Wasabi opened up on North Rock Rd. in the old Bossa Grill location. They did a decent amount of renovation to the restaurant space, adding a Sushi Bar and Japanese styling to the interior as well as the obligatory TV that for some reason was tuned to the Chiefs game. We had a large group with us on a Sunday afternoon, but luckily the restaurant was fairly slow. Perhaps that is why there was some loud music coming out of their sound system. I don’t know what is with some of these trendy Sushi places(Ahem, Sumo) and their proclivity to play loud annoying music, but Wasabi was jamming it out on this particular afternoon.
The Stonehenge: A Don’t Miss Maki Roll
Perusing the menu at Wasabi was a rather daunting task. They have a very extensive list of sushi and maki rolls including many specialty rolls to choose from. Besides sushi, Wasabi also offers other Japanese and Asian dishes such as yakisoba noodles, bul go gi, bi bim bab, and teriyaki plates. I was feeling adventurous and decided to order the 10 Piece Chef’s Choice Sushi and California Roll dinner. Steph decided to try a non-sushi dish and ordered the Tempura Shrimp Udon Noodles. My meal came out with a wide variety of sushi present. I had crab, salmon, tuna, and halibut pieces that were all rather tasty. My Cali roll was served with shredded crab meat, instead of the typical chunks, and was equally delicious. Steph and I both enjoyed her large-portioned shrimp and noodle bowl, although the shrimp were a touch overdone. It had a good mix of veggies and shrimp with the right amount of sauce. The portions at Wasabi are large, which enabled me to sample some other rolls that our party had ordered. By far the best one I had was the Stone Henge, a giant roll stuffed with crab, tempura shrimp, avocado, and cream cheese. If that weren’t enough it was deep fried and topped with a sweet masago sauce. This is definitely a roll you can’t miss when paying a visit to Wasabi. Toward the end of our meal the waiter brought out two dishes that were compliments of the chef. He gave us a raw tuna salad and a beautifully crafted ball of thinly sliced avocado that was stuffed with a crab mixture. I believe it was called an Avocado Ball and I highly recommend it.
Overall I was impressed with Wasabi. It is certainly a good value as far as sushi goes. Their rolls are large and reasonably priced. If you order a side salad and some miso soup you have a filling meal for around $15 dollars. While I still give the edge in Wichita sushi to Kanai, it is a good option for the eastside of town.
While driving around on the Westside with my brother-in-law, he happened to overhear a radio advertisement for Charlie’s Pizza Taco and quickly decided that we needed to stop for lunch. I remembered reading about the opening of said establishment a couple of months ago and figured it was worth a try. Charlie’s Pizza Taco has been around since 1965 in Pratt, KS and in an effort to expand the pizza taco empire they decided to take on ICT. Charlie’s is located in an ill-fated restaurant building on Tyler just south of Central and there they serve their pizza fusion cuisine.
Charlie’s is designed as a quick service eatery with a decent amount of seating in a rustic type of atmosphere ( By that I mean they may have gone a bit heavy on the weathered wood theme). The menu is simple, consisting of one page of strange sounding items such as the famous/infamous Pizza Taco, Pizza Log, Pizza Raft, Pizza Burger, and Pizza Pup. Not hungry enough and frankly rather intimidated by the Pizza Taco we ordered two Pizza Pups each. If you are thinking the above mentioned menu items might just be a bit too heavy for you, fear not a salad bar is an option instead of potato chips.
Within a few minutes our to-go order of pizza puppy goodness came out and we were on our merry way. Once in the car I flipped open my styrofoam box to reveal large beef hotdogs that had been tenderly wrapped in slices of cheese pizza. With a nice puddle of grease pooling next to the mutant meat tube, the presentation was striking. The taste, however left something to be desired. The hot dog was good, but the pizza not so much. It just tasted like a ho-hum slice of pizza to me.
Despite my first experience with Charlie’s, I am willing to give it another chance. Perhaps the original Pizza Taco is the way to go or maybe the ham and cheese sandwich served on a pretzel bun. Ordering one of several beers on tap or bottle may be necessary as well to consume one of Charlie’s pizza creations. One thing I do know is that they should advertise on every Safe Ride vehicle out there because this stuff is the ultimate cuisine de inebriation. So the next time you are staggering through Wal-Mart trying in vain to find the pizza rolls, save yourself some trouble and go to Charlie’s.
Check out this link to their menu, your arteries will thank you later:
To celebrate my birthday I decided to drag the extended family down to Larkspur Bistro and Bar for some relaxed upscale dining. Larkspur has been located at Douglas and Mosley for 20 years which means it was in Old Town before the Old Town revitalization ever started. Inside, the restaurant has ample seating, with trendy wood floors and nice original artwork dotting the walls. On the Friday night that we visited, a jazz combo was adding some classy background music. Even though they were playing a piano and stand-up bass the sound level was low enough that we were still able to carry on a conversation.
The menu at Larkspur is typical of most upscale restaurants in Wichita. It tries to cover all bases with salads, pastas, steaks, seafood, etc and of course they have the obligatory offering of hummus as an appetizer. I think you must get a tax break in Wichita if you offer hummus in your restaurant, because that would explain why 95% of restaurants serve it.
To kick off our meal we opted to go with a few orders of crab cakes as well as some fried calamari. While the crab cakes were nothing to get excited about, the calamari on the other hand was easily the best I have ever had and very impressive for Kansas seafood standards. Most of the time when you order calamari you get some tough and tiny pieces of squid, but not at Larkspur. We were served thick pieces of squid that were lightly breaded and delightfully moist. Served with a slightly spicy dipping sauce it was the perfect appetizer. For the main course I was wooed by the special of the day, Alaskan Halibut. Keeping with the seafood theme of the night, Steph went with the Linguini Scallops. Each entrée came with a good house salad as well as some delightfully crusty bread, that I believe was made in-house or at least tasted like it was. My Halibut came out lightly breaded with a nice side of rice and veggies. Although the fish was cooked correctly I would have liked a bit more seasoning in the breading, nonetheless it was still a good meal. Steph really liked her linguini and luckily it was large portion, so I got to sample as well. Looking beyond the small, slightly overcooked scallops the rest of the dish was wonderful. The mushrooms, pine nuts, and scallions were perfectly paired with the butter-wine sauce. I would have to say it was one of the best pasta dishes I have had in Wichita.
If you are looking for a place that serves upscale food, yet would like a relaxed atmosphere Larkspur is your place. Although most dishes run in the $15-$30 dollar range you won’t leave with an empty stomach. Unlike some fine dining establishments that serve everything a la carte, Larkspur offers plenty of food with your entrée ensuring you won’t leave wanting to hit up McDonalds.