Wichita and I have waited a long time for a restaurant concept such as Fork and Fennel’s to come along. When I heard that the owner of The Anchor and Douglas Ave Chop Shop was behind it, I expected good things. The combination of a trendy French inspired menu, good craft beer selection, relaxed atmosphere, and emphasis on quality locally raised products make this a unique establishment and the perfect place to celebrate my birthday or yours.
Fork and Fennel is located on east Douglas in what was once a Taco Tico. Although the building still retains some of its Southwestern architecture, the inside has been completely redone with a nice modern feel to it. They even put a small bar in the front for those who want to watch their fancy cocktails being made.
The drink menu features several unique cocktails, a nice selection of bottled craft beer, and limited and seasonal release beers on tap. I sampled a couple of delicious brews, including a 10% beast from O’Dell called Dr. Acula.
The food menu is small, but packs a rustic French punch. The highlights are Coq au Vin, pork and beef steaks featuring locally raised meat, roasted bone marrow, charcuterie and cheese plates, a burger with pork belly, and sandwiches featuring cured meats.
Unfortunately on the night we visited they had a plumbing issue earlier in the day that prevented some menu items from being available, namely two of the dishes I had my eye on, the Coq au vin and bone marrow. Nevertheless we still had difficulty making our selections, so we ended up ordering the fennel salad, charcuterie plate, Crusty Italian, and the pickled shrimp.
The fennel salad was a light dish that featured grilled fennel on a bed of lettuce and herbs with lemon zest and Italian cheese. Fennel can be a strong and pungent vegetable, but in its grilled form it was very palatable. One of the more popular culinary trends currently is pickling, and Fork and Fennel’s effort involves whole shrimp that have been lightly pickled with lemons and herbs. I was disappointed the dish did not have as much pickled goodness as I had hoped. Instead of a salty and briny taste, it was more of a subtle citrus flavor. The Crusty Italian was a simple sandwich with several kinds of cured meat, cheese, eggplant spread, and lettuce. The sausage stole the show on this delicious sandwich as it should have. Some homemade potato chips were served on the side, but lacked much in the way of seasoning.
The highlight of our meal was the hardcore charcuterie plate. Included on the platter were ample servings of four cured meats, lardo, pate, pickled cauliflower, and some crusty bread. Each of the cured pork products were outstanding, the best being a fennel sausage. I believe that Fork and Fennel sources some of their charcuterie products from one of few places in the country that dry cures meats nowadays, La Quercia. The lardo, which is cured pig fat, was a rich and decadent treat spread over a piece of baguette. Equally pleasing was the pate, which is hard to find around here. While many people find it disagreeable, I am down with it in all its pasty goodness.
I was happy to find that Fork and Fennel had lived up to everything I had hoped it would. It certainly fills a void in the Wichita dining scene and offers patrons the opportunity to experience some new flavors. While the prices are a bit on the higher side, you are paying for quality ingredients. One of the downsides is the small kitchen area, which limits how much food can be produced each night, so some of the more popular dishes are prone to being sold out. If you are looking for the closest thing to classical French cooking Wichita has to offer, go to Fork and Fennel order a craft beer and a charcuterie plate and thank me later.