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Cafe Maurice

1 Jun

In case you haven’t noticed Wichita has quite the abundance of Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurants. We might even have the most restaurants per capita in the nation if such pointless stats were compiled. There is apparently a large demand for these places among Wichitans, because rarely do they go out of business. We just can’t enough hummus, fattoush, or shawarma.

Plate of Cabbage Rolls

Located at 21st and Webb, Cafe Maurice is one of the newer additions to the Lebanese scene. Tucked away inside a strip mall it offers nice ambiance indoors as well as cozy patio seating outdoors. The menu is very similar to other Mediterranean places and includes all the favorite dishes plus a couple burgers, pasta plates, and a vegetable curry. If delicious French pastries are your thing they have a dessert counter filled with decadent delights.

We were both rather hungry when we visited Maurice on a Saturday night so we ordered an appetizer of cabbage rolls to get things going. Luckily they were delivered quickly and promptly consumed. The fresh rolls were stuffed with rice and ground meat and served with some yogurt dipping sauce. For our main courses I ordered the Mixed Grill which consisted of a chicken, steak, and kafta skewer and Steph ordered the Falafel Sandwich. I ordered hummus and the Maurice salad as sides,

The Mixed Grill Dish Left Me Wanting More of Everything

while Steph opted for the always popular fattoush salad. I was very happy with my plate of skewers. The chicken and kafta were great, but the beef was slightly overcooked and a few pieces were fatty. I was happily surprised by the Maurice house salad, the candied almonds and light house dressing left me wanting a larger bowl of it, minus the cucumbers. After tasting Maurice’s hummus I can see why it was voted by the astute Wichita Eagle reader’s as the best in Wichita.  A generous basket of pita chips sealed off a good meal. The falafel sandwich was probably the best we have sampled in Wichita. Sometimes the mashed and fried chickpeas that comprise falafel can be bland, but this particular fried delight was spot on. Maurice also gets points for not drowning the sandwich in tahini sauce. The fattoush salad was fine, but I thought the dressing could have used a bit more flavor. To top off the dinner our waitress dropped off some tiramisu unexpectedly. I’m not sure if they were just trying to get rid of it since it was closing time or they took pity on two tired looking parents and their little baby. Anyway, I will not dwell on the motives behind our free

The Falafel Sandwich

dessert.  The tiramisu was great by the way.

In a sea of tough competition Cafe Maurice stands out as one of the top Lebanese places in town. The service was very good and the owner is a friendly person who likes to mingle with the customers(and hold babies).

Cafe Maurice on Urbanspoon

Bagatelle Bakery- Wichita KS

27 Oct

One of Wichita’s dining/food weaknesses is the local bakery scene. There are only a handful of places that offer fresh baked delights and one of those is Bagatelle. Located on Harry just east of Woodlawn, Bagatelle has been turning out breads and pastries for a number of years as well as serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After just one visit to this bakery/restaurant I am ready give it the award for “Most Eclectic Menu in Wichita” or “Most Likely Restaurant to serve Mexican, Lebanese, and French foods on the same day”.  Those are two categories that must be added to the Reader’s Choice Awards next year. We apparently visited on Mexican day, because the special was enchiladas, which complemented the quiches, soups, hummus, and ham sandwiches rather nicely. A bit taken back by the presence of enchiladas at a bakery I fell back on my old trusty friend, the ham and cheese croissant. I also got a cup of black bean soup for my side. Steph decided to go simple as well and ordered a turkey croissant with a side of hummus. Making our way to the decent sized seating area, we found a basket full of pita chips and well as some tasty ciabatta bread that was being offered to all customers. It looked like if we had gotten there earlier, there would have been some cake for dessert on the freebie table.

We enjoyed our generous bowl of hummus and as well as the cup of black bean soup and some ciabatta bread while waiting for the sandwiches to come out. The sandwiches eventually came out served with a simple pickle. Both the turkey and the ham sandwich came out the same with ample amounts of meat, several slices of cheese, and served on what was a very good croissant. Some people might have been taken aback by the lack of other ingredients, but it just reminded me of the way they serve sandwiches in France. When you have quality ingredients you don’t need a bunch of sauce and vegetables to get in the way.  Now I’m not saying the croissants at Bagatelle are as good as in Paris, but they are some of the better ones I have had stateside. We left Bagatelle full and satisfied with our experience. Steph was so full from lunch she actually passed up on some of the wonderful looking pastries behind the counter.

As far as the bread and pastry products go at Bagatelle, they had croissants, ciabatta bread, baguettes, and a wide variety other assorted pastries. If their baked goods menu is anything like the lunch and dinner menu I can only assume that it is rather dynamic and changes day-to-day. Similar to N and J’s, Bagatelle also offers bags of pita chips, cheeses, and seasonings. To sum it all up, Bagatelle offers a random assortment of good food, breads, and pastries at reasonable prices and they can even make you a wedding cake.

Baugatelle’s Daily Specials

<a href="http://Bagatelle Bakery on Urbanspoon“>

N and J Cafe and Bakery-Wichita KS

1 Apr

In case you haven’t noticed Wichita has a bunch of Lebanese/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern inspired restaurants. If anyone kept records on the amount of hummus consumed per person I bet that Wichita would be way up there on the list. Maybe a close second to Beirut. N and J Cafe is one of the grandaddy Lebanese establishments in Wichita that just about everyone  who enjoys Lebanese food has been to. Steph and I swung by here recently to see how the  place was doing after all these years.

N and J is divided into a restaurant  and a bakery section. The bakery sells all those delightful Middle Eastern favorites such as hummus, pita bread, and baklava. The restaurant menu is straight up authentic with hummus, baba ganoush, cabbage rolls, shwarma, falafel, etc. On this occasion we had an order of grapes leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef as an appetizer. They were fresh and warm with just the right amount of tanginess. For dinner we both decided to try something new, which was very hard for Steph since she loves the chicken shawarma. She went with the falafel pita and I went with the kafta pita. For those you who don’t know falafel is basically ground chickpeas and spices that have been rolled into a ball and then fried. A kafta sandwich consists of seasoned ground beef and tahini sauce. Steph was not a big fan of her sandwich due to the fact that she thought the falafel were rather bland. I myself thought it was just fine. Both of us agreed that the kafta sandwich was really good. For one of my sides I decided to go out on a limb and order baba ganoush, which is very similar to hummus except it is made with roasted, pureed eggplant. It has a very distinctive smokey and tangy taste, we both enjoyed it though.

If you are looking for real traditional Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine you can’t go wrong with N and J’s. If you need further convincing just think of the all the pita bread and baklava that you can buy at their bakery after your tasty meal. Just  because you are at a place that serves hummus, fight the urge to order it and try something new. Chances are in this town you have probably had hummus at least 3 times in the past week anyway.

http://www.njcafebakery.com/

N & J Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

La Galette- Wichita KS (The closest you will get to a Patisserie in Wichita)

12 Feb

Steph had yet another snow day this week, so we braved the elements to go to one of her favorite Wichita restaurants, La Galette. La Galette is located in the Delano part of town, which if you don’t know, is located on Douglas between Seneca and McLean. If you have never been to Delano, shame on you! It is so choc full of chainfree options that the Pizza Hut located in Delano appears as out of place as a strip club next to a church. La Galette is the peculiar marriage of a Lebanese cafe and a decadent French pastry shop. Don’t let the name fool you though, they serve no real French food besides their desserts and quiche. Although with all the French pictures on the wall they really try to trick you into believing that really is Notre Dame you are staring at.

When going to La Galette make sure you park in the rear of the establishment, because parking along Douglas is limited and treacherous. Upon entering through the back door you will find the walls brightly colored and covered with Frenchy stuff. All ordering is done at the counter and your food is brought to you. The small menu is a mix of traditional Lebanese food and some salads, soups, and sandwiches. This time around I ordered the Kibbe with hummus and a side of cream of tomato soup. Steph went with a nice spinach quiche and tomato soup. Even before we ordered our savory food Steph had made a beeline for the desert counter, oogling all their sexy confections. After much deliberation she decided we would share a half pound of hazlenut buttercream frosting wedged between two bagel-like pastry slices.

We both sat and stared at our wheel of hazelnutty goodness wondering if we would be able to control ourselves until we were finished with our main course. Luckily our food came out in a timely manner. My kibbe was very good, although for the price I thought it was a small portion. You could tell it was freshly made. The kibbe was accompanied by an ample amount of fresh pita bread and some hummus, which was fine. The cream of tomato soup tasted great on a day when temperatures struggled to get into the double digits. Another lunch dish we would recommend would be the potato pie. Steph enjoyed her homemade quiche. They make these ahead of time and throw them in the microwave to warm them up but the quiche are still quite tasty.

We both disposed of our lunches quickly so we could move onto the piece de resistance. I decided to play it cool and let Steph have the first crack just in case she slipped in a sugar coma. It was definitely rich but tasted great. Steph said that she enjoyed it but has tried several other desserts and prefers their mousse or cheesecakes.  Steph will guarantee anyone that you cannot go wrong with any of their desserts.

La Galette on Urbanspoon

College Hill Deli and Catering- Wichita KS (Home of the Super Waitress)

22 Jan

Since Steph had yet another day off from work, we decided to try out College Hill Deli and Catering on MLK day. This establishment is located on east Douglas about 150 feet from Dolci and Joe’s Restaurant. It feels very strange for these two somewhat similar restaurants to be located so close to each other. As you step out of your car it’s as if there is a battle being waged for your patronage. I’m not certain, but I suspect that after hours there is a violent turf war that breaks out between the rival eateries. There is a tension in the air that one can sense just driving down the street.

Anyway who cares about my strange delusions when there is food to be blogged about. The inside of College Hill Deli is small and warm. We were initially seated at the largest table in the place since all the other tables were occupied. The large table happens to be located under the main heat vent for the dining area and was it ever roasty toasty. It made made my grandparents house feel like Siberia on a cold day. Luckily we were able to move to a smaller table within a few minutes. After perusing the menu I felt like I had been to this place before. The menu was full of Lebanese/Mediterranean inspired dishes and could have probably passed for Bella Luna’s menu. Not to say that is a bad thing, but really how many places in Wichita need to serve hummus? Are garbanzo beans really cheap around here or something? Needless to say, being the Hummus addicts we are a plate was quickly ordered. It was fine hummus served with some nice soft pita and diced tomatoes. The tomatoes were an addition that I had not encountered with hummus before, but they seemed to work out just fine. It was about this time we realized that that waitress was handling every table in the place. Considering there were about 8 tables we were rather impressed.  More on this later. I decided to take the plunge and order the hamburger with fries because that is how I roll. Upon laying eyes on my burger I was rather impressed. It had the appearance of an actual burger( You know one of those things where there is a nice half inch to inch thick slab of meat wedged between two bread buns). It is something that some of these local chains don’t quite seem to understand. Yes I’m calling you out Five Guys and your stupid thin patties! So the burger was solid and actually had a bit of pink in the middle of it. All for around $7. Amazing. The fries were fine, nothing to write home about though.  Steph ordered the quiche with a fattoush salad. Today’s quiche was broccoli and cheese. It was tasty and nice and warm. La Galette’s is slightly better, but we can’t always make it downtown. The salad was fine and had the strong dressing but it wasn’t anything different form what we have had before. At one point while eating I looked up and noticed our waitress walking down the sidewalk. I quickly wondered  if she knew something we did not but as it turned out she was taking care of a delivery order down the block. She did this all while still waiting on all the tables. I’m not sure who the waitress was, but she deserves a medal for that performance.

College Hill Deli may not have the most interesting menu, but it appears they at least make good food. So that should count for something. I do hope that they get that poor waitress some help because even a Super Waitress needs some R and R.

College Hill Deli and Catering on Urbanspoon

Adrians- Wichita KS (And a brief recap of where we stand in this brave new year)

11 Jan

After a brief break to gather our senses we are off and running in the new year. According to WordPress we had 1600 hits in 2010 giving our blog a “good health” status. We are very pleased with these developments. Since July we have reviewed over 45 restaurants and hopefully changed the lives of many of our readers. On another good note, amazingly enough we have not been hit with any libel lawsuits yet. As far as 2011 goes we are looking forward to pushing on with our chainfree crusade. If someone would leak this site to Denise Neil we might even become local celebrities. Coming in just a few short months the Eagle will start its Reader’s Choice voting nonsense and we are planning to go Tea Party on its ass. Hell hath no fury like that of an angry foodie. I apologize if my writing over the next several blogs seems random and extra crazy, but I have just finished Keith Richards’ drug riddled autobiography and am plunging into the depths of a Hunter S Thompson book as we speak.

Now on to the Adrian’s blog. My friend and I met at another of the many Mediterranean restaurants in Wichita the other day.  This time it was Adrian’s located next to Best Buy at 21st and Rock. Just from gazing at the outside of this establishment it is clear the owners have gone out of their way to transform the bland exterior into a cozy bistro with the addition of decorative covered entrance.  As I walked in I was immediately drawn to the bongos like a monkey is drawn to a banana. They were proudly displayed in the makeshift music corner that occupies the front of the restaurant. My sources tell me that the owner is the bongo master and will occasionally jam out on the weekends. They also had a sign advertising a 70s rock duo that performs regularly at the venue. Nothing like hummus and some acoustic Free Bird. Yum.

So of course we started out with the house hummus since we are both aficionados. I would have to say that it was very good, although I  have yet to find any hummus in Wichita that is terrible.  Just different types of good.  I decided to try out their Fattoush salad  with grilled chicken, while my friend ordered a classic Lebanese dish, the chipotle chicken wrap. My salad was decent although it seemed as if there was a bit too much dressing. The grilled chicken was slightly overcooked and a bit salty. It was certainly not the best Fattoush I have had, but it could have been worse. On a positive note my friend really enjoyed his spicy chicken wrap.

Adrian’s has a very similar concept as Bella Luna. Both specialize in Mediterranean and Lebanese dishes while offering a variety of other options. I would give a slight edge to Bella Luna, but there were some intriguing dinner entrees at Adrian that I would like to go back and sample.

Adrians Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bella Luna – Wichita KS

5 Nov

Another week and another restaurant. After last week’s adventure I feel rather embarrassed and dirty to be writing about Bella Luna. It seems too mainstream and clean for me to really get revved up about. I even went to the Bradley Fair location to make matters worse. But a chain free restaurant it is, so I don’t want to hear about it. At lunch time Bella Luna was pretty busy, but we were seated rather quickly. The decor inside the Bradley Fair location is sleek and trendy except for one glaring problem, a flat screen TV by the bar. What is the deal with TV’s at every restaurant you go to these days? It seems that when these sexy-wall mounted flat screens came out every restaurant in the country went out and bought several to entertain guests. Now TV’s do have their places in dining establishments, but I don’t think Bella Luna is one of them. I can’t really complain too much, during lunch I was able to catch Blake Griffin highlights on SportsCenter. On a completely different topic Bella Luna often offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights. So if you like Jazz check it out and impress the musicians by asking them to play some Wes Montgomery

As for the food I typically get the chicken shawarma, but today I went crazy and ordered the Gyro. It was rather tasty, with good lean lamb and beef and a tangy taziki sauce all wrapped in one of Bella’s delicious pitas. I of course ordered a side of fries because they are some of the best in town I believe. It only makes sense that a Lebanese type place would serve great fries. We also enjoyed an order of hummus, which is pretty good served with their fresh pitas. Bella Luna actually has an entire building located at Woodllawn and Central devoted to pita making. I have often fantasized about what happens inside that building. Do they have elves baking pita chips around the clock? Are they in need of a quality control pita person? Are they actually baking pitas in there or is it all a front for an urban meth kitchen? These questions will probably never be answered in my lifetime.

I know this post has probably not revealed anything too terribly profound to most of our astute readers, but perhaps it may serve as a reminder that even in the midst of the decadence and depravity that is Bradley Fair one can still enjoy some chainfree eating.

Bella Luna Cafe on Urbanspoon

Annual St. George Lebanese Dinner(Grape Leaves of Wrathful Delight)

13 Oct

It appears that after my now infamous (or famous depending on your point of view) rebuttal to the “Reader’s Choice” awards last week this blog has been getting a lot of love from people. Thanks so much for all the evangelizing! I do fear that perhaps this blog has hit the high water mark though. Can we continue to amuse our readers week in and week out or will we burn out like so many food blogs before us? We will push on doing what we have been doing and I hope you will continue to laugh or at least keep telling us that you are laughing.

This weekend St. George Orthodox Church had their famous Lebanese dinner fundraiser. This is one of my all time favorite Wichita traditions that dates back to my childhood. When you arrive at the church there are two options available for you, either dine in or drive through. Both options will get you great food with speedy service, although if you dine in they throw in a free tour of the church. This dinner is an easy sell for me,  where else can you get drive thru kibbe and baklava?

 It is too bad that the Roman Catholics parishes in town don’t have anything similar to this. If you took some of the major food cultures that are predominantly Catholic you could come up with a great dinner. Tacos (from Taco Bell of course), beer, lasagna, wine, lamb stew, whiskey, and more beer. I think I’m on to something.

Your meal comes with a small salad with a tangy dressing that is similar to a fattoush, kibbe, ruz and yaknee, stuffed grape leaves, and baklava. Kibbe is a mixture of ground beef or lamb, spices, and some type of grain that has been molded into a square of tasty goodness. Ruz and Yaknee contains green beans, tomato sauce,  and sirloin beef on a bed rice. The stuffed grape leaves have a ground beef and rice mixture. To top the meal off two pieces of baklava are there for your enjoyment.  The most impressive part about this meal extravaganza is that all the food is made by parisoners of the church. Many of them actually grow the grape leaves in their backyards and spend months preparing for the onslaught of diners.  Now that you are all craving some Lebanese food I must refer you to the first word in the title this entry: “Annual”. So sorry you will have to wait until next year to try this place out, but there are a few places in town that serve some of this food. A few places that come to mind are N and J’s, MIF, and Byblos, all of these places should serve most of the above mentioned food. And at some point in the not too distant future we will do reviews of N and J and Byblos.

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