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2014 Lenten Special- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Meatless Mexican Meal

10 Apr

Ah Lent,  that special time of year when Catholics and some other Christian denominations must abstain from meaty goodness on Fridays. It also means that dining options can be somewhat limited if you are looking for something more than cheese pizza and salads. While many restaurants do a good job offering meatless specials during Lent, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help you can dine every Friday on a full menu of Mexican options sans meat.

Potato Tacos? Yes Please!

Who Needs Meat When You Have Potato Tacos?

This small Catholic Parish is located at 23rd and N. Market and has been serving the popular meal for years. The menu consists of cheese and onion enchiladas, potato tacos, bean tostadas, chile rellenos, and the obligatory beans and rice.  On our visit we decided to sample every item to get the full experience. The chile relleno consisted of a cheese stuffed, fried green pepper. This made for a delicious combination of flavors that I really enjoyed. The chile was rather mild as well, so those with an aversion to heat need not worry. The tostada was of the typical variety and came loaded with beans, lettuce, and cheese.

100% Lent Approved Plate

100% Lent Approved Plate

The cheese and bean enchiladas were top notch and some of the best you can get in Wichita. The tortillas were dipped in just the right amount of chile sauce to make the tortilla pliable and stuffed with plenty of cheese and onion.  The potato tacos were rather transcendent, think mashed potatoes in taco form, and were my favorite dish of the evening. Simple fried tacos were filled with a creamy potato mixture and then cheese and lettuce was heaped on top. Add a little of the homemade salsa and next thing you know you have polished off a half dozen of these guys.

The meal is served every Friday(except Good Friday) from 5 to 7:30 pm. It does attract a crowd, so the earlier the better. You also have the option of carry out in case the dining area is full. And of course you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy this feast, as it’s open to everyone. All proceeds go to help send children from the parish to Catholic schools.

Molinos

24 Aug

Frida’s was a small Mexican restaurant that Steph and I sadly discovered right before it closed back in 2010. It was one of our first dive experiences and got us hooked on “off the beaten path” dining. Their piratas and salsa bar were things of beauty. Luckily the owners of Fridas are back in the restaurant business with their new place called Molinos, located on North Waco next to Juarez Bakery. While it is not an exact copy of Frida’s, they have many of the same items, including the beloved piratas.

Inside, the décor and seating has not changed much from when Las Tias de Beto inhabited the space. It’s still clean and new looking with decent seating areas. The menu has a good mixture of familiar Tex-Mex style dishes that you can find at many Mexican restaurants, as well as more traditional and unique items. I have noticed several online commenters railing against the fact that many of their dishes aren’t traditional Mexican. While I agree with this observation, I don’t see what the big deal is. Molinos is trying to serve a menu that blends both authentic and Tex-Mex into delicious combinations. If you want straight up authentic food, there are plenty of other

A Famous Pirata and a Gordita

A Famous Pirata and a Gordita

places to visit in Wichita.  Some of the highlights of the menu are the aforementioned piratas, a pineapple and mint salad, a baked potato with queso, and elote(a Mexican version of corn with mayo, crema, and cheese). Most meals come with your choice of meat including carnitas, chicken, and cochinita pibil. Keeping up the Fridas tradition, upon request they will bring you out several of their salsas to sample.

On our visit I went with a pirata and a gordita. The pirata consists of a crispy flour tortilla stuffed with your choice of meat(carnitas in my case), melted cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and guac. A small bowl of pico de gallo is served on the side. My pirata was as delicious as the version I remembered from Fridas. It is really the perfect Tex-Mex dish that incorporates as much goodness into one tortilla as legally possible. For the gordita I ordered cochinita pibil as my meat. As evidenced by the picture, this little meat filled tortilla pocket was not quite as breathtaking as the pirata, but at least the cochinita was good. It had a sweet and tangy taste and was very moist. The gordita shell, made from masa, was certainly fresh and chewy. With some pico de gallo it made for a tasty meal. Steph went with her usual default Mexican restaurant order of chicken enchiladas. For her sides she ordered the charro beans and elote. Molinos serves their version of elote in a bowl and let me tell you it’s addicting. There will be no going back to grandma’s creamy corn recipe after you get a taste of elote. Not to be overshadowed, the enchiladas and charro beans were solid as well. The  two enchiladas came smothered with a savory chile sauce that certainly did not originate from a can. Topped with sour cream and  cheese, they were very good. The charro beans were quite amazing as well. Charro beans are a nice break from refried beans and are typically more like a hearty soup. Molinos’ version were some of the best I have had in town. They were nicely seasoned and contained what I believe was tripe instead of the usual bacon. While Steph was not impressed with these tender bits of offal, I found them quite delightful. I would be remiss if I did a review on a Mexican joint and did not mention the salsa. We just went with the regular red salsa which was very good and had just the right amount of kick to it. The salsa was also provided entertainment for our son, who enjoyed attempting to dip his chips into it.

If you are a fan of Mexican food then you should definitely check out Molinos and if you aren’t a fan just go have a pirata and tell me you don’t like it.  With their varied menu you can enjoy traditional dishes or branch out and experience some of their fusion type dishes. Anyway you look at it Molinos is a great addition to the local Mexican restaurant scene.

Molino's on Urbanspoon

La Tradicion Tortilleria

16 Aug

Previously published in the Wichita Eagle:

I have to admit I had reservations about trying a Mexican lunch buffet. Crusty refried beans and soggy tacos sitting in a steam table is not my idea of an enjoyable meal. Fortunately at La Tradicion Tortilleria, they know how to pull off a good buffet with delicious Mexican dishes.

The Humble Exterior of La Tradicion

The Humble Exterior of La Tradicion

La Tradicion is a small joint located at Broadway and 16th, that operates as a tortilla making facility and restaurant. While a menu of typical Mexican fare is available, the main attraction is the buffet that is offered daily from 11am to 2pm. For just under $8 a person you can get your fill of traditional dishes from south of the border.

On our visit the buffet offerings included posole, shredded chipotle chicken, lengua(beef tongue) in a chili verde sauce, pork with a red chili and a green chili sauce, a scrambled egg and green bean concoction(ejotes con huevos), cheese enchiladas, and the ubiquitous rice and beans. A salsa bar and fresh tortillas rounded out the spread. Since most of the dishes were based on chili sauces or broths they were well suited to being held on a steam table and thus my fears of soggy tacos were for not.

A Plate Full of Tasty Buffet Food

A Plate Full of Tasty Buffet Food

Of the dishes we tried there was not a weak link among them. The lengua in chili verde and pork in red chili sauce were my top two picks. I have had lengua at several places around town, and this was the best so far. All of the pork chunks were tender and lean, while the chili sauce was rich and warming. You can’t go wrong taking spoonfuls of these dishes and wrapping them in warm flour tortillas. We had never had green beans with eggs before, but were quickly won over by the simple yet tasty dish. My wife who is an enchilada guru approved of La Tradicion’s cheesy rendition.

The one only complaint we had with the buffet was that some items were slow to be replenished including the salsa, chips, and tortillas. With an hour left in the buffet I would have expected additional food to still be coming out. There was only one hard working and friendly waitress running the dining room, so that may have contributed to the problem. I would recommend going closer to noon time to ensure a fully stocked buffet.

La Tradicion Tortilleria on Urbanspoon

Lalo’s Express

9 Oct

Words you will never hear on a Taco Bell commercial: “Try our new pork stomach tacos!” While most people would probably not jump at the chance to try a pork stomach, there is a place in Wichita that serves them along with other delicious Mexican fare. Lalo’s Express is located at the NW corner of Seneca and Harry in a small space that offers a wide variety of quick service Mexican food. It’s kind of like Taco Bell except that their food does not suck.

Behold: The Awe Inspiring Chimichanga

Inside Lalo’s there are a few tables for dine-in customers, but it seems most of their business is carryout. On the menu are all those typical Mexican dishes you have come to love, including burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas. There are many other menu

Simple Yet Delicious: Barbacoa and Buche Tacos

options as well ensuring that anyone will be able to find something to enjoy.

On our visit I wanted to try several different items so I went with a shredded beef chimichanga, a barbacoa taco, and the intimidating pork stomach taco, called “buche”. Steph went with one of the combination plates that included a beef burrito, beef enchilada, and beans and rice. After ordering at the counter, we sat  down and prepared ourselves for a feast. Even with several other orders in front of ours, we only had to wait 5 or 10 minutes for our food to come.  The chimichanga was a sight to behold with its crispy golden tortilla covered in sour cream, guac, and cheese. Luckily it tasted as good as it looked. The shredded beef was tender and well seasoned and the peppers added additional flavor to the dish. It was one of the best chimichangas I have had in Wichita. The barbacoa and buche tacos were served the traditional way, open faced with cilantro, onion, and lime. The barbacoa was wonderfully tender and full of flavor. Looking at the buche taco I had my reservations, as the bits of grey meat did not look that appealing. Nonetheless I added a bit of salsa to the taco

The Burrito and Enchilada Meal

and dove in.  The buche was surprisingly tender and I enjoyed the earthy taste. Both of these tacos were rich and greasy so with a side of rice and beans you could have a cheap and tasty meal. Steph, being the enchilada connoisseur, rated hers as good, but nothing special. It must not have been that bad, because it was gone before I even had a chance to sample. We both took turns trying to finish the large beef burrito. The beef was well seasoned, but I would have liked more cheese, lettuce, or other fillings inside the burrito. The refried beans were fresh and flavourful, while the rice was just average. All of the food is served on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, so eating something like a burrito can be a challenge especially when you have a squirming baby in one hand.
Lalo’s offers very good fast service Mexican food. Their tacos are especially worth trying, and at $1.95 each they are a good value. With dine-in, carryout, and drive thru options Lalo’s is also very convenient, especially late at night because they are open till 1 am during the week and 3 am on weekends.

Lalo's Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Juarez Bakery

4 Aug

If you think that Wichita is lacking in good local bakeries, then you have not paid a visit to Jaurez Bakery. While it’s location at 1068 N. Waco may be a bit off most people’s beaten paths, it is certainly worth the trip if you are looking for some authentic Mexican pastries. Juarez also doubles as a small grocery store, which stocks a variety of Hispanic food.

So Many Sweets to Choose From…

Once inside you are immediately drawn to the large selection of exquisite looking baked goods nicely displayed along the front wall. The bakery is self serve luckily, so you can take as much time as you would like to make your selections without holding up the line. This also forces you to exercise some degree of self control or you may walk out of Juarez with several bags full of treats. To begin your shopping experience just grab some tongs and a tray from the cashier counter and get to work.

And Still More…

The selection of baked goods at Juarez includes: pan dulces, churros, croissants, several varieties of cookies, doughnuts, cake, and even something that appeared to be in the shape of a pig.  Some of the sweets are labelled, but if in doubt the cashiers can help you with any questions.

On our most recent visit we selected a churro, a Mexican wedding cookie, a scone looking treat covered in chocolate, and
a cream filled doughnut. The churro and unidentified scone-like treat were our favorites. The deep fried churro tube had a crispy exterior that gave way to a dulce de leche filling. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar it was great. The scone looking thing tasted similar to a cake doughnut and had a delicious chocolate topping as well. The Mexican wedding cookie was just at it should be, dense and crumbly with a dusting of powdered sugar. The creme filled doughnut was just as good as any that you would find at your typical doughnut shop.

If you are looking for some great homemade pastries, Juarez Bakery is the place to go. With prices ranging from $0.75 to $2 per item it is also a great value compared to other sweet shops in the area.

Our Selections Included a Churro(top) and a Mexican Wedding Cookie(bottom)

Juarez Baking on Urbanspoon

Fusa/Red 8 Chinese/Chill Gelato(Sushi and Gelato Under One Roof)

9 Apr

Lured in by a coupon offering free gelato with the purchase of a meal we tried the 3 in 1 eatery Fusa/Red 8 Chinese/Chill Gelato the other day. Fusa is located in a strip mall just north of Kellogg and Greenwich. Apparently its original location was in the Towne East Mall, but since I try to avoid that place at all costs, it’s new to me. The owner of Fusa is the same person who opened the iconic Kwan Court and luckily he brought back an old favorite to serve at Fusa. I speak of the honey crispy walnut shrimp, one of my all time favorite dishes.

The Famous Crispy Walnut Shrimp

Fusa is set up much like a mall food court, with several counters offering different cuisines. There is Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, sushi, pasta, burgers, and last but not least, Gelato to top it all off. If you have picky eaters in your group there should be something at Fusa that will satisfy their needs. Ordering was a no brainer for Steph and I, we went with the honey crispy walnut shrimp and the honey crispy walnut chicken. Both dishes came served atop a bed of steamed rice(fried rice available upon request), with plenty of shrimp/chicken. The honey walnut sauce, while not quite on par with the Kwan Court version, was still very good. Coupled with some decent fried shrimp and chicken it was a satisfying meal.

After finishing our lunch we walked to the back of the restaurant where the coolers of gelato( Italian ice cream) are located. Unfortunately there were many delicious flavors, so making a decision was rather difficult. I finally settled on pistachio and Steph was won over by the salted caramel. Our single serving cups were piled high with the creamy frozen treats. We were both pleased with our respective gelato, although it was not as good as Caffe Moderne’s.

A Heaping Cup of Caramel Gelato

If you are looking for a place where you can get your teriyaki chicken and quesadilla fix at the same time Fusa is a good option. Even if you’re not interested in multi-ethnic dining, the large gelato selection is worth checking out.

Chill Gelato * Fusa * Red 8 Chinese on Urbanspoon

Mexico Cafe Delano

26 Feb

Cruising through Delano the other day in search of a satisfying lunch we decided to try Mexico Cafe Delano. I really like the name of this restaurant, it is self explanatory and leaves customers with no doubt as to the cuisine or location. It would be great if other restaurants would adopt this simple nomenclature, just imagine hopping into the car and heading to American Burger Cafe Rock Road or Quasi Italian Riverside. Anyway, Mexico Cafe is located in one of the old, elongated brick buildings that Delano is known for. There are about ten tables in the front, while a counter is all that separates the dining area from the kitchen and prep area. It is awkward looking, but provides for an interesting view. There is also some impressive Hispanic themed art on the walls that is for sale if you have several hundred dollars to spend.

This place is about as family as you can get, as our waitress happily pointed out. The father cooks, the mother wraps silverware and the daughter serves/cashiers/enters into strange conversations with customers. One review I read mentioned that the service can be” funny/awkward” and I think that summed up our experience nicely.  Mexico Cafe’s menu has no real surprises, just a small offering of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, and monterreys. While we looked over our options two salsas and chips were placed on our table. Both salsas were good, especially the hot salsa. The chips on the other hand were quite salty and the not the best we have had. Steph ordered a combo platter with a taco, enchilada, and tostada. Beans and rice do not come with the combos, so we ordered a side of rice. I went with the Deluxe Burrito, how it differs from the regular burrito I cannot say.

A Wide Angle Lense Was Needed to Get This "Deluxe" Burrito

Both of us enjoyed our meals at Mexico Cafe. The taco, served in a fried flour tortilla was good while the enchilada, smothered in meat sauce and cheese was the highlight. We both liked the side of rice, unlike some rice you get, it did not taste like it had been sitting around for several hours. My Deluxe Burrito was certainly deluxe in proportion. It took up the entire plate and was rather imposing covered with a healthy portion of meat sauce and cheese. Inside was ever so tender pork along with chili beans and sauce.  While I typically like some veggies with my burrito, I thought this all meat and bean extravaganza was great.

Mexico Cafe, like many other small Mexican restaurants in Wichita, offers decent food at a reasonable price. While we were not totally blown away with their offerings, it was still a good meal. If you like supporting a real family operation this is definitely an excellent option.
Mexico Cafe Delano on Urbanspoon

Garcia’s Tacos

16 Jan

Another week and another hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. It’s actually been awhile since we have reviewed a Mexican restaurant, so it worked out that Steph and I both had the hunger for south of the border fare. Garcia’s is a real small place located on Market, just south of 21st St. Luckily they had a nice yellow sign outside to draw your attention to what is mostly a stretch of run down buildings along the east side of the street.

The Yellow Sign Directs You to Tasty Goodness

Inside you will find a small, clean dining area with perhaps 8 tables available. The staff is small, consisting of two waitresses and one cook, but very friendly. Since it was our first time at Garcia’s our server offered several suggestions to us. The menu at Garcia’s is small, so small that it is actually just displayed on the wall. And just in case you are easily confused with Mexican cuisine several cartoonish-like pictures accompany the menu mural. What tasty selections are plastered on the wall you ask? Well, there are tacos of course, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, tortas, as well as menudo soup. With each menu item you have your choice of several meats including  carne asada, barbacoa, chicken, and pork.

Chips and salsa were quickly placed on our table as we mulled over the menu board. The chips were fresh and warm and both salsas were good. The red salsa was the milder of the two and had a rather unique taste. It was pureed and had a vinegar taste to it. Although different from most salsas, we both liked it. The second salsa had a bit more kick to it and featured tomatillos and cilantro.  Steph decided to go with a basic carne asada taco meal and I went with the torta meal with pork. With only a few other patrons in the restaurant our food came out very quickly. My torta was large with plenty of pork and lettuce inside. Although I would have liked a little cheese on my torta, the abundance of delicious pork made me very happy. Steph’s tacos were of the authentic variety and consisted of flat corn tortillas with carne asada, lettuce, and tomatoes. Notice that they were not smothered in cheese like many places like to do. Both of us enjoyed these simple yet satisfying tacos. Our dishes were also served with ample portions of beans and rice which were good as well.

Tasty Pork Torta

Carne Asada Taco Sans Piles of Cheese

So what could top off this great lunch you ask? How about the fact that it only cost us about $14 and both of us left stuffed. Garcia’s is a friendly place where one can come to enjoy a simple and cheap good eat. Unfortunately Garcia’s has limited hours and is only open till 3 pm daily. But that still gives you plenty of time to drop by for an enjoyable lunch off the beaten path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Garcia's Tacos on Urbanspoon

El Agave – Wichita KS( A Good Place for Tequila and Salsa)

10 Nov

For once we wanted to be on the cutting edge of the Wichita dining scene and decided to try out the recently opened El Agave. El Agave is located on Rock Road just south of K-96 in what is one of the most transient restaurant buildings on the east side. I can think of at least 3 other restaurants that have been located here in the last ten years. After our experience at Agave I fear they might meet a similar end.

Typically I try to use a restaurant’s salsa quality to make a determination as to how the rest of the meal will go. Is it freshly made or something poured out of an On the Border jar? Is there sweet, delicious cilantro present? El Agave’s salsa proved itself to be rather tasty and paired with a solid $6 house margarita I had high hopes for the rest of the meal.

The menu at El Agave is nothing short of expansive and covers just about every Tex-Mex item you can think of  as well as some more traditional dishes like chicken mole.  I was torn between several choices, but ended up going with the chimichanga dinner. Steph ordered a beef taco and enchilada dinner. My parents joined us at El Agave and they ordered chicken fajitas and Camarones (Shrimp) Vallarta. Despite being fairly busy our food came out in short order. I enjoyed my chimichanga,  the beef was well seasoned, the tortilla crispy, and the cheese sauce tasty. Out of the four meals it seemed that mine was the best. Steph said that her enchilada was bland while the taco was nothing to get excited about. The chicken fajitas were alright, but again nothing that impressive. The most disappointing dish was the Camarones Vallarta. It looked like they had just thrown some pre-made popcorn shrimp onto a plate and served it with rice and a few garnishes.

Despite our experience at El Agave I am not ready to give them a thumbs down yet. With such a large menu to choose from there have to be some really good dishes hiding in there. Unfortunately on the flip side the size of the menu prohibits the diner from finding one of those good dishes. Hopefully as they progress with their business they will streamline the menu so that there is a consistent quality with each dish served.  On another note, if you are a big tequila person this you definitely your place. They have 20 to 30 different types of tequila and a really good house margarita. It would be a great place for drinks and salsa after long work week. Hopefully their food will come around and El Agave will thrive in a location where others have not.

El Agave Mexican Restaurant 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“>

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