Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jacky Chan Sushi: What To Expect

The newest sushi restaurant has opened up in Wichita to much fanfare. Jacky Chan Sushi (not a typo) opened on Good Friday and according to the owner, Binh Tran, he was surprised by how busy they were. He ran out of some food on Friday as he wasn’t sure what to expect on his first day.

Binh Tran, who prefers people to call him by his nickname Jacky Chan, has been making sushi for nearly 20 years. He used to work over at Kwan Court and Sakura until they closed and decided it was time to start his own business and that’s how Jacky Chan Sushi came to be.

Jacky Chan Sushi is located at 4910 E Central in the old Sit at Thai Express location which was also a Taco Shop building for the longest time. They are open 11 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and Noon to 6 pm on Sundays. They feature a drive thru but that is only open from 11 am to 3 pm during the week for the lunch crowd. For those have been to Sit at Thai Express or Taco Shop at that location, you’ll remember it’s a small little quaint place. The new renovation has 7 four tops so the seating is limited and the place is decorated throughout with Asian designs; all done by Jacky Chan’s wife.

They have a large seven page menu that features sushi, noodle and rice dishes, stir fry and some soups. In speaking with Jacky, he has decided to not serve pho at his restaurant as the reception has been pointed mostly towards his sushi and stir fry.

For those wanting alcohol, they should be getting their liquor license by the end of May. As Jacky says, you have to have sake with sushi. It’s a must.

A few friends and I had the chance recently to have a private little dinner and sample an assortment of different menu items. Unfortunately while eating some of the foods, I did a horrible job of note taking as I was too busy socializing and stuffing my mouth with food.

First on the plate for us was a bowl of edamame and a plate full of Jacky Chan fried rice. I really love how he names certain menu items after himself. If I owned a restaurant or a bar, I would make sure there were shots and menu items named after myself. The edamame is always a good appetizer to start off for everyone to pick at and eat. The bowl we had was perfect for my group of four. The Chinese sausage inside the fried rice was the perfect addition to it.



Next up for us was the Jacky Maki which is “red tuna, avocado, smelt roe, sesame, mayo & green onion on top, inside is grilled red snapper, cucumber and mayo.” It’s the feature sushi on his menu and something to try when you go in.
Jacky Chan Maki
The next two items I didn’t get the exact name to it but the first item was something I’ve never had before. It
was a sort of squid umami. It consisted of a fried tofu shell stuffed with squid, sesame, a special Jacky sauce and topped with avocado. You are supposed to eat it like a taco. It was very spicy as only three of four of us were able to finish it. Of course you can always order it milder but if you are one for spicy items, you’ll agree the spicier the better.


Next up was one of his sushi rolls that consisted of a few pieces of fish (from what I recall there was at least squid and tuna). I made the mistake of saying I really love spicy foods as this was made spicy again. I needed more water after this.

The final item we tried was the Teppan Udon with chicken, beef and shrimp. This was a stir fry meal with a mixture of chicken, beef and shrimp all with udon noodles. Of all the items we tried, one of the four mentioned that this was the best of them all. He was a big fan of it and devoured his plate.

That essentially is what you can expect at Jacky Chan Sushi, the newest spot in Wichita to get your sushi fix. I'll note that one thing Jacky prides himself on is offering creative sushi creations you can't find anywhere else in Wichita. If you were a fan of Kwan Court or Sakura then you are familiar with Jacky's work.

Be aware right now, they are only taking cash but expect to take credit/debit cards soon.

I can see this place being a great “fast food” spot for those in the area for lunch with the drive thru. Check them out yourself and let me know what you think.

Otherwise Happy Dining and below you’ll find pictures of their menu.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Southeast Carryout: Order The Special!

When it comes to burger options, there are plenty of great options all over the city of Wichita. When you ask which restaurant in Wichita has the best burger, you’ll get all sorts of different responses. I’ve been to so many different places and honestly can’t choose one. I sort of categorize all the burger places so I can name multiple burger places I like.

There’s a particular spot on the southeast side of town that is one of my absolute favorite places to go after a round of golf at Clapp Golf Course. That place is Southeast Carryout.

Southeast Carryout is located at the northeast corner of Harry and Oliver at 1520 South Oliver. It’s connected right next to the Payless Shoe Store. Check out their menu: http://southeastcarryout.com/index.php

Their hours:
Monday-Saturday 10:30 AM-7:45 PM
Sunday 12 PM-3:30 PM

I've been going to Southeast Carryout for years. 

They've been around since 1991 and have been at their current location since 1999. For all the years I've been going, I've literally only had one menu item which hasn't changed for me. I always order their “special” which is a 1/3 double cheeseburger deluxe with large fries and a drink; of course I always ask for no cheese. They make their burgers fresh and made to order right in front of you. Note that their burgers are preformed patties and a little thing but you’re getting two patties with the special. The fries are so so but I go there specifically for the burger.

I almost put Southeast Carryout in the “fast food burger” category. The building is a little small so there isn't much seating. You get your food quick so you eat it and just go. It’s not like ordering a burger at a bar where you also order a beer and sit there for a while. It doesn't have the restaurant feel to it like TJ’s or TY’s. So by those rules, Southeast Carryout is the best fast food burger or one of them at the very least.

The special will run you a little over $5 which is on par with what you’ll spend at any other fast food place in Wichita but it’s so much better.

For the longest time, Southeast Carryout was cash only but they have recently started accepting debit/credit cards. I totally understand that taking cards takes a bite into the profits for small businesses and try to have cash on me when I go.

If you love a good burger, add Southeast Carryout to your list of places. I’m a big fan of the place as are many of my friends. It’s a small little joint that has been owned by a couple for over 20 years. Every time I go in, they are so friendly to me and any other patrons coming in. Highly recommended!

Have you been? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Doo-Dah Diner: Is This The Best in Wichita?

Every so often readers, or better yet people who are extremely bored and somehow come across this blog, will send me suggestions on restaurants they would like me to try. There’s one restaurant that’s been recommended more so than any other in the past year. So on Saturday morning when a couple friends wanted to grab some breakfast, I made a special request for a change of itinerary to drive down Kellogg and check out Doo-Dah Diner.



Doo-Dah Diner has been open for about a year and a half and specializes in breakfast and lunch that’s cooked from scratch. They are located at 206 E Kellogg Drive just right off the Central Business District exit. They’re open Wednesday thru Friday 7 am to 2 pm and on Saturdays and Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm.

The moment we all arrived, the place was packed. There was a line out the door around 11 am on Saturday.
This was the day after the George Strait concert and I started to wonder if the King himself was inside. Upon taking a peek, I saw no country music stars; just people, some with George Strait t-shirts and sweatshirts on they paid $50-100 for the night before.

The wait from checking in to getting seated was about 30 minutes which wasn’t too bad as we sat outside and enjoyed the nice weather. When we were seated, the one thing we all did notice was that the smell of the restaurant would stick to our clothes by the end of breakfast. The entire restaurant is open so you can see them cooking and preparing your food.

You Complete Me
The menu is available on their website: http://www.doodahdiner.com. There were so many good options on there; we had to resort to asking the lady who I believed was the owner along with our server for popular items to try.  There was a big debate at our table to go with breakfast food or with lunch. The end result was to order a mix of items on the menu and just share as we go because as you all know, sharing is caring. We placed our order and they brought us a complimentary bowl of this lovely goodness called: Monkey Bread. I was the only person at our table who had never heard of Monkey Bread. The employees explained to me what it was, sounded pretty easy to make. I try to keep personal things off of my blog but for the past three decades, I have felt as if there has been something missing from my life. Saturday after trying the Monkey Bread, my life was then made complete. Jerry Maguire needed Renée Zellweger to complete him and all I needed was Monkey Bread. I contemplated cancelling my lunch order and just ordering three bowls of Monkey Bread but was voted down by the table.

Then it was time for breakfast/lunch:

Take a nap before trying
I went with the Beefy Doo-Dad. (Menu Description: German style beef, cabbage & onion mix, surrounded by mashed potatoes with a crunchy crust, sitting in a sea of mushroom gravy drizzled in horseradish sauce, served with skillet green beans). It almost reminded me of a big bierock but better. I wasn’t sure about the horseradish sauce when I saw it but it really added some pizazz to the flavor. The taking a big spoonful of the crunchy toast making sure I got some beef, mashed potatoes and green beans into the same bite was delicious. This was one of the items suggested by our server as one of the more popular items of the day and I’m very glad I went with it. Each of my friends had bites and had similar feelings. If you stop by Doo-Dah for a lunch item, give this one a try. In addition to the Doo-Dad, I ordered a side of hash browns and jalapeño bacon. Both were excellent a la carte items that completed my meal and put me on the verge of passing out. For the record, everybody at the table also ordered a side of hash browns. Breakfast is never complete until hash browns come.

Take a nap after trying
Another one of my friends really wanted some breakfast and at the recommendation of the owner went with the Banana Bread French Toast. (Menu Description: Gluten Free. Banana bread battered & topped with candied apples, pecans & apple butter). Just looking at the description alone, you knew it was going to be delicious. My friend went with a full order of it as she was planning on sharing it with the rest of the table. First few bites from everyone brought the close your eyes and smile look; absolutely delicious.  Now, we all weren’t sure if it was something you could eat just by itself for breakfast or lunch though. It’s pretty sweet (in flavor) and our recommendation is to order something else and have this as a side item to split with someone or have this as dessert (but DO order it).

Take a lactose pill if you can't eat dairy
My last friend had a recommendation to order the Triple D (Menu Description: Can't decide? Half orders of our three most popular breakfast items: Banana Bread French Toast, Crispy Corned Beef Hash & Timi's Benny) and planned on ordering that. But when our server came to the table, he called an audible and went with the Outside In Burger (Menu Description: 10oz fresh hand-partied beef stuffed with American cheese & jalapeño bacon on a pretzel bun). This came to the table’s dissatisfaction as the Triple D was highly recommended by both the owner and our server. The Outside In Burger’s patty was large and stuffed to the point, I was worried when he took a bite the American cheese was going to just squirt out everywhere. That was actually something I was rooting for to happen but was let down. This was the only of the three items I did not try but the final verdict on the burger was it was good: not great, not special, not horrible but just good. The general consensus was he should have ordered something else than the Outside In Burger. He finished his burger and was filled and satisfied but it wasn’t as “inspiring” of a meal so to speak as the previous two menu items we ordered.

A peek inside of the Outside In Burger
The service was wonderful. There was a brief moment of silence at our table where I just said, “You know guys, the people here are just extremely nice.” This brought on the following comment by a friend that went, “I know, are we in a restaurant right now?” Everybody was so polite and nice; it wasn’t forced and felt genuine. That was one aspect that really stuck out.

The best word to describe the day was: Solid. From the food to the service, everything was just solid.

Doo-Dah Diner is a must try. I’m upset that it took me so long to get out there but with those hours they are open it just didn’t work with my schedule much of the time. When I got home, I seriously considered going to bed in the afternoon. The amount of food was just too much and too good for one man. Everyone else was very pleased with Doo-Dah and return visit will be put on the books soon. I’ve been to quite a few breakfast restaurants in Wichita and they are all about the same and aren’t unique in my book, Doo-Dah Diner has separated themselves from the crowd and I think just might be the best in Wichita. When I think of any restaurant that is a diner, this one is a cut above the rest.

Have you been? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Freebirds World Burrito Hits Wichita!

For the longest time, fans of the “Make Your Own Burrito” adventure in Wichita had to go to Chipotle and to a lesser extent Poblano. In the past year, one of the newer chains popped up in Wichita at Central and Hillside: Freebirds World Burrito.

I can't believe I didn't get the entire restaurant name in the picture
They now have two locations in Wichita: the original location at 410 N. Hillside and the newer location at 2350 N. Greenwich. This is a chain and you can check out their website http://freebirds.com for more information including the menu.

If you are not familiar with the “Make Your Own Burrito” adventure as I like to call it, it’s a “fast food” style restaurant where you show up and pick your tortilla type, the type of rice between cilantro lime or Spanish rice, type of beans, cheese, meat, salsa, and a host of other toppings. It’s essentially a Subway for burritos minus Jared Fogle rubbing it in your face with how much weight he’s loss. Take note that you can also order tacos, burrito bowls (minus the tortilla), salads and other items.

I’ve been to Freebirds before in Kansas City and the location in Wichita a handful of times so I wanted to have three of my friends join me that have never been to Freebirds before. For this particular review, we attended the Central and Hillside location. The very first comment one of my friends made to me when she walked in was “They serve margaritas!!!!”. Yes, they do serve margaritas and beer at Freebirds. Some of my friends react like it’s Christmas Day when they see restaurants serve alcohol that they didn’t expect……sort of like Taco Tico back in the day. McDonald’s, are you next?

When you order your burritos, you can order them in three sizes: hybrid ($1 less than the Freebirds), Freebirds, and Monster ($1 more than the Freebirds). Two of my friends all ordered the Freebirds while I felt feisty and ordered the Monster. The fourth person in our group ordered a burrito bowl with the tortilla on the side. Getting through the line two of the girls thought it was pretty smooth to get through, another thought it was a kind of slow and the staff seemed pretty frazzled. Mine took a little longer because I had to wait for the cilantro lime rice to get prepared and two people passed in front of me while I waited. No problem at all, waits happen at any of this style of places when they are out of a certain food item. Three of four were satisfied.

The Freebirds burritos (and burrito bowls) were $7.29, they charge extra for guacamole, queso and sour cream. One of the girls felt she got her money’s worth for adding the side of sour cream and not the guacamole. I felt it was a fair portion of guacamole I received and another paid $3 for the meal deal which included chips and a drink. She felt it seemed like a high price for what she got out of the meal deal; then beers and margaritas were also ordered.  

While we were sitting down and eating, we noticed how cold it was in the building. The outside temperature was 45 degrees that evening and it felt like that inside the building. We would later find out from one of the employees the A.C. was on and they couldn’t get it to turn off as the unit was broken and they had somebody coming in to fix it. I will say it was a good thing I brought my jacket. One of the girl’s queso started to harden up. The employee was very apologetic and would later come back to give us all coupons for free chips and salsa.

Here are the individual notes from each of the people that joined me:

Eater #1 ordered a spinach tortilla with white rice, chicken, queso, guacamole, sour cream, veggies, pico, and chips with guac. She felt it was worth the price for the burrito but the extras of sour cream and guac wasn’t worth the price. The chips and drink were a little too much. The ingredients didn’t have the same flavor as the other places in Wichita, pretty bland in general. She mentioned during dinner it didn’t have the “fresh taste” to it. The spinach tortilla was the best part about the burrito to her as was the queso. Freebirds has more choices but not exactly the quality of their competition. She would give it a try again in the future.

Freebirds vs. Monster Size. Ouch.
Eater #2 had a burrito bowl with the tortilla on the side. She felt the pricing was fair except for the guacamole charge. Compared to the competition, she didn’t feel as there was much flavor but the ingredient quality seemed comparable though. There are a lot of options so she was glad she looked online ahead of time to get an idea of what to order. She did notice the bottles that hold the sauces weren’t labeled so she would like to see all of the options. If there was a location on the west side of town, she’d try it again.

Eater #3 had a chicken burrito with a cayenne tortilla. She was pleased with the pricing and the burrito was pretty big and she didn’t finish it. She wasn’t too impressed with the quality of ingredients. She was a big fan of the ambience and the atmosphere of the place other than the freezing temperature of the place and would probably come back for another beer and to try their carnitas.

Eater #4 also known as me. I went with a Monster burrito with the cayenne tortilla. I had the carnitas with the cilantro lime rice, no beans, no cheese. They informed me since I didn’t get cheese, I could get either guacamole or sour cream for no charge so I went with guacamole. I felt the pricing was very fair for what you got. It’s a lot of food even if you get the Freebirds size. The ingredients I liked outside of the veggies which were very soggy. I think their salsa options are much better than the competition as I’m a huge fan of salsa and condiments in general. I’ve been to Freebirds many times so I knew what I was getting so my opinion was a little biased. The competition’s meat has a little better quality though than Freebirds. Freebirds is ahead though in their tortillas, salsas, and number of options. I would go again as proven by my numerous other times attending. The Monster burrito is huge…… huge. I nearly finished it and felt like a zombie in the Walking Dead upon finishing dinner.

Overall most of us were pleased with the atmosphere and the service minus the, as one friend put it, arctic blast. The ambience is very clean and nice. Along the walls, people turn their aluminum foil that wraps up their burrito into art; nice little touch.

 #Foil Angry (cheap attempt at a caption, I know)
All three others said they’d give a return a try if they were in the area. The three others actually live on the West side of town so it’s not exactly convenient for all three to make it out to one unless they are working out East. To rate the experience, it was more of a positive than a negative. I’ve actually gone to Freebirds more than the competition in the past year and the girls all seemed to lean towards the competition when choosing a favorite. Maybe it’s a gender thing….. who knows?

It’s a place you should definitely try out for yourselves to see if you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do and how you feel it stacks up. 

Thanks to all three of my friends for joining!

Happy Friday and Happy Dining all. 

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Saigon Pho Reviewed

There are times I just drive around the east side of Wichita right after work until I find a place that looks good. Sometimes it can be miles and miles until I stop; sometimes I’ll end up on another side of town; but I am willing to make that sacrifice to make my best friend, my stomach, happy.

This week I was driving in the cold weather and six miles later came across a place I’m pretty sure was new to Wichita. I pulled a legal (of course) U-turn and pulled into the parking lot and came across Saigon Pho.

Saigon Pho is located at 4857 East Harry Street, Wichita, KS 67218. It’s a small little building located at the southeast corner of Harry and Oliver. Walking inside, it had the total feel of your family owned Vietnamese restaurant. You’re greeted kindly like family, there’s a television airing some Vietnamese TV show, the condiments on the table do not include ketchup or mustard………you get the picture. There was enough seating inside for roughly 40 people.


Being an avid lover of Pho, it was obviously the menu item I was going to choose. When it’s the first time trying out a Vietnamese restaurant, I always also order a side of spring rolls. When I tried to order them, the owner told me they were out of shrimp spring rolls and was very apologetic. I told him over and over, it was totally ok or as everybody’s favorite Bachelor Juan Pablo says, “Es ok”. Even after all that, the owner was still apologizing. So I started to wonder, “Does he recognize me?”, “Does he know I’m getting ready to review this place.” but after constant apologies I knew he was genuine about it. I then thought about ordering the pork spring rolls and he told me that I should pass as the shrimp is so much better; totally appreciate the honesty there and he’s right shrimp is so much better than pork when it comes to spring rolls.

Quick glance of the menu:





After the whole discussion about the spring rolls, I then decided to go with their P3 Pho which is rare eye round steaks, flank, brisket, and tendons. For most of their pho bowls, they have three sizes and I went with the large which was $7.95. Oh yeah….and no bean sprouts. I’ve never been a fan of those things despite the millions of times my mother has tried to get me to eat them.

Not too long after, the Pho was brought out; steaming hot as it should be and a wonderful beef broth smell. While I waited for it to cool down and added the obligatory hoisin sauce and sriracha, I had to chance to talk to the owner who was also doing the cooking. The owner is originally from Vietnam and a former machinist and decided to open up the restaurant last year. He told me that Saigon Pho has been open for about three and a half months and they’ve been doing well. He makes his broth overnight which is the way to do it; I am not a fan of Pho restaurants that make their broth right on the spot. This is not Spangles and made to order. Pho broth must sit and cook for hours on end. Overall a very nice gentleman and you could tell treated his cooking like a craft.

The very first thing I did once the Pho was ready was drink a spoonful of the broth. Verdict? Delicious. I had to take in a couple more spoonfuls to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. As I mixed around my Pho, there were copious amounts of meat in there. Saigon Pho doesn’t skimp on this and gives you a healthy portion. Bite after bite, I was really thinking to myself, “Could this be the top Pho restaurant in Wichita?” To be honest, their Pho was right up there with the two places I consider to be the best Pho restaurants in Wichita: Pho Hein and My Tho. The only difference is it’s in a different area of town.

Price-wise you won’t find much of a difference between most major Pho restaurants in Wichita. They are all about the same. Saigon Pho does have a Monday-Friday lunch specials that run $5-6 if you are in that area. Something to note, they do accept credit cards unlike some of the other Pho establishments in town.

Coming from a person who has been to plenty of Pho restaurants and grew up on the meal, I will easily put Saigon Pho as one of the top three Pho restaurants in Wichita. Given the location, I wish them the best and hope they last. Give them a try; it’ll be worth your time.

Lastly I’d like to dedicate this blog in memory of my aunt. By far the best Vietnamese cook I’ve ever known. She really set the bar for cooking in my book and I’ll continue to scour the streets of Wichita to find a bowl of Pho that matches her. Miss you every day.

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