Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dining By The Alphabet: Letter I

Letter I is now upon us. We were this close (holding my fingers really close together for those lacking the ability to picture things without me explaining any further) to choosing Imbiss Grill. After looking at the menu and just not feeling in the mood for German food we looked at our other options. IHOP......pass. Il Vicino, we've been there quite a few times in the past month due to charity events.

We also realized the word "Il" pretty much means the and we've said in the past that wouldn't be allowed. But hey, we make the rules so why not allow ourselves to break them? So I bring to your our choice for Letter I

Il Ponte Cafe. Located at 3101 N. Rock Road inside the former Le Monde building. Website and Menu: http://www.ilpontecafe.com/ 

The place inside is pretty fancy. Nice colors inside, very vibrant. One television. Tables in the middle area, booths along the walls, a fully stocked bar. It is one of those places you walk inside and just get a good feeling. It wasn't very busy when we arrived but we were quickly greeted and seated.

Checked the menu over, its similar to other Mediterranean places in Wichita like Cafe Bel Ami, Bella Luna, Adrian's but Il Ponte Cafe advertises themselves as "Specializing in Traditional Italian Cuisine With a Bridge To Mediterranean Flavor"

Where does this rank on the Hummus Challenge?
Today just happened to be Tuesday night so why not thrown in some Appetuesdays! We quickly order the hummus, or as the menu has it "hommos", with pita chips and bread. This gives us ample time to look over the menu. The hummus runs $5.25 and comes out in a decent size bowl. Comparable to Bella Luna size. The pita bread was very warm when it came out. It felt and smelled like it had just grilled or toasted. By far the best pita bread we've ever had among all the places we've tried during the course of this blog. As for the hummus, it was good. We wouldn't say great as its not breathtakingly awesome but it was still worth the price. They added a very nice touch of garlic in the middle as you can see in the picture. We mixed a small portion in with the hummus and it really added a unique taste to it. The server told us, it was a recent addition to their hummus. Well done. How does the hummus compare in our current Hummus Challenge:
1.) M.I.F. Deli
2.) Il Ponte Cafe
3.) Cafe Bel Ami
4.) N&J Cafe

During this time our server comes out and runs by the specials for us. I have the worst attention span when it comes to these. Two things stuck out.....salmon and filet. Tiffany would later fill me in on what they were. She listens.....I don't. Sounds like most relationships huh? When we place our order, I decide to go with their special. It was a poached salmon served with squash, zucchini, this special rice, and either a Caesar salad or a fattoush salad. I order Caesar. The server is quick to ask me if I've ever eaten fattoush salad. I tell him yes and he asks where. So I tell him Cafe Bel Ami and Bella Luna Cafe. The server then goes on to explain how many of the customers prefer their fattoush salad. He says their fattoush salad has been "Americanized", more of an Italian dressing taste and less olive oil. I think about it and am preparing to go with the Caesar. He sees my hesitation and says, "I can bring you out a sample if you'd like to try it out." to which I oblige. He brings it out and it looks like your everyday fattoush salad. Upon the first bite, I can really tell the difference. Tiffany tried a bit and could tell the difference as well. One noticeable ingredient they added was chopped up pickles, not sure if this is in other fattoush salads but I've never noticed it until now. I liked it. Decided to go ahead and order the fattoush. I loved how the server was very helpful and went the extra mile to offer an item that was very popular for their restaurant to which he would gain nothing cause it wasn't an upsell. Tiffany decided to go with the chicken pesto panini with a Caesar side salad.

The food came out promptly.

First bite into my salmon, it was delicious. Flaky, the sauce was excellent, the rice......well I consider myself to be a "Professor of Rice" or "The Dean of Rice University" so to speak. Their rice was as Tiffany put it, "absolutely delicious". We just had to ask what was in it and tell him we loved it. The server said it was some sort of pasta fried in olive oil that was put in with the grain rice, there was a mention of jasmine. I couldn't make out the spelling of the pasta but he said it was pronounced chi-ray. Never heard of it but it was great nonetheless. The two pieces of shrimp were a little dry; was not a big fan. Tiffany thought the panini was delicious. She liked her Caesar salad, she did comment on the size of their "side salad". Pretty big to the point she couldn't finish it. We were both stuffed before even finishing our meal. I then asked the server what all was in the rice again and he explained it a second time. I missed it. Tiffany asked if she could ever order it just as a side. You are allowed to.

I manage to finish my meal and Tiffany grabs half her panini to go. The server asked us if we have room for dessert. Not tonight. Stuffed to the brim. He then mentions they have half priced wines on Monday and Wednesday. Plus on Sundays they have a lunch buffet from 11 am to 3 am. They offer everything from the salmon to the fattoush salad to the rice (way to twist our arms sir, well played). Its something we'd definitely recommend. He then boxed up the rest of Tiffany's meal. On his way back he even brought us back a little to go box of the rice we loved as a complimentary item. Very very very nice touch. Freebies aren't required, it was just the cherry on top to what had been an excellent night of service. Seriously one of the best in our time of Dining by the Alphabet.

We get our ticket and for the appetizer, two side salads, and two meals, we were looking at $30. Fortunately  the Entertainment Book had a $5 off a $25 meal purchase. So our bill was $25. We tipped him, left the collector's "Wichita By E.B." card and made our way out the door.

Letter I ended up as a success. How big of a success? That all depends on the Super Scientific Scale. After much deliberation taking into account price, service, quality of food, here's how it played out. Tiffany thought about it, discussed it, voiced her thoughts, made the comparisons and she gave Il Ponte Cafe, 5 out of 5 stars. I had already made my mind up before the tab came out as I had an idea of how much it'd be. Me? 5 stars.

So Wichita By E.B. readers we have our first ever perfect score. Il Ponte Cafe Super Scientific Scale Rating: 5 stars. 

We highly recommend this place to anybody looking for a little Mediterranean/Italian twist.  That closes out a very successful Letter I and takes us on to Letter J as we continue to head towards the halfway point.

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Happy Dining.


Il Ponte on Urbanspoon

Quick Hits: 5/31/11 - What Happens If A Server Spills Drinks On You?

Quick Hits 5/31/11

Hope you all had a very memorable Memorial Day Weekend.

It's back to work for pretty much everybody.

Question of the Week: 
First things first before I start on some bullet points, I need some responses from the readers. If a server (their fault) at a restaurant spilled an entire tray of drinks on you, what is acceptable to you for an apology? Portion of the tab covered, dry cleaning, free drinks, free meal, gift certificate, what? Will just an apology do?

It didn't happen to me but a friend. I'd love to hear your responses.

Now for the bullet points.
  • Tanya's Soup Kitchen now serves beer and wine. Can't say I've ever done a beer and chicken noodle soup "combo" before but everything’s worth a try at least once, right?
  • Bad Picture: But a good preview of the
    extended menu at "And The Wiener Is"
  • Stopped by "And the Wiener Is....." a couple weekends ago. I tried the Chicago dog and the Reuben dog along with a side of slaw. Can't say it was too memorable but considering it was also at 2:30 am should it have been? This place is located on East Douglas across the street from Wichita East High School. The hot dogs will run you about $3.50-$5 on average for just the hot dog. I don't think this would make my list of places to stop by when I'm hungry on a random day, but located near downtown Wichita, its a good spot for an after bar meal with other places closed. It has its niche and the prices and selection is much better than the soon to be moving Linkhaus. There are over 40 different types of hot dog creations to choose from.
  • Old Mill Tasty Shop will now be open for weekend dinners. I cannot say I've ever been to Old Mill Tasty Shop before. I've heard nothing but good things about it and Tiffany loves this place. It’s definitely on queue for Letter O.
That's all for now folks. Letter I should be taking place hopefully tonight……….

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Happy Dining.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Free Birthday Meals Around Wichita

Your parents may have told you "there's no such thing as a free meal." Well your parents are wrong and I've been able to prove it.

There are plenty of restaurants that give out freebies. The catch is it usually happens once a year and that day would be your birthday.

Below is a list of places that offer you free meals on your birthday. I think a couple of these places will require you to make one purchase but a bulk of these are free. It takes a minute of your time. I would definitely set up a different e-mail address when registering for your free meals so you aren't hit with spam.

Plus for these places, you don't have to use the coupon/voucher on the day of your birthday. There's usually a window of around 7-14 days you can go in.

Abuelo's - Free gift certificate on your birthday when you join their eClub - http://www.abuelos.com/eClub

Bonefish Grill - Free Appetizer (usually Bang Bang Shrimp) when you stay in touch with them -  http://contact.bonefishgrill.com/stayintouch.aspx

Cold Stone Creamery - Free creation b1g1 on your birthday - http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/mycsc/index.html

Famous Dave's - Free appetizer when you join their P.I.G. Club - http://www.famousdaves.com/pig-club/

Genghis Grill - Free bowl when you register for their Khan Club - http://www.genghisgrill.com/khans_klub.php

Hu Hot Mongolian Grill - Free meal when you sign up for the Hot Club -  http://www.huhot.com/HuHot_Community/HotClub

Noodles and Company - Free bowl when you sign up for Noodlegrams - http://www.noodles.com/noodlegram/

Red Hot and Blue - Free sandwich (or other meal) when you join the RHB Club -  http://rol.custcon.com/rhb/rol_default.asp

Red Robin - Free burger on your birthday when you register for their eClub -  http://www.redrobin.com/eclub/

Are there others in Wichita I'm missing?

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Twin Peaks: Grand Opening

What a week. It’s been a while since you've heard from us so let me update you with this jam packed blog.

Since I've been battling an infection, we've been no go on any Wichita dining for most of the week. We will definitely return next week with Letter I.

First off the biggest news in Wichita dining has been the opening Twin Peaks in the old Timberline building at 21st and Rock. We actually had the chance to stop in there with some friends last week before I was hit with the Black Plague.....or something less severe than that.

Twin Peaks is a restaurant and bar with a similar overall theme to Hooters. The inside of the establishment has a very cabin feel to it. Imagine a wide open Timberline. That's what it really feels like to me at least. All the walls knocked down, you can see end to end inside the new Twin Peaks.

There are plenty of tables and plenty of scenery for the testosterone engulfed male who act like they have seen cleavage for the first time in their life. The girls there are dressed in short shorts and button down plad shirts that are wrapped high right below their pectoral muscles. The shirts are then unbuttoned to make certain items more revealing. As one of my friends put it, "It makes Hooters feel like church."

I felt like a loser taking this picture when all those guys
turned and looked at me
We were told their headquarters brought in servers and trainers from their other locations to help out. As another one of my friends said I think while drooling, "Wow! They definitely brought in the A-Team for the grand opening." When Tiffany turned her head to look at a TV, I was able to fit in a head nod in agreement. (Ok, I’m just kidding about that last point..... or am I?)

To add more to the feel, they have shirts for sale with all sorts of "clever slogans" on them. For example, one shirt had a rather richly developed woman and a keg on it. The title on the shirt? "I'd Tap That". The 17 year old inside of me chuckled. I was going to point in out to Tiffany but I'm pretty sure I would have received one of those eyeball rolls plus my childish giggling would have made it difficult for me to explain the joke to her which she probably would have given me a second eyeball roll for stating the obvious. All joking aside, if I ever have a 17 year old son, he's so getting that shirt for his birthday.

Hey! I got another T-shirt idea with this picture:
"Got Wood?"
HA HA HA HA

Beer Selection. Twin Peaks has a wide selection of beers available. And guess what? They are all cold. The beers are all served in the 32 degree temperature area. Nobody likes to be served warm beer and this place definitely does not do that. Some friends ordered imports, other the regular staples like Bud Light and Miller Light and others? Well the special. They have 24 oz $1.99 Miller High Life drafts on special. The Champagne of Beers! I usually don't order drafts because I've read and heard of some places in Wichita that have dirty lines for their drafts which can cause mold. I try to stick to bottles. They also have $2.99 shot specials that are listed on the menu. $2.99 everyday. Twin Peaks murders Hooters in price in this area.

Food. At the recommendation of a friend, I tried the spicy chipotle burger with no cheese. This is a double patty burger with jalapeños, a spicy chipotle sauce and fire fries. Fire fries are regular steak fries with added seasoning. Tiffany went with the fish tacos with fire fries. The first step to a good fire fry is the seasoning. If it lacks the seasoning, they are bland fries. Tiffany's were loaded with seasoning and mine weren't and we could definitely tell which fries were better by a long shot. For what it’s worth, I liked my burger and have tried it again since. She enjoyed her fish tacos. We were both full on our meals. Well worth it and good food. Twin Peaks has a wide variety of food. They have chicken fried steaks, flat iron steaks; meatloaf, quesadillas, and your regular fare of bar food. Meals range from $8 on up to a little under $20.

Service. The service was pretty quick. They were always quick to ask if we needed another beer. The food came out in a timeley manner. They really give you lots of attention especially if you go in with a group of guys. The girls definitely "work it". Its funny to people watch and see them give attention to certain guys who you can tell are just totally in love.

They have flat screen TV’s everywhere in the restaurant. With how the inside is designed, the TV's are a little higher so sitting at a table top, not all seats are ideal for watching sports. Sometimes there are pillars in the way, other times your neck may get tired from tilting it at an angle. But for the most part, it'll do.

Hooters and other bars should be put on notice. Twin Peaks will be competition. If you aren't overly conservative and can overlook certain parts, Twin Peaks is actually a pretty decent spot to eat at, have a drink, and watch a game. I've spoken to guys AND girls who enjoy going there.

I also apologize for not having more pictures. I didn’t want to be the guy with the camera taking pictures of the girls to display on a website. It all would have been, well for the lack of a better word, creepy.

Happy Dining Folks.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Live From White Castle!

White Castle's brief stop in Wichita lasted only two hours on Thursday afternoon.

With Tiffany stuck at work, I was tasked with the job of heading over to the Central and Rock Dillon's to try and purchase some White Castle burgers to see if it was worth all the hype.

White Castle was scheduled for 4-6 pm. Only two hours which still doesn't make sense to me especially for only one location. I think having a handful of locations for a little more than two hours would have been nice. But what do I know. I'm sure there were many variables that prevented that.

Before 4 pm, I had an interesting talk with a co-worker who knew I was going. I was asked, "How many people would it take for me to just leave and not wait in line?” I said, "Oh about 30, 40, maybe 50 people."

No less than five minutes after that, I get a text from a friend that reads "I heard on the radio there are already over 1,000 people in line."

Hmmm......well that exceeds my limit of 50 people I had set. But the crazy person inside of me just had to go see it. The area was on my way home so it didn't hurt to stop by. So heading towards Rock and Central, I could see lots of cars ahead of me slowing down towards Dillon’s and putting their turn signal on. Then I could see some cars starting to back up. As I approached the grocery store parking lot, it looked like a Wichita River Festival concert was about to take place. Every news station had their vans set up. Nearly every parking spot was taken. People were just walking around everywhere.


Was this a gathering to celebrate the upcoming rapture?
Nope. It’s White Castle.
I get there about 5:05 pm and have to park all the way over at Chili's. The tent is set up near the gas pumps, just southwest of it. The line is crazy long. Yes probably 1000 people there. I take a picture of the craziness.

Then I'm thinking to myself, there is only 55 minutes left for this shindig. The line is not moving whatsoever. I have a life outside of this I can probably get to. Game Two of the Dallas Mavericks/Oklahoma City Thunder is going on in a few hours. 2 burgers for 90 cents when you can only order 4 burgers...... 55 minutes of wait for a chance to get 4 burgers which will probably run out.....

I left.

So sorry everybody, nothing else to report. I read on Kansas.com they had 5000 burgers on hand that were being grilled by the Wichita Fire Department.

Maybe this is a good sign for Wichita to tell White Castle we want one here. Doubtful it'll happen though. When I'm in St. Louis next year for the MVC Basketball Tournament, I might have to try White Castle while I’m there.

In the meantime, Dillon's does carry frozen White Castle burgers you can pop in the microwave for double the cost but no lines. I bought some actually a week ago; still sitting in the freezer. When I learn how to use an oven, I might blog about my life-changing burger experience.

Have a great weekend all.

P.S. - Totally off-topic but R.I.P. "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Any guy my age had a high probability of growing up watching him wrestle. Very polarizing personality that drew everyone's attention.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Weekend of Dining

We had a chance to try out all sorts of different places this weekend. Three actually and those places were Mike's Wine Dive, Red Robin and CherryBerry Self Serve Yogurt Bar.

I was only able to take pictures of CherryBerry. The other two places, I was so busy that it slipped my mind to take pictures. Here are some quick thoughts we had on the places we tried out over the weekend.

Mike's Wine Dive

We reserved their little "banquet room" which is located downstairs. It’s dark down there but not too dark to where you can't see. It’s dimly lit and one of our friends compared it to a "mafia room". Its like a wine cellar down there, you can see where a bunch of wines are stored. The little room seats around 14-16 people.
A handful of us ordered the Kobe Burger including myself with fries. Tiffany went with the Salmon Burger. Both items run around $11-12. These were popular suggestions we've heard from others. Beforehand, we had a house salad with their vinaigrette dressing which was delicious.

I stuck with a couple vodka presses for drinks and Tiffany went the moscato route. Our server was very friendly and did a great job. The food was delicious. I really liked the Kobe burger, it’s actually the second time I've had it. I wish they could have supplied some more fries as the side serving was rather minimal. Tiffany enjoyed her salmon burger. All in all a great time.

We were able to bring in our own birthday ice cream cake as a surprise. We stored it in their freezer and the server put the candles on them, lit it, and brought the cake down to us. He then cut it for us and served us all. Very nice touch and something he certainly did not need to do.

I was hesitant at first going there but this was our second time. So they've had two chances to make an impression on us and they succeeded. Job well done. Highly recommended, so we may return here for Letter M.

CherryBerry Self Serve Frozen Yogurt

I managed to take some pictures for everyone here. This is one of the newest frozen yogurt places to open up. Only difference, this location is in Derby on Rock Road.

Might as well watch TV while
you get your toppings. It may
be a while!
Place is a little smaller and narrow. The serving machines are all the same. They offer some different flavors like Rocky Road and Cookies and Creme. We sampled them and weren't too impressed. Plus the machine serves the frozen yogurt extremely slow. At an Orange Leaf or Yogurt Xplosion (I feel dirty just typing that); the yogurt comes out pretty quick when you pull down the lever. At CherryBerry, the froyo comes out pretty slow. And when I say slow, imagine a 90 year old lady on crutches and roller-skates serving you at Sonic. PRETTY SLOW. Their froyo seems much "harder" or "icier" than the other two establishments. I guess the difference is because CherryBerry doesn't use a mix to make their froyo; they make theirs from scratch.

Plus with the toppings, they have some in the bowls where you serve yourself but they also have a bunch in these canisters. You have to spin this little wheel on the canister at the bottom to dispense your topping. That too would at times get clogged up or slow moving so you had to tap it or in my case, smack it, to get the toppings to come out. Two minor conveniences in "self serve" between that and the speed of the froyo machines. There were plenty of toppings to choose from.

One thing some of you waffle cone fans may be upset with is they do not offer any actual cones that fit inside your cup for froyo. Nor any ice cream cones. At the cashier's station though, they do have broken up cones you can put inside your cup. I tried one and come to found out they were pretty stale and chewy. Upsetting for myself since I love waffle cones.

After we sat down, we started eating it all up and you could tell a noticeable difference between CherryBerry and Orange Leaf. As I mentioned earlier it’s harder and just doesn't come off as creamy as Orange Leaf. This is all directed to how CherryBerry's yogurt is prepared. So if that’s the type you like, this is the place for you. Since we've become fans of the other style, we much prefer Orange Leaf to CherryBerry. To put it bluntly it was said, "We will probably never go there again."

Tiffany's favorite part of CherryBerry? The cherry shaped seats.


Red Robin

If you sign up for Red Robin's online club, you get a free coupon for a free burger on your birthday. So we stopped by Red Robin over the weekend to cash in on the free burger. It was each of our first time at Red Robin in quite a long time. Upon walking inside the very first thing I noticed is the "Out of Order" signs on all of the arcade machines. Now, I had no intention of playing their arcade games but it just struck me as odd (Yes, I love videogames). Another person over on facebook mentioned she was there a month ago and saw the same signs. Just something to make note of.

At Red Robin, you get unlimited fries. I like their seasoning so I just wanted fries for my seasoning. Not sure if it was because they were somewhat busy but our server was pretty slow on giving us refills on fries. Actually he never even asked when our bowl was empty. We had to actually ask and when we did, he brings us a second bowl........empty. I think he thought we wanted a separate bowl but our other bowl was about empty. Just figured common sense would assume we wanted more fries. Oh well. We would be near empty on fries again. He creepily walked by us, stood there for an awkward second or two and said, "It’ll be a minute." After a while, we had to grab somebody else for more fries.

Then there's the order. Tiffany ordered a burger and I had one of their spicy burgers. Both ok, nothing to rave about. Certainly not better than the burgers we had at Mike's Wine Dive. Red Robin's burgers run around $8-9 for what we ordered.

The service there was nothing to rave about and on the verge of annoying at times. Like I said, not sure if it can be attributed to the fact that our server had a party of 8 right by us. Still not impressed. Probably won't go back until April when its birthday time again.

Plus if kids annoy you, avoid. This place is packed with them. Imagine Chuck E. Cheese but with broken arcade machines and burgers. That's Red Robin for you. Oh wait, Red Robin has a pretty extensive bar but we didn't see too many people drinking. We've both been to Red Robin before.

To let you in on my very first experience at Red Robin.....

I go there with some friends when they first opened. I asked our server what's good to order and her response?

"I honestly don't eat here. I'm not a big fan of their food."

WOW! At least I appreciated the honesty. That sums up Red Robin for me. That was the weekend of dining for us.

This week, hopefully we can knock out some Letter I action for everyone! Suggestions are always welcome for the letter.

Don't forget White Castle comes to Wichita this Thursday and the much anticipated Twin Peaks opens up on Tuesday if you're into that.

Happy Dining

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Quick Hits 5/12/11: White Castle, PF Changs and More

Big weekend coming up. Graduation weekend and wedding season is pretty much beginning. I'm sure there will be lots of people eating out this weekend. Two of those will be Tiffany and I. It just happens to be her birthday weekend so we're going to pick a place that she really wants to head to; one of the fine dining establishments offered here in this great city. Find out what it is this weekend.

Here are your Quick Hits for this week.

  • Unfortunately we will be unable to attend Noodle's Grand Opening this weekend. I believe they officially open up shop on Sunday. Definitely stop by and try it out. While not a local establishment, I know the general manager lives in Wichita. He's a great guy and really knows how to operate a restaurant. If you haven't heard, the new location is located inside Towne East Mall. They do have an external facing entrance though on the east side of the mall.
  • Kansas.com reported that White Castle will be returning to Wichita for two hours only to celebrate their 90th anniversary. From 4 to 6 pm, you can buy two burgers for 90 cents at the Dillon’s parking lot at 7707 E. Central, near Rock Road. All proceeds will go to the Kansas Food Bank. White Castle was actually founded in Wichita way back in 1921. Unfortunately, there are no White Castle's left in Wichita. Also at the event, it will be filmed by a crew producing a documentary about White Castle called "White Castle - What America Craves". Here's your chance to be in a movie as well! I will definitely try and stop by pending schedule.
  • I've never heard of them, Tiffany actually has, but I guess two more Peachwave Self Serve Frozen Yogurt stores are coming to Wichita on top of the two already coming. One will be located at 2404 N. Maize Road across from NewMarket Square in the same building as AT&T and A Scrapbook Boutique is located. If I read right and I don't read often, that will make four Peachwave's coming to Wichita. Two others are being franchised by someone else. How long till the Froyo Bubble Pops?!?!
  • We stopped by PF Changs in the Waterfront earlier this week for a quick dinner. Didn't do a full review but should mention they were absolutely fantastic. It was a mixture of a birthday and a Mother's Day dinner. The service was great, everybody was friendly. Tiffany is a big fan of PF Changs and I'm just so so on them but I'll return again in the future because their servers and manager on hand did an awesome job. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, A+ on service.
  • Thanks to everybody who has been passing our website on to others. Our hits are increasing and we've hit over 110 facebook likes on our page http://www.facebook/wichitabyeb
If you haven't seen it, we have a new poll up on the right side asking where the best fires are at.

See you all soon for a Special Dining Excursion......

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dining By The Alphabet: Letter H

It’s been I believe two weeks since we last did Dining By The Alphabet. Last we were at Letter G and had dinner at Gobi Grill. Now we move on to Letter H. There were some pretty good suggestions out there from Hanna Cafe which we've both gone to before and enjoyed. There was Hereford House out in Andover. That was discussed but we ended up not going. I've heard good things about Hamburger Heroes out in Park City. Heroes has remodeled or is in the process of doing so.

All pretty good choices with good food based on what we've experienced or heard. But last night, we decided to go a different route on a place neither of us have ever had the chance to eat at. I've actually been here a couple times for drinks but that was about it.

This place is located at Douglas and Hillside right across the largest exhibit of cougars in the city of Wichita, Margaritas (more so than the Sedgwick County Zoo even!) I bring to you all Harry's Uptown Bar and Grill.
 
Notice it did not rain yesterday!!!! What a tease!
 Harry's is located at 3023 East Douglas, Wichita, KS. Phone Number: (316) 687-6511

 
This is not Cheers, nobody knew our names.
 While parking, we noticed lots of cars. It was probably around 5:30-6 pm when we arrived. Busy after work crowd. They had an outside patio where there was a party of 8 along with a couple other tables. Walked inside and you could hear good old rock and roll playing, TV’s playing Sportscenter or news stations, a very eclectic crowd of younger or older people eating and drinking. Saw people as young as 21 and people as old as 80 inside......literally. While looking at the specials sign, Tuesday I guess is steak night and vodka tonic night. They had 8 oz steaks for a little under $9 and many people were throwing those down.

This menu's definitely
been around the block
The bar had a good vibe going on inside. To me at least, it felt like a place you could go in and get the long day off your mind. I haven't had a feeling like that since the Cedar was open. An old favorite of mine.

We were greeted by our server. She ran down the specials to us and handed us the menus. The menu has a variety of sandwiches, burgers, chicken fingers, fried appetizers, chips and salsa, your typical bar menu you would see any where else. I for one was hungry for a burger so I ordered a Mushroom Swiss Burger (minus the Swiss cause my lactose pills were not on hand), steak fries, and a cup of chili with some onions. Tiffany went with the B-52 burger with cheese along with waffle fries and a side salad. The B-52 burger is basically a hamburger. Neither one of us were in the mood for an appetizer so we passed on that.


There is a Dillon's across the street where they sell
canned chili.......coincidence?
 The salad came out first in a small little bowl. I didn't take a picture. It’s nothing to rave about. Your basic bowl with some lettuce in there, sprinkled with shredded cheese and a small cup of ranch sauce. I'm sure you've seen something similar to it. The chili came out and smelled pretty good. I had to spoon off some of the onions because I didn't want my breathe to smell for the next month. Now I've hosted a few chili cook offs in my time and I'm pretty picky about my chili. I would tend to think that is what I know best to judge. Upon the first bite, I kept quiet and gave Tiffany a spoonful. Her first comment "Tastes like canned chili". Exactly what I was thinking. It wasn't horrible chili by any means but honestly tasted like Hormel canned chili which is good in itself but I would expect something special from a bar. I would feel bad later because the server asked me how I liked the chili because it was her favorite. I was honest with her though (minus the canned chili comment).

The B-52. Yes it will drop bombs on your gut
if devoured in one sitting
Next up our entrees come out. I'll just post up one picture because we essentially had the same type of burger except hers was with cheese and mine was with mushrooms. Burgers came with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. We added on ketchup and mustard ourselves and Tiffany added a third topping, mayo. Your everyday LPT with KMM! I did notice on the menu all burgers are Angus beef which I'm sure is better than the Angus you can get at McDonald's for honestly close to the same price. Tiffany was quite intimidated by her burger. She commented on the size which I'll agree. It was a lot of burger. She only ate half of her burger because she would get full. I, on the other hand, finished it. Loved it but should have eaten half because I was F-U-L-L. My steak fries were ok, I liked the seasoning and it could have used a little more. Tiffany enjoyed her waffle fries. That was actually the first thing she said when the food arrived.

The server was friendly. Filled our drinks. She did a great job especially for the amount of tables she had. I counted about 13-14 tables inside and there was a party of people outside which that count does not include. I saw only one bartender and two servers. So we'll give her props. She did well for how busy the place was. This is the same girl I said when asked about the chili, "It was ok, I really loved the burger but the chili was average."

Ticket came out and with tip spent $24.87 for two burgers and fries, a cup of chili, and a side salad. Pretty much that's on par with most bars in Wichita.

Walking out of the bar hurt because I was pretty full. I heard the comment "Do you have a four month old growing inside you?" I won't say who said it...... To over dramatize the situation, I would have tipped someone there to throw me in a wheelbarrow and take me to my car.

After a good nights sleep, Tiffany would rate the place 3 stars which is a little over average. I debated back and forth on what to give Harry's. Thought about a 4 then a 3.5. I enjoyed the service, the burger was great, the ambience was nice, granted there were no fresh flowers on the table like Cafe Bel Ami (insert chuckle), the rest of the food was average but I will say I enjoyed my time at Harry's. So we'll give this place a 4.

Official Super Scientific Scale Rating: 3.5

It’s worth a stop if you're ever in the area for a burger or just a drink.

So with Letter H over, we're now taking suggestions on the limited Letter I. Before that though we have a special dining excursion for a certain Tiffany's birthday taking place this weekend. Plus we have VIP passes to the pre-Opening event at Noodles inside Towne East. I'm sure it'll be just like the Noodles on north Rock Road but would we ever pass up on some free Noodles? Never! My goal to try every type of noodle on their main menu is still underway!

Happy Dining.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Special Dining Excursion: Yogurt Xplosion

Friday afternoon, Tiffany and I had the chance to try out the newest frozen yogurt spot to open up in Wichita. It’s named Yogurt Xplosion.

Just too many dirty jokes you can make with this.
If you've been to any of the three popular Orange Leaf locations, Yogurt Xplosion is built nearly identical to it. The basic concept is the same. Get a cup, fill it up with any type of yogurt you want, choose your toppings, and then pay by the ounce. 39 cents to be exact. It’s that simple.

Yogurt Xplosion is located on north Rock Road, just north of 29th street on the East side of the road. It’s located in the same little strip that holds Buffalo Wild Wings, Wasabz and Smoothie King (is Smoothie King even open anymore???)

Walking inside, there was a totally different look. Lots of neons and technocolors. For some reason it reminded me of the arcade scene in "Dude, Where's My Car". For the most part, it looked like an Orange Leaf with different colors. The inside was much bigger though and had more seating.

If this was a bowling alley, we could all go Cosmic Bowling!
We were welcomed by all the employees when we arrived, always a nice little touch. They gave us some tester cups to try some of the different flavors they had. We tried cake batter, red velvet, cookies and crème, and some others that slipped my mind. Cake batter we both loved the most so we ended up with that.

You can use a cup to fill your yogurt up, eat your froyo out of a waffle cone, or those have the waffle cones place inside the cups too. Tiffany chose a regular cup; I chose a regular cup but grabbed a waffle cone to place on top, like a top hat! Filled it up with cake batter froyo, and then selected our toppings.

We arrive at the checkout stand and weigh our cups and pay. I notice a sign that says, "Guess your weight and it’s free". I point it out to Tiffany and the checker goes, "Oh next time you come in, if you guess the weight of your froyo, its free." I'm pretty sure she should have told us this the first time around because that would have been pretty fun to do. Every other customer after us, the girl gave a chance to guess the weight. So we definitely missed out on that "experience". I saw one little boy actually guess his right on the dot at 5.50 ounces.

Yogurt Xplosion....... I won't go any further
So we dug in and it’s what you'd expect. Froyo with whatever toppings you place on it. We both enjoyed it.
A nice little touch they have there is free water. They had a culligan machine set up with little cups for people to use. It’s the small little things that can really help a place out.

Overall it was very good and very comparable to Orange Leaf. If you like froyo, you can't really lose with either one. Everybody there was friendly and the only minor check against Yogurt Explosion was not being able to get a chance to guess our yogurts weight, I blame that probably on the lack of experience since the place was new.

Well another glaring spot is the name of the place: Yogurt Explosion. The name just doesn't sound right. I'll leave it at that.

But all in all a good little spot. I'd lean more into choosing Yogurt Explosion over Orange Leaf just because its local compared to a national chain like Orange Leaf. They are really the exact same spot with different flavors. So keeping the money here in Wichita, I'll always choose.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quick Hits - 5/6/11 - Sephora Grand Opening and more

Quick Hits - May 6th

Cinco de Mayo came and went with little fanfare. Stopped by Felipe's for drinks. Pretty busy inside, service was friendly. Lots of familiar faces in the building. Good times. Tiffany received a bunch of cool little freebies at Felipe's like shirts, necklaces, key chains. I, on the other hand, left empty handed!!! I'm pretty sure I could pass for a Mexican before she does! Regardless good times as I said. We then closed the evening down with Larry Bud's. I'm still 100% positive that St. Patrick's Day is a bigger deal in Wichita than Cinco de Mayo.

The biggest news coming out of this Friday is the Grand Opening of Sephora in Bradley Fair. I had never even heard of it until recently. I guess they sell make-up, skin care, you know.... the girlie stuff. The first 100 people in line this morning received gift certificates ranging from $5, $10, $25, $50 and if you were lucky enough $100. Plus other cool freebies. The doors opened up at 10 am and the first person was there just before 6 am. WOW! Is Sephora that cool? I guess I will never know. Tiffany was actually LIVE on location waiting in line. She arrived at 8:30 with a friend. By ten, she estimated about 200 people in line. For those familiar with Bradley Fair, the line stretched from Sephora to Marble Slab. Tiffany ended up with a $10 gift card, a free leather tote, and a gift for her upcoming birthday. Her friend received a $25 gift card. The place is a madhouse right now and I'm sure will be throughout the weekend. Unless I'm dragged there on a shopping excursion, I don't plan on ever stepping foot inside that place.

I read on Kansas.com, that Crown Uptown Theatre has a $62,000 federal tax lien. They are behind on federal taxes and owe around $84,000 in state taxes. I think part of this is due to bad management. Tiffany and I have been to Crown Uptown Theatre twice. Once to see Chicago and the other time...... my memory isn't helping me right now. Anyways, we enjoyed both shows. The biggest problem they had was the management. Both times, we purchased tickets well in advance of the shows. We made sure to request certain seats for the show which we were told would be ours. Then both times, we were given worse seating. We told the managers each time it happened, the second time mentioning it has happened before. The managers didn't do anything and didn't sound genuine whatsoever in his apology. More of in a rush was what it was like. As I said earlier, the show was nice, dinner was ok, but the entire "Crown Uptown Experience" which is what you're paying for kind of sucked. Other than the seating issues, there were other minor details that just left a sour taste to where we just made it a point to never go again. For a couple, one weekend night there will run you $77 not including tip or drinks. So it’s definitely not cheap by any means for a date. While I wish them the best, we don't see ourselves ever going back. After dumping close to $200 on two experiences there, they've had all the chances they could get.

And Yogurt Explosion has opened up. We'll be giving this a try out likely today or tomorrow. We'll see how a local establishment holds up against the national competitors in Orange Leaf which just happen to be down the street from them.

Letter H will be taking place next week. We honestly haven't given much thought on where to go but will make a final decision soon.

Happy Dining and have a great Mother's Day. (Crap, I still need to get a Mother's Day gift!!!!)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo

Today is Cinco De Mayo. Allow me to let you in on a little secret. That means "fifth of May". This is not a celebration of Mexico's Independence Day contrary to popular belief. It’s more of a date observed in the United States to celebrate Mexican heritage. Similar to St. Patrick’s Day. Oddly enough both dates have become synonymous with drinking.

Hey, I'll take another reason to drink. Flag Day is coming up in June..... Just saying......

My most vivid memories of Cinco De Mayo honestly go back just to college. I don't remember really celebrating it much before that. If so, it probably just meant enchilada day in the cafeteria in grade school.

Bradley Fair used to have the absolute best Cinco De Mayo parties. It was outside of On The Border. They would mark off a part of the parking lot, gate off certain areas around OTB (On the Border for short); have tubs of corona, margarita machines, and trumpet music playing all around. Great times especially if the weather was nice. This was back 7-9 years ago. I'm not sure when or why it stopped. Probably for safety among other reasons, but it did.

Now I don't even know where the biggest places to go to for Cinco De Mayo. St. Patrick's Day in Wichita, I've always felt was a bigger draw. It helps it usually falls the same week as the start of the NCAA Tournament which is a great sell.

A couple years, I've been to the Felipe's out on North Woodlawn. They have an area to the south of the building gated with a cover and serve delicious Cazuela's and other beers. Good times except the weather hasn't been too great the past couple years.

So tonight, I'm sure we'll all be out and about somewhere celebrating this holiday. Lots of places are having specials whether it be food or drink specials. Carlos O'Kellys, On The Border, Felipe's, Larry Bud's, Heroes, etc.

Enjoy.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Joyland Restoration Project

I've been hearing about Joyland Amusement Park back in the news lately so I decided to do a quick search on it to see the reason why.

For those of you that don't know Joyland was an amusement park that opened up here in Wichita in 1949. Most of you Wichitans who are familiar with the city's history would know it would end up on south Hillside. It was home to such rides as the Whacky Shack, The Logjam and the "white" wooden rollercoaster that looked as if it was built when Wichita was incorporated in 1870. (I had to look that fact up; it did not come from common knowledge). The park would close its doors in 2005 to little fanfare. At least in my circles, it didn't seem like a big deal.

After a sale and a couple tries to look into re-opening the park, it still sits there in sadness to this day.

Fast-forward to now. I read on Kake.com that a high school junior. Yes, you read right. A junior in high school is looking to reopen the park as a non-profit. According to Kake, this would not be the first non-profit amusement park in the nation. Arnold's Park in Iowa currently operates like that.

The high schooler, Alex East, and Wichita State (Go Shox!) student, Kira Johnson, have started the Joyland Restoration Project. They are trying to raise $20 million to reopen the park as a non-profit organization. From an article on saw on Butler's The Lantern, 1.5 million dollars is needed to purchase the park and to file the non-profit taxable forms.

They hope to make the park a retro 50s theme park. If the park fails to come together after April 2013, the money they have raised will go to the local charities in Wichita that are best for the overall community.

Wow. Lofty goals and I wish them the best. While I'm skeptical about it all, I certainly wish them the best. I think a low cost, effectively ran park would be able to survive in Wichita. Many people are probably thinking about the neighborhood Joyland is located in. I really think it will be fine there but many people won't. Security will have to be addressed. People's perception of the area will play a major factor regardless if theres enough security there. But there is a market for it and it has to be done right which I will stress over and over. Remember Wild West World? Was not done right plus they had some bad luck with lots of rain. Wichita though, in my opinion, cannot support a big amusement park. Plus Wild West World had so many other things going wrong with it. Joyland has to be kept on a smaller scale.

I have my memories of Joyland. I remember going there after receiving grade cards for "Report Card Night". That was also over 20 years ago for me. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time. I remember going through the Whacky Shack sitting in the little car wondering what was going to scare me. I can remember getting splashed by the Log Jam. I can remember looking at the rollercoaster thinking "I'm glad I'm not tall enough to ride that thing. That way I don't have to make up an excuse why I’m scared to ride it."

Now I'm not the demographic Joyland would be aiming that. I'm just not "amused" my amusement parks anymore. My idea of thrills do not include rides, they include sitting in Koch Arena during the final minutes of a Shocker/Bluejay game. They include driving up to Harrah's and taking a hit on 15 with the dealer showing a Queen. They include taking a lactose pill and heading over to Orange Leaf and wondering if the pill will save me. BUT there is a demographic for Joyland. There is a generation of Wichitans who have never been and I'm sure would love to. And if Alex and Kira can succeed in raising the funds to reopen Joyland, I think it can be a success. There really is true competition for Joyland in Wichita. The two All Star sports do not count. Not many big thrills or rides there unless they start letting customers run out on the driving range and try to avoid golf balls.

The rides there are outdated and not up to par with your Six Flags and Disney theme parks but people shouldn't expect that. The rollercoaster according to the project website along with all the other rides are all stable but just need reinforcement.

The group will go to the City Council on May 10th according to the site, so I'll be on the lookout to see how that goes. For more information head to their project website: http://joylandrestorationproject.webstarts.com/ - The site could use a little more information and looks to be behind on their fundraising dates but you will get the gist of what they are trying to accomplish.

So if Joyland opened up, would you go? Would you take your kids?

Lastly, Wichita By E.B. can now be found on facebook. You can "Like" us by visiting http://www.facebook.com/wichitabyeb - We will update it periodically with when a new blog is up, random thoughts, random pictures, etc. We have around 100 likes so far in just a few days of being up. Like Us Today!

Happy Dining All.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Power Of Social Media and My Worst Dining Experience

I think many people out there underestimate the power of social media.

July 15th, 2009 I became a full believer that people are out there reading and listening to what random people will post on any website including mine. Some of you know the story, some of you don't.

It was a Wednesday night. A friend of mine was in town and she had an odd addiction to Buffalo Wild Wing's wings. So we went along with a couple buddies of mine. Just another Summer Wednesday evening dining out. It was by far one of my most annoying and worst dining experiences I've ever had. I used every medium possible to spread the word on my experience including message boards, facebook, twitter. I went to the company website to submit my complaint. Mailed a letter to the corporate office, called the local store trying to reach the general manager. Literally everything.

It was so bad I had every intention of either taking the place down by spreading bad word of mouth or trying to make a personal impact on getting that place to shape up.

My first step was writing a note on facebook and making it available to everybody to see. No privacy restrictions. Hoping I could reach thousands of people. Not sure it ever did but the story has a happy ending.
Here's word for word the facebook note:
Four of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings on North Rock Road on Wednesday to grab some dinner and drinks.
We arrive there at 7 pm. Order food at 7:15 pm. About 30 minutes go by and we're wondering where our food is at. The server (probably some 16 year old girl) comes up and says, "Oh I'm sorry, they lost your ticket so I had to put your food order back in."
Really? You went over to the machine and placed the order into it, which sent it over. You did not lose the ticket, you just forgot to place the order.
So we wait. Starving. 8 pm hits, no food. So I grab the assistant manager a few minutes later who is a startling image of Milton from Office Space. We tell him its been nearly 55 minutes and our food has yet to arrive and that our server "allegedly" lost our ticket. He says, "I didn't know about it, let me go check.". This is the last time he ever came by our table. So about 10 more minutes go by and finally our food comes out.
To add to the annoyance of the night, part of the order is wrong. They served us 12 of one flavor of wings instead of mixed 6 and 6 of another as we ordered. AND they forgot our fries. So she tries to take all of the wings and come back. We were not about to let her take all of them as we were hungry. Anyways, no less than a minute later, the replacement food and fries come out.......miraculously. One minute for the mess up and a near hour for the original order.
So we eat. She comes back only one more time throughout the night to check up on us. We get our tickets. I have a coupon for some free wings. She takes all of our tickets and cards. While she's running everything, she comes back and asked me if it was my coupon to which I said yes. She comes back again and says, "I'm sorry, I already ran your card and closed your ticket out. Here's your coupon, would you like to use this for later?" I just sit there in astonishment. Then she goes, "I might be able to get my manager to fix it." I just grab my ticket in total frustration.
My friends eventually talk me into telling the manager to fix it. I go to the same Assistant Manager and tell him the situation and on top of that how the night has just been a huge disaster and we have been so let down by the experience and that its been the worst. His reply, "OK, lets see if we can fix the ticket." No sorries, no apologies, just lets see if we can fix it.
So I go back to my table and sit there. Next thing I know, the server comes up. Places a five dollar bill on the table and says, "We're not sure if we can fix the ticket so here's five dollars." I just stand up in amazement and leave.
Worst. Buffalo Wild Wings Experience. Ever.
I'm determined to let everyone know. Instead of going to that place go across the street to Hooters or eat at home or eat anywhere. "
That was a long read I know. I receive many comments on that note agreeing with how bad the customer service has been. Many people ridiculing BWW on how they've been treated. It was nice to see how many people agreed with me but also unfortunate at the same time.

I wrote the note before anything else to just voice out my frustration and have the experience fresh in my mind and noted. Then I proceed to use every other medium possible. This was all done on Thursday and Friday following my experience with my friends.

Lets fast forward to Monday morning. I get a call from a random number. I usually don't answer those calls but did by random chance. Who was it? The general manager of the Wichita location for Buffalo Wild Wings.

The first thing she tells me is she randomly stumbled across my Facebook note before anything else that I submitted to their corporate office. She said she read the entire thing including the comments people left behind and was actually embarrassed by the comments. On Monday morning when she came into work, she was able to get my number off of my complaint I submitted to their corporate office.

The general manager would later tell me their policy on food is to have all orders out within 15 minutes. Any issues with orders, managers are to be notified so they can find out the reason and to make sure food is out promptly. They are also to help in serving the food and walking around greeting customers and making sure everything is alright.

We traded some thoughts back and forth. Very stimulating conversation to where we were both able to get our viewpoints out there on service and everything. She told me she was going to set up an emergency company meeting to go through with her employees all that happened. She was upset with "Milton" (yes she used that name) for not coming back to our table to apologize to us.

In the end, I finally got what I wanted from the start. An apology. A personal apology, not a typed letter with a jpeg photo of a signature. That's all.

The GM ended the phone call inviting my group of friends back in for dinner. I told her I appreciated the offer but did this all for an apology which we never received during our bad dining experience. Eventually I gave in. That same week, I would receive an apology letter from Buffalo Wild Wings including a card for free dinner for me and a group of friends.

The next week I invited a group of friends with me to go eat to see what would change. We arrive and met by greeters at the door. Sat within minutes. Greeted by our server and served us our drinks. We ordered our food, each about 12-15 wings a person. Food came out five to ten minutes later. Easily the quickest its ever been in all of our time dining there. Another person joined our party late and had his food come out in the same amount of time. Our server came by our table many times to check up on us.

The general manager happened to be there and apologized again for everything. Told us she spoke with Milton (yes, she referred to him again as Milton even though that's not his real name, we got a good laugh out of it), had some small chat, she asked us how we were doing. Nice little small talk. All went well. She told us our food was on them tonight and it was. Everything was comped, it was great.

All in all, it was honestly a good experience there that day. A total 180 from the time before. Something that should be expected of them every time. I think everybody involved in the experience learned a few good things from it all. From the restaurant standpoint, I think they learned that the customer is the first priority. Mistakes happen, we're all human. But instead of ignoring the mistake and trying to avoid any conflict like they did in the first experience, they should have confronted it head on, and apologized and do what they could to fix it. From a customer standpoint, if you receive bad service, you should stand up for what you think is right. Maybe not to certain extremes like in this case but voice it. Let it be known so it can be fixed. You spend your hard earned money on eating out. The least you can expect is being served right.

Have any of you ever had horrible over the top dining experiences?