Thursday, September 29, 2011

National Coffee Day!

So I guess today is National Coffee Day.

Not sure what brought up this holiday because if it's that easy, where is National McRib Day or National Deviled Eggs Day or National Claussen Pickles Day or National Frozen Pizza After a Night of Drinking Day?

Personally I'm not a big coffee fan, I drink it maybe once every other month if that. I don't get the Starbucks sensation. I've had Starbucks three times in my life and each time was less than impressed with the amount I spent versus the satisfaction I received. I have heard though their Pumpkin Spice Latte is a slice of heaven......

But with that said, it's another "holiday" that gets national attention. For you coffee lovers, Krispy Kreme is giving away a free cup of joe at their nationwide locations. I like Krispy Kreme but it's just for their donuts, not coffee. If I am that tired and I need to wake up, I either buy the seldomly drank 5 Hour Energy Shot or I watch highlight videos of the Wichita State basketball team's NIT win. (Speaking of which, the Men's Basketball schedule was released yesterday. Go check it out http://www.goshockers.com/)

So with that said, if you're a fan of coffee go get yourself a free cup at Krispy Kreme or where ever happens to be your favorite spot. Come to think of it, where is the place for the best coffee in Wichita? I wouldn't even know where to begin!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Suggestions Needed For Letter O

Alright, it's time where I need your help again.

Where should we go for Dining by the Alphabet: Letter O?

Two of the most popular O spots in Wichita, Olive Garden and On The Border, are not locally owned so bring on the suggestions? I know of some offhand but would like to hear any additional suggestions of places off the beaten path or a ma ana pop type establishment.

As usual, I'm open to anything!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The PHO-nomenal Blog! A review of Wichita's Best Phở!

If I could only choose one meal to eat for the rest of my life, I'd probably lean heavily towards Phở.
Phở pronounced (fuh, as in it rhymes with duh) is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef or chicken. The soup is a broth that includes rice noodles and can be served with Vietnamese basil, onions, lime, and bean sprouts. In some cases, the broth is boiling hot and the noodles are just thrown in along with the meat and it's cooked in there on the spot.

Phở is Vietnamese for "Holy Cow this is fricken good" but do not quote me on that. I was raised on Phở most of my life. I don't remember loving it as a kid. I think I just took it for granted since either my mother or my aunt made it all the time. It wasn't until after I moved out that I began to truly appreciate its greatness.

Wichita has a pretty large Vietnamese base so it's no wonder that Phở has its fans here in the city. Given my qualifications and years of experience in Phở, I figured I have earned myself a PhD in Phở. So the past two weeks, it was my goal to find the best Phở on the northeast side of Wichita including downtown. It was my intention to only choose this area because I honestly haven't heard of many good Phở restaurants anywhere else in Wichita plus if it was that good, I think I may have heard it of it by now. IF there happens to be a better Phở restaurant outside of this area I set, I'll definitely go check it out.

All of these places are located north of Kellogg and eat of Broadway. It was my intention to stop by each of these places within a 14 day span so I had it all fresh in my mind what I liked most. Plus to be honest with everybody, the past 14 day my mother has been out of town so the "Free Stop By The Rents For Phở" was not possible. I've tried to cook it myself and it just doesn't taste the same so with her out of town and me craving it like a pregnant woman, things kind of worked out that I could eat Phở almost every other day but not for free.

Phở Hein
1750 North Broadway Street, Wichita, KS
(316) 264-1708

Saigon
1103 N Broadway St, Wichita, KS
(316) 262-8134

Little Saigon
1015 N. Broadway, Wichita, KS
(316) 265-0054

Phở Hot Bistro
306 N Rock Rd # 70, Wichita, KS
(316) 440-6698

Tsunami
6254 E 37th ST. N #180, Wichita, KS
(316) 425-3866

My Thở
500 E Central Ave, Wichita, KS
(316) 262-5452

It's pretty hard to mess up Phở. All it includes is mostly broth, meat and noodles but to make an excellent is another thing. The key quality to great Phở is the broth. At least that's what my mother tells me but I believe her. So in going to each of these six places, that was the biggest deciding factor. Plus the quality of meat they used was taken into play.

Each of the six places I went to, I tried to order the same thing. The largest Phở bowl they had with whichever meat they offered whether it was sliced beef, flank steak or whatever. If the option for tripe or tendon was there, I took it. I'm not big into chicken or shrimp in my Phở nor do I like basil or bean sprouts. So it was all kept really simple outside of the hoisin sauce I used in the Phở.

So below is my list of least favorite Phở's to most favorite. On the Wichita By E.B. twitter site (http://www.twitter.com/wichitabyeb), many people shared their opinions through the past two weeks on their favorite Phở. I was surprised at how many different responses I received so this may shock some of you as well.
 
One common theme that all six places had in common was the quickness it took the meal out to you. I mean, seriously, come on. Have a lot of boiling broth ready at all times, dump in the meat and noodles and serve. Also, every place I went into was very friendly. Pretty sure I received smiles from everybody (must be my new haircut!). On to the list:

Number 6
Saigon
Probably the least favorite of the group. The broth seemed very water and their hoisin sauce bottles were runny as well. I ordered the sliced beef Phở and the beef was very chewy, lacked flavor. It wasn't horrible by any means but on the flipside I wouldn't call it better than good either. There are three Phở restaurants on Broadway within a few blocks of each other and I'd probably stray away from this one compared to the other two.
Saigon
Number 5
Tsunami
Tsunami offers all sorts of Asian dishes and I wouldn't consider them a specialty in the Phở department. They are really all about convenience and location since they are really the only restaurant in the far northeast side of Wichita that offers Phở. Their broth is about average and their meat is pretty good. They put meatballs in their Phở like many places but I'm just not a big fan of them. Their Phở lacks a lot of noodles so halfway into the meal, you'll wonder what happened to everything that was in the bowl. They do have great service though as I've touched upon in my 37th and Woodlawn Asian Haven blog. Unfortunately there are still better Phở options out there.
Tsunami
Number 4
Phở Hot Bistro
 I was kind of disappointed after my meal. There used to be a second location out south which is now Phở Special. When I was at their east Harry location which was just called Phở Hot, it wasn't that bad. I ordered their large bowl and their broth was probably the most watery and flavor lacking out of the six places outside of Saigon but their beef slices made up for it. Very tender! They put more noodles into their bowl than Tsunami as well.  
Phở Hot Bistro
 Number 3
Little Saigon
I think there are three tiers for great Phở restaurants. You have Saigon, Tsunami and Phở Hot Bistro in Tier 3. Then in tier 2, you have all by themselves Little Saigon. I went in there for lunch and they draw quite a lunch crowd; it was much busier than Saigon which is literally a block north of this place. Their broth was better than the three aforementioned places, their meat was good. Overall it was good Phở, a place I'd be willing to go to and recommend. Even during dinner, they seem to draw more traffic when I was driving by the other night on Broadway (not that I drive down Broadway on a regular basis or anything)...... I'd recommend this spot but there are two you should probably check out before that.

Little Saigon
 Number 2
My Thở
This was very tough deciding between number 2 and 1. It's totally a matter of preference. My Thở belongs in Tier One of Phở spots in Wichita. Of the six places I went to, My Thở was BY FAR the friendliest of the group. They have a plethora of Phở options and maintain a good sized lunch crowd. I very much enjoyed their Phở, the broth is great and the meat is flavorful. Please note My Thở only takes cash.
My Thở
Number 1
Phở Hein
Closing out the list and being top dog in Phở is Phở Hein over on North Broadway. They slightly edged out My Thở is the rankings of Phở. Their broth was my favorite and their meat is very good too. I'm pretty sure they had the largest selection of Phở options to choose from so you should be able to find something you like IF you like Phở. Phở Hein also only accepts cash as well. As Randy Moss would say, "Straight cash homie."

I'll be totally honest, I totally forgot to take a picture at Phở Hein
but I was able to find this one on the internet.
 In the end, Phở Hein and My Thở are the two best spots in Wichita. You really can't go wrong with either one.

There you have it folks, two weeks of eating Phở all bound into one blog. This was by far my favorite and tasty adventure. If you haven't had Phở before, I'd suggest you all try it once. I've met some people who didn't like it, some who don't prefer it but a majority who loved it. Price-wise you will be spending around $6-9 for a bowl of Phở. Anything over $10 is a rip-off. That is, of course, if you're eating out because making it at home is much cheaper than going out.

I hope you all enjoyed the blog as much as I did (well not possible because I was the one eating).

Remember to check out the other blog written this week on U Grill!
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!  Happy Dining All!

All comments are appreciated.

Monday, September 26, 2011

U Grill: The Informational Review

U Grill opened up last week. They are located in the old Linkhaus building at 7817 E. 37th St. N.
316-425-5730

They had a "soft opening" according to Kansas.com on Wednesday so I was able to make it in twice in the past week to try out their Mongolian Grill and their hamburger.

U Grill serves Mongolian Grill food (chicken, meat cooked in a large bowl with your choice of starch, vegetables and sauce). A much smaller scale than what can be found at Genghis Grill, Hu Hot, etc. They also serve Philly cheese steaks, burgers, brats and hot dogs.

I guess the big thing here is everything is under $7 but note that it's a la carte. Your burger is one price, and then you can add a side of fries, salad, tots or whatever else for an additional charge. Here's a picture of the menu that I was able to take a snapshot of:


That's my thumb in the lower right hand corner. My nails are freshly clipped!

Upon walking inside, I was greeted both times I arrived. I did not get warm fuzzies inside though. Now if they said, "Hey Eddy" that could be a whole other story!

The very first time I ordered the Fresh Sliced Ribeye bowl and pad Thai noodles. I went through the small vegetable line (about 8 to choose from) and selected tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers and jalapenos. They have quite a few sauces on hand; I counted 16 bottles the first time I was there. Made my selections and handed it to the server. This meal ran me $7 and that includes tax. All prices on their menu I believe include tax already. When I was given my receipt, they handed me a card for 10% my order the next time I come in.

Went to my seat and it arrived shortly after. The bowl looked pretty small when it arrived but it actually filled me up. It all tasted pretty good outside of my bad mixture of sauces but that was my own fault. The ribeye tasted fresh as well. The wait wasn't that long either, of course there were only three other patrons in there so I'd like to see how they do when they are busy.

On my second time coming, I ordered a quarter pound burger and tots. They gave me 10% off without even presenting my card (who knows they may have recognized me from the previous time). So my total for a burger and tots was $4.96 which is on par with what you'd spend at any fast food place. They gave me a bowl to choose any vegetables I wanted grilled with my burger so I selected jalapenos, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms. I chose not to add any sauce. A short while after, the food came out and I was ready to grub. A buddy came with me the second time and he asked the server what kind of bun they used. We were told it's a roll. Interesting. I'm not sure I liked it but it wasn’t bad just not my thing. Don't take my word for it though; I'm the guy who takes the crust off of his sandwiches. My buddy seemed to enjoy it, something different and in his case, different ended up being unique and a good thing. The tots were really good. The burger in general was pretty good, I loved the grilled vegetables on it, really added a lot of flavor. I wouldn't put it up there with the best burgers in Wichita's like Ty's or TJ's but it was still worth the price of admission or in my case $4.96. One of the employees came around with a big bowl of fries and was giving them out to people for free. I went ahead and tried some and they were pretty good. Just your regular steak fries that were seasoned with salt.

U Grill also has a little condiment bar with a ton of pickles. I. Love. Pickles. So it was nice to see that there. I loaded up on a bunch of pickles, they aren't Claussen great but edible enough to make me happy.

The following song lyrics started playing in my head:
"Heaven isn't too far away!!!!!!!"

The inside of the establishment is still exactly like Linkhaus. My friend notices the slogans on the wall still have "Linkhaus" themed quotes. I didn't even notice that on my first time coming in. The chairs are the same hard plastic chairs that are not too comfortable. I remember learning in my Wichita State marketing classes many moons ago that these types of chairs subconsciously make you want to eat faster and get out of there for higher turnaround. The natural lighting in this building is great in the afternoon. That’s always been my favorite part about the U Grill (formerly Linkhaus) building.

The back bar room is completely empty. I was told they do not have their liquor license yet but plan on having it soon.
Everything seems so sad when liquor is not involved......
Service-wise, you could kind of tell they are trying to get everything down. The smoothness of ordering wasn't there yet. What I mean is the communication is still in its learning process. The first time there, I was given a bowl right away for my vegetables. The second time, I had to ask and the server was like "Oh yeah that's right, sorry, I forgot to." Plus while distributing the food out to the table, the server looked lost and asked tables if "this was what they had" and the patron would say yes or no. I'll give them time though. They are just opening and obviously haven't spread the word about it in great detail. I'm sure they want to knock some of the kinks out before the major advertisement starts.... if there is any. The owner did go around from table to table to ask how everybody was doing. At least I think he was the owner.

Right now they are open daily from 10 am to 9 pm. I guess they are having a drive-through set up for later hours for drive-through only (midnight Sun - Thurs and until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays). Linkhaus was supposed to do this and never did. Different owners though for U Grill.

If you're in the area, stop by and check it out. I really do hope this place does well. It'd be a nice extra spot to add to the lunch list. I'll probably check it out again as they start to get everything into gear and smoothly going along. Their slogan is FRESH - FOOD - FAST. They are right about each one so far. Let's see what they are like 3-6 months down the road.

Lastly for kicks, check out my receipt and the server name.
I feel bad for this guy when he was growing up as a kid with that name!!!

(i'm pretty sure it was just a dummy name setup in the computer)
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!  Happy Dining All!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dining by the Alphabet: Letter N

We are officially into the second half of the alphabet. Thanks to all those who have joined us in traveling through most of the alphabet. If we were in Hawaii, I'm pretty sure the Dining by the Alphabet would have been done by now seeing as how they don't carry all the letters in the regular alphabet.

Letter N was kind of impromptu. In deciding the restaurant, I wanted to do something different. N&J was a very popular suggestion but I've been to many Mediterranean spots. Newport was another, but I touched upon Newport before. Noodle's is a chain but it's also been a topic of a blog in the past. So what's that leave us?

Well none other than a Wichita original!!

NuWay Cafe!

According to Wikipedia, they famous for its loose-meat sandwiches and root beer. The sandwiches are similar to what is known in the Upper Midwest as tavern sandwiches and the ones served at that region's Maid-Rite restaurant chain.

They opened up in Wichita on West Douglas in 1930. They are most famous for their loose-meat sandwich which comes topped with pickles, diced onions and mustard. They have five different locations in Wichita which are as follows:

7301 W. Central
1416 W. Douglas
6404 E. Central
3441 E. Harry
2415 S. Seneca

You can check out their website at: http://nuwayburgers.com/
The menu: http://nuwayburgers.com/menu-2/

Their slogan is "Crumbly Is Good" so we decided to put that to the test.

My guest diner for this adventure was Leslie. This was her first time ever attending NuWay. I'm pretty sure upon finding out that her letter was going to be NuWay she was kind of let down. I told her to keep her spirits up and enjoy the fabulous meal ahead of her.

Upon stepping inside, you'll notice it has your old fashioned diner look. Leslie noted that the average age inside was probably both of our ages added together. That is probably true. Outside of a couple grandchildren inside, we were by far the youngest inside. We sat ourselves and waited for bit. After about 10 minutes (which could have been a little shorter), we were greeted and our orders were taken.

We both went with their most popular item. A Medium NuWay (burger) with fries and a root beer. We also ordered a side of onion rings. I ended up switching my fries to tots to spice things up a little. Exciting, I know.

Slice of Heaven
The root beers came out first. They usually come out in a frosted mug but this time they did not. I think I heard one of the servers telling another couple that they were out. Not sure how that could be considering the place was not busy. So we were stuck with regular mugs that weren't chilled. Kind of upsetting to be honest with you. Regardless, the sentiment was shared that NuWay had the best root beer in all of Wichita. They make their own root beer and it's heaven. If I had to list my current three favorite beers right now, it'd be Halcyon, Stella Artois and NuWay's Root Beer. Leslie enjoyed hers quite a bit. And another note on their root beer: I had a friend in town for the weekend and she actually purchased two gallons worth to take back to Texas for her and her family. They even had frosted mugs at home in preparation for the arrival of the goodness that is a NuWay Root Beer.

Shortly after, our meals came out. A NuWay burger, fries and the onion rings. I guess our server didn't take note that I switched my fries to tots. Actually I'm 100% sure because he never used notes to take down the order, nor did he have a friendly demeanor about him. So I just let it be and said forget it. We dipped into the homemade onion rings. Talk about greasy. They were good but not great in my opinion. Leslie seemed to like them more than me. We ordered the smallest size they had which ran $1.99 so that was enough for two people.

Is Crumbly Actually Good?
Next up was the moment of truth. The NuWay burgers. Is crumbly good? I put some extra ketchup on mine because that's how I like my NuWay burgers. I've been here before so kind of know what to expect. Leslie took a bite into hers and I anxiously awaited her expression. As I write this, I am still waiting for an expression. She didn't seem too impressed or upset by it. It was more like, "That's it?". She's heard about NuWay before but was giving into the hype. She said it was just a burger with ground beef inside followed by an "I'm not too impressed." I, on the other hand, finished my burger pretty quickly. I like NuWay burgers but let me say they are good, not great. Thus why their slogan is "Crumbly is good", not "Crumbly is out of this world".

All of this for only $4.99
Are you out of your mind?
 Overall the service was less than spectacular. It's an easy job to do there. It took a while for our server to come and refill our drink, our server did not look happy to be there whatsoever, which is important. He was just going through the motions. I noticed another server who was ten times more pleasant. He didn't give me tots which I'll let slide, I won't fall to the ground and throw a temper tantrum over it.

The food overall, in my opinion, is good but not fantastic. It's something I can eat once a month but that's about it. Leslie wasn't that big of a fan. If I had to break it down, NuWay is like beer or Jean-Claude Van Damme movies........ It’s an acquired taste. You may not like it the first time but through time, you may. (Well Bloodsport isn't an acquired taste, that movie kicked butt the first time I saw it many moons ago).

Price wise, it's pretty cheap. It's comparable to any fast food joint. A burger, fries and a drink will run you about $5. Our tab ended up being around $15 which included tip.

After some discussion, we both came through with our final score. Taking into account, price, quality of food, service, I gave NuWay a 3.5. Like I said earlier, it's good but not great. Leslie wasn't as kind. She gave NuWay a 2 saying the saving grace was the Root Beer. The final score for NuWay on the Super Scientific Scale is 2.75.

I'm still glad I stopped by there though. It's a Wichita Original and something that's been here longer than most places. It's not for everyone but the people I do know that like NuWay, love it. If nothing else, go in for a root beer.

Up next I should have a brief synopsis of the new U Grill that opened. I was fortunate enough to stop by the day after they had their “Soft Opening” to see what they had to offer. That should be up soon. Also start bringing on those suggestions for Letter O.

AND another reader’s grab bag should be in the works for the next week or so. If you have anything you’d like to add, just shoot me an e-mail: wichitabyeb@gmail.com – We’re looking for your thoughts, experiences, and opinions on some of Wichita’s local restaurants.

In the meantime, feel free to check out all the older blogs and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!  Happy Dining All!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suggestions Needed for Letter N

Is that time again.

We need suggestions for Letter N. The second half of the alphabet begins soon. The only place I will probably not choose is Newport Grill because I've been there numerous times and have covered it in the past. Letter's L and M were both Italian so ideally something different than that would be nice but if its the best option, that's what we'll do.

So a fresh suggestion would be great. As usual I'm open to everything.

Bring it on folks!

In the meantime, feel free to check out all the older blogs and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!  Happy Dining All!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dining by the Alphabet: Letter M

Kansas State Fair or go eat out for Letter M? Those were the options thrust into my calendar for the weekend. It was a tough decision, one that I took great time in deciding which I should do. I consulted my brain, my stomach, and my taste beds to see which I should do. In a surprising vote of 2-1, eating out for Letter M beat out the Kansas State Fair.

On Friday night, I was joined by this week's guest diner, Emily, in travelling a little further south for this restaurant. When I say further south, I don't mean Derby south to where there is a certain -- nevermind.

We were also accompanied by a handful of friends as well. The restaurant we chose for Letter M is located way down at 31st and Seneca. 3107 S. Seneca to be exact. I bring you.......

Marchello's Restaurant
http://www.marchellosrestaurant.com/
(316) 522-6662

According to their sign they have posted up, they have been in Wichita since 1996. When you arrive, you are to seat yourself. I totally didn't see the sign cause I just stood there but fortunately a server there was able to see my dumbfounded my face on what I was supposed to do. She quickly seated us, greeted us and treated us to the menus. (You readers like the use of three rhyming words in the same sentence? Grade school education there!)

The first menu I looked at was the drink menu. Domestics and import bottles all under $4. Cocktails, all around $4. Wine served by the glass at $5-6 and bottles at ~$22. I was in shock. Pretty sure I could stay there and drink all night for cheap. Then it hit me. Everybody at the table said, "You are on the south side Eddy." That is true. Drinks are much cheaper on the south side of Wichita than it is on the north side. Between our table, we ordered a couple bottles of wine. Emily stuck to the wine and I had a few cocktails to myself. I felt like I'd be ripping myself off if I didn't order such cheap drinks!

We ordered two appetizers to start the meal off. Emily quickly saw the calamari and went for it. I asked our server what she would suggest and she told me the top three items would be the "Sampler Platter", "Calamari Rings" and "Bruschetta" but you have to add bacon to make it better. I stuck with the bruschetta even though I've never had it before. Both apps came out very quick and were good sized portions. The calamari rings were small and came with a couple sauces that were good. After eating both appetizers, the best thing you could say about them and Emily was in agreement is "they were all good but not necessarily something to write home about". But since I'm doing a blog, it’s kind of necessary that I do write here about it.

Bruschetta with bacon

Calamari Rings
 When ordering our entrees, Emily ordered the Chicken Parmesan (breast of chicken topped with marinara and cheese on a bed of fettuccini). I asked our server yet again what she would suggest. It has to be said, our server was very very friendly. She was always quick to answer any question I had. She then told me the fettuccini alfredo, cannelloni and manicotti were most popular items. Then we had this little discussion:

          Server: "Do you like meat?"

          Myself: (thinking to myself: "you're not 18, don't laugh. Act your age")

          (Slow pause)

          Myself: Yes.

          Server: "Well our two best options are the Altima which is a combination of
          chicken breast, baby shrimp and link sausage or the Tony's.

          Myself: (thinking to myself: "see what happens when you act mature, you get
          mature answers)

          (Another slow pause)

          Myself: I think I will go with the Tony's with marinara sauce (which is
          chicken, meatballs and Italian sausage on angel hair with choice of afredo
          or marinara sauce).

The rest of the table ordered. We sat, drank, shared some laughs, drank some more, made fun of each other, drank some more and next thing you know........ the food is out.

Chicken Parmesan
We dug right in and didn't stop until the food was done. All the serving sizes were right on the money. They came out in bowls and weren't too large or too small. Emily noted at certain places, the plates are just so big and it's hard to finish. Emily liked her meal. She said the chicken was moist and flavorful. She liked the marinara sauce a lot. They seemed to use a lot of fresh tomatoes and didn't taste like it came from a jar at all. The chicken parmesan is different from other chicken parmesan’s she's had as the chicken was not breaded and there was little parmesan involved from what she could taste. Note: the server did explain beforehand that it wasn't your typical breaded chicken. Nice of her do to so.


Tony's............not the frozen pizza
you'd expect by the name.
 My Tony's was good too. I'm used to canned marinara sauce if I'm ever at home eating it. (I don't cook so I just use it to dip breadsticks in). So with that said, I could taste the difference in the marinara, Marchello's was much better. The Italian sausage and chicken were ok to me. It was nice though to have the different flavors of meat in the meal to change it up. The angel hair was pretty good except some ends which seemed to have been overcooked. The best part of the meal was the meatball. I wanted to say in an Italian accent during dinner "That's a good a meatball." but figured a joke that bad would have ruined dinner. Others tried the meatballs and shared the same sentiment.

To someone lactose intolerant, this
does not look tempting.

And with the meal over it was time to focus on what some would call the most important part of dinner. Dessert. To end the meal, the group of us had a bowl of ice cream that was called Spumoni with Biscotti (chocolate, mint, and strawberry ice cream served with homemade biscotti). The entire group except me had the ice cream; I figured I had enough dairy for one meal. They thought it was just ok. I tried a little bit of the homemade biscotti because I've never had it before. I still don't even know what it is and am too lazy to Google it but that will be the first and last time I will eat biscotti. Way too dry, I guess you're supposed to dip it in the ice cream or something. The biscotti was about as dry as a Gilbert Gottfried joke.

Regarding the service, it was excellent. Emily and I both thought she made us feel welcome and seemed interested that we had a good experience. She was knowledgeable on the menu. Surprisingly enough, she was a new server too. I would have guessed she was there for at least a year or two. Nope. Only a few months. Very delightful and positive attitude. Well done Marchello's on the hire.

The place is pretty small inside but has some character. They have a little display at the front that just yells Italian to me:

So Happy and Sweet but look closer

One of the statuettes looks like he is about to be shot
in the head mafia style! Oh my!!!!!!!!
Pricing was spot on. The appetizers ran around 3-8 dollars depending on what you ordered. The entrees were between 7 and 10 dollars. Very affordable meals and you received about the right portion for the price. Between Emily and I we spent roughly $50 not including tip but that's with splitting the bottle of wine with the group. If you don't drink, you could spend about $20 here for dinner.

When rating this place, we had to keep an open mind. This is no Carrabba's, Olive Garden or any upscale Italian place. This is almost like a "Mom and Pop" eatery. You're not going to get fresh shrimp caught by Bubba and Forrest Gump delivered that day. You'll get good service and good food at a good value. Or as Emily put it right price for quality.

The final verdict. Emily gave this place a 3.5 noting that the only places she'd give 5's to in Wichita are Newport/Yia Yia's/Red Rock. I gave this place a 4 as well to give the final Super Scientific Scale score of 3.75!

Emily said if she lived closer she would add it in to her rotation of restaurants to frequent. I probably would too. But due to the distance, it may be a while for a return. If you're ever in the area, it's definitely a place to go try out. One of my friend’s mothers gets carryout from there during lunch all the time. She speaks very highly of this place.

So that closes Letter M. We’re officially halfway done with Dining by the Alphabet! Up next Letter N. Bring on the suggestions. Don't forget to check out the other blog that was written this morning: Dining by the Alphabet Casualty!!! And check out the new poll to the right!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 300 followers now and like us on Facebook where we have over 150 likes now!
Happy Dining All!

Marchello's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dining by the Alphabet Casualty!!!

We've had our first Dining by the Alphabet casualty. No, it's not an actual person. It's one of the first 13 letters we've been to. (Yes I said 13 because Letter M is in the books but is still awaiting full written review).

Which Letter was it? Well ironically enough it was one of the restaurants that received a pretty low score from me. Letter J.

John Browns, I've read from Carrie Rengers blog has closed. I guess they are taking a break to restrategize. Probably a good idea for them. Their menu was lacking a lot of substance and I don't think Wichita is a hot spot for late night dining outside of your typical IHOP and Denny's.

Check out the Wichita By E.B. John Browns review

Best of luck to the owners though.

So on that note, stay on the lookout for Letter M coming to a blog near you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quick Hits: 09/09/11

Well the weekend is upon us.

As I woke up this Friday morning, there was only one thing I could think of..... Zoobilee. This will be like my fifth or sixth time going. I've lost count and I'm sure past Zoobilee's can be attributed to my memory loss. To those who don't have tickets, you can still purchase tickets. It's Saturday night, the money goes to a great cause. There's more food and beverages than a human body can probably take.

Always a great time as I'm sure others could attest. The big question for many is if it's worth the money. My answer to that is if you have the disposable income to do it, do so. If you can get your hands on a ticket from someone, jump at the opportunity.

Let's go on to the other happenings in Wichita........
  • I saw over at Kansas.com that a Chick-fil-A is now coming to the west side near the southwest corner of 21st and Maize Road. So a west side and an east side location will be new to Wichita sometime in 2012. I can't comment on my excitement on this because I have none. I'm still a Chick-fil-A virgin and the hype has been blown out the door on this. I've heard Chick-fil-A is a life changing experience. That's high praise for a chicken sandwich! I guess I'll have to be the judge of that myself early next year.
  • The former Press building at the Waterfront has a new restaurant opening up: Ciao Italian Kitchen. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they will be serving Italian food. There are plenty of new Italian spots in Wichita and this will just be another one trying to differentiate itself from all the others. They should be open in late September or early October according to Carrie Rengers.
     
  • A new Five Guys Burgers and Fries opens this Monday downtown at 1025 E. Douglas. The hours are 10 am to 11 pm daily. Personally I like Five Guys but I go there maybe like once every other month if that.
     
  • Have any of you been to Pacific Coast Pizza? I put a little Facebook post out there and a tweet last week. I like their food but their service is just horrific at times. If it's not one thing, it's another. Keg exploded, the beer is flat, servers are shorthanded, they are out of a certain food and in some cases, we just get bad service. We will go in as a group of friends just looking for a couple drinks and food and it takes forever to be served, the server never comes to check up on us, etc. It's to the point that if it continues, I'll add that place to my "no go list" even though I like the food. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me thrice; I'll go get loaded on pizza elsewhere. Peace out, homie.
     
  • And lastly the Kansas State Fair starts today. You know I've only been once in my entire life. They have some pretty good concerts throughout the week from Daughtry, Big Time Rush, REO Speedwagon, Darius Rucker, and the plastic Kenny Rogers. If you like fried foods, the smell of manure, then the State Fair is for you. Totally kidding. I'm sure it'll be a blast if you go. I'll be attending the Texas State Fair later this year so I can't judge.

If you have any restaurant reviews or opinions you'd like to share for our next Reader Grab Bag, just e-mail wichitabyeb@gmail.com or you can Facebook it to us!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 300 followers now and like us on Facebook where we have over 150 likes now!

Happy Dining all and have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Informational Blog: Bella Luna Cafe

Welcome all to the super jam packed blog with pictures galore and food that may blow your mind. This blog is going to be more informational based than it will be an actual review. I was invited out to Bella Luna this week and was accompanied by a group of friends. So the fact that I didn't pay for the food outside of a tip and reviewing the things like service and timeliness of food coming out would leave me biased in the mind of some readers. Bella Luna is actually one of the highest suggested places I've had ironically enough.
For this informational review, I was joined by five fellow guest diners: Jason, Brandon, Emily and Samantha. They were all open to whatever we would decide to order. No particular food allergies and no biasness towards certain types of food.

Bella Luna is located in Bradley Fair at the southeast corner of 21st and Rock Road. It's located at the north end of Bradley Fair. They actually have three locations in Wichita. Here they are:
  • 4618 E. Central, Suite 50
    Wichita, KS 67208
    316.683.3700
    F: 316.260.3238
    Mon-Sat: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
    Closed Sunday
     
  • 2132 N. Rock Road, Suite 107
    Wichita, KS 67206
    316.634.0008
    F: 316.260.4088
    Mon-Thu: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
    Fri-Sat: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
    Sun: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
     
  • 2441 N. Maize Rd, Suite 2511
    Wichita, KS 67205
    316.613.3320
    F: 316.613.3381
    Mon-Thu: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
    Fri-Sat: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
    Sun: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

    Check out the menu or the website
In doing this blog, we decided to sample parts of each section of the menu. Most of us when we go to Bella Luna, it's always the same thing we order every time. Just like when I go to Outback, I order the Outback Special. Or when I go to McDonald's, I only go when it's McRib season. Or when I go to Doc's Steakhouse, it's the garlic salad. We are all creatures of habit. So hopefully this informational blog can open your minds to what else Bella Luna has to offer. At the end of each section, I'll have the pictures posted so you can get a visual.

The Appetizers

Humus and Steak
If you love steak. If you love humus. You'll love humus and steak. This was probably the unanimous favorite amongst the five of us. I'll admit, I've only recently had humus for the first time in the past couple years. It's good stuff. Some people say Bella Luna's humus is the best in Wichita. It's definitely up there, so I'll save that opinion for a Hummus Challenge Blog.

Baba Ghanoush
I've had this before at N&J's and at Dillon's. Briefly touched upon it but I was not a fan at N&J's. Bella Luna's version doesn't have so much zing to it. As Emily and Jason put it, it felt like a lighter version of humus. It had a smoky fun flavor to it. It's a good alternative to their humus but honestly if you're going to order one or the order, go humus.

Coconut Shrimp
Brandon thought this was excellent. This was also one of Samantha's favorite. I'm pretty sure she had one more than everyone but I wasn't keeping track! Jason thought it was good but nothing special. I felt the same.

Tabloueh
What is Tabloueh? It's parsley, tomatoes, onions, mint, cracked-wheat, fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Picture an upscale lettuce wrap from PF Changs with no meat inside. This had tons of flavor, definitely a unique appetizer. We didn't know whether to eat it by hand, by itself or with pita chips. The answer? All three! One person noted it's good in small doses. Something you'll definitely want to share with others.
Steak and Humus

Baba Ghanoush
Coconut Shrimp

Tabloueh
 Salads

Fattoush Salad
(Romaine and iceberg lettuce, mixed fresh vegetables with herbs, toasted pita, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice). I was openly not a big fan of fattoush salad, something I've tried to give a chance to but it was always "eh?". Three of the five of us never actually had the Fattoush salad so it was definitely something new. Samantha thought it was very good as did Brandon. Emily liked it but wouldn't call it the best fattoush she's ever had. It's very popular though and I can see why. It's unique and has a distinct flavor to it. Just not my style I suppose.

Halloumi Salad
This is going to be new to the menu soon so I didn't have the entire description and I probably totally butchered the spelling. From what I can gather it's a salad with a big stick of cheese in the middle. Even though I took a pill beforehand, I just don't like the taste of cheese so passed on this. The other four did try it and were all skeptical. We heard there are people that love this salad and it just might be their love of cheese because the general consensus was this had way too much cheese in it.

Greek Salad
(House lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, feta cheese and kalamata olives in a creamy cracked pepper Greek dressing). Everybody enjoyed the Greek salad. They liked the cream dressing and were even noted as something they'll order again as none of us have ever had this before. My taste buds may be out of whack but it had the texture of a creamy Caesar salad but with a different taste.

The Bella Maggi House Salad
(Crisp house salad with artichokes, tomatoes, pecans and shaved Parmesan with a balsamic dressing). Probably the hands down favorite of the group. Samantha thought it was excellent. Brandon thought the same. It was Jason's favorite. It was Emily's favorite. Me? I'm going to second everyone's opinion. It was so full of flavor and the good kind too. Emily noted the extra "kick" in the dressing. I like to order salads with my meals and this will probably be the very first thing before my entree next time I go in.
The Bella Maggi House Salad
Halloumi Salad
Greek Salad
Soups

Chicken Gumbo Soup
This was mine and Brandon's favorite of the three soups. You can't go wrong with good gumbo; it'll get me every time.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Jason and Emily's favorite of the three. To them, it was creamy and delicious just like gravy.

Lentil Soup
Probably the least liked of the three. Samantha didn't seem to like it much. Brandon thought it was okay. I'm not a fan of lentil soup and this really didn't change it much.
 
From bottom right (clockwise) - Lentil Soup, Cream of Mushrom Soup, Chicken Gumbo
 Entrees

Pasta Carbonara
(Rotini pasta tossed with crisp bacon, peas, mushrooms and pecorino Romano cheese in a creamy alfredo sauce). Jason loved pancetta and thought this was a very fresh tasting dish. This was his second favorite entree of the night. Brandon never had it before but was expecting more flavor in the dish. I kind of felt the same way. I was hoping for more and compared to the other dishes I tried, I preferred the other.

Chicken and Shrimp au Poivre
(Grilled chicken and shrimp with peppercorn sauce). Based off of the cool name, I figured I'd like it. If I ever have a kid I might even consider naming him/her au Poivre because it just sounds cool and I don't even know what it means. Samantha thought it was excellent, loved the shrimp of course! Emily said it was a favorite entree of hers. She loved the sauce and the veggies. I loved the shrimp and the chicken tasted fresh and wasn't too dry. It's a good meal if you like chicken meals which I tend not to order much if given other options.

Steak Sandwich
(six ounces of sliced beef rib eye, with onions, mushrooms, and jalapeño cheese on a baguette). Technically not an entree but we had to try it after one of our Restaurant General Manager friends of another establishment gave rave reviews on this. Brandon thought this was excellent. Emily differed and would prefer the Chicken Shawarmah if given the choice. I liked it for the sliced rib eye alone.

Chicken Curry
(Sautéed marinated chicken with onions, mushrooms and squash in a light curry sauce over house rice). As Brandon put it, "intense flavor". It's a little on the slightly spicier side. Jason liked this spicy yet sweet dish a lot. He would order it again. Some people may be scared of trying a curry dish but as Emily put it, this is a good place to start. I haven't made up my mind yet on what I think about it. There was definitely some good flavor to it but the curry aftertaste always gets to me. But I'll note it's one of the better curry dishes I've had in Wichita.

Prime Rib Eye Steak
(12 oz. Prime Beef cafe d' paris). Based off of everyone's first bite, this was the favorite of the night. Brandon thought it was excellent. Emily was a fan. I loved it. Jason seemed as if he was prepared to drop his wedding ring and have me officiate the wedding of Jason and Prime Rib Eye Steak. Very tender. You barely had to chew it. Jason says, "It was prepared to perfection and seasoned nicely." I could have imagined it but Jason might have cried tears of joy upon each bite. Seriously, he was that into it.
Steak Sandwich entering the mouth........

From the bottom left (clockwise) - Prime Rib Eye, Chicken Curry, Pasta Carbonara and
Shrimp and Chicken au Poivre
Dessert
(don't ask me how any of us made room for dessert. If you need a reason, my reason is "That's called dedication to blogging.)

Red Velvet
The least sweet of the desserts and a nice even way to finish the meal. It didn't have all the flavor in the world you associate with other red velvet desserts.

Chocolate Cake
Brandon thought this was very good. I thought it was rich but then again, I think any chocolate is rich in flavor.

Raspberry Cheesecake
Samantha thought it was very good. Emily's favorite of the night. She loved the Oreo cookie crust and thought it complimented the creaminess and raspberry-ness nicely. Wait..... It raspberry-ness a word?

Carrot Cake
Probably Brandon and Samantha's favorite of the night.

Tiramisu Cake
My favorite of the night. I'm not sure what's all in it or even how to spell it. I googled it. There were bits of cocoa in it, bits of some sort of coffee flavor and bits of love mixed in with it.

Far left (clockwise) - Red Velvet, Chocolate Cake, Raspberry Cheesecake, Carrot Cake and Tiramisu
and my glass of wine in the middle
 Closing Thoughts

There's a reason UrbanSpoon has Bella Luna listed as their #1 Casual Dining spot. The atmosphere inside is great. Plus it's a locally owned restaurant that serves a wide variety of tasty dishes. Many of us have stuck to ordering just the same thing and never branched out. This was a good way for us to try different things so when we stop by again, we can order a meal totally new to us. Bella Luna has a wide variety of appetizers (more than just Humus), an assortment of salads, sandwiches and entrees to please your taste buds. There's something on here for everybody.

They have an extensive drink menu and a great selection of wines. I'm not a fan of wines but we all decided to go ahead and try out some different ones. I liked a couple that we ordered. I think the average "wine snob" would call what I like girlie wines but my wine knowledge is so limited. At my house is a small wine fridge with an assortment of different wines. I couldn't tell you what is what. It's just filled for when guests come over. I'll drink it if I have to.

And guys. LADIES LOVE BELLA LUNA. I'm telling ya'. If you ever need a place for a first date. Bella Luna is the place to take her. You can't go wrong. Husbands, if your wife is ever mad at you for whatever reason outside of cheating, take her to Bella Luna. Buy her happiness back. I haven't met many girls that dislike Bella Luna.

And ladies. LADIES LOVE BELLA LUNA. If you have a sister tha......you get the point.
Hope you enjoyed the Super Informational Blog and all the pictures. I actually took some video and I'll get that on here when I'm done editing it. It's only like 20 seconds long.

Up next Letter M. If you have any restaurant reviews or opinions you'd like to share for our next Reader Grab Bag, just e-mail wichitabyeb@gmail.com or you can Facebook it to us!


Happy Dining all. I'll be at Zoobilee this weekend so maybe a review on that if I can remember the events!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 300 followers now and like us on Facebook where we have over 150 likes now!


Bella Luna Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reader's Grab Bag - 09/02/11

Occasionally I get e-mails from other people telling me their restaurant experiences, some good, some bad. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising but that also depends on what that opinion is.

I thought I'd share some opinions I've received some people. Of course I will leave out their names but here's a small sample I've received. If you would ever like to share your thoughts, anonymously of course, just shoot us an e-mail at wichitabyeb@gmail.com

Anchor
Ever since they changed things up, the place has been worse. The menu is not as good as it used to be and the service is horrible. I've added this place to my list of places to avoid.

Sumo
Why does it take me forever to be seated here. Everytime I go here, I see people get seated well before me even if they arrive after me. The owner isn't even friendly about it when I approach her.

Po Boy Pizza
The sauce was by far the weirdest "pizza sauce" I have ever had. You could tell they really put a lot of time into it but it wasn't Italian like pizza sauce. Didn't really like it actually. It was like salsa. They didn't use much of it on the pizza at all so it was still good, really cheesy. But the Pizza Roll is amazing. No Sauce on it, served on the side for dipping. Anyway, just thought I'd let you know, that you need to try the Pizza Roll!!!

Hana Cafe
The place is reasonably priced across the board (drinks, sushi) and neither of us felt like we were in Wichita... maybe because it's a unique, modern spot that we've never been. Two Thumbs up!

That's all for now. If you too would like to get your opinions in, just send them our way to wichitabyeb@gmail.com - All opinions will be kept anonymously. Also if you have any questions, feel free to throw them my my way. Maybe we'll have a grab bag of e-mails or sorts one day.

Otherwise enjoy your Labor Day Weekend. I'm sure all the bars in Wichita are salivating at the thought of College Football returning this weekend and NFL football the next. They can just hear those cash registers ringing in their heads like slot machines at a casino.

Happy Dining all. Stay safe and hydrated!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter where we have over 300 followers now and like us on Facebook where we have over 150 likes now!