Thursday, February 28, 2013

Japan Express: Wichita's Hidden Secret

Everybody who eats out has a short list of places they consider their “Go To” for whatever type of food they are looking for. For each genre of food or a location in Wichita, there are always places I will try and stop by once a month. One of these places, I’ve been meaning to write about since Day One and two years later after starting this blog now is a good a time as ever.
Over ten years ago, a fraternity brother introduced me to a “new spot” (for me at least) while going to lunch after classes. I believe his words to me went something along the lines of “Their teriyaki chicken is the shit.” My memory is a little fuzzy, but he might have said gnarly, radical, or ‘make em say uggghhhhhhhhhhhh’. I forget.
The spot? Japan Express.

2250 N Rock Rd Ct, Wichita, KS 67226
Phone: (316) 682-3183
www.japanexpress.us/
It’s a little restaurant in the shopping center located at the northeast corner of 21st and Rock Road where Dillon’s is at. Japan Express is located at the west end of the strip. It’s a pretty small place that seats roughly 35 people. There are 12 tables, 9 two tops and 3 four person tables.
For the nine years I would go there, I would always order the large teriyaki chicken bowl (as opposed to the medium size which is the only other option). You could order the white meat or the dark meat and for the longest time I would switch it up because I never knew the difference between the two meats. They never taught me that in marketing classes.

Heaven in a bowl

My friends would order an assortment of different items from the menu from yakisoba to chicken yakitori to obento to the dumplings. The options are endless at Japan Express. It wasn’t until recently that I added their Hot and Sour Soup to my staples there. Their Hot and Sour Soup is one of the best in Wichita. I’ve had it at many places in Wichita and I’d rank my favorite three places (in no particular order) as Thai Traditions, Yen Ching, and Japan Express.
I don’t think I have to comment much on their Teriyaki Chicken given that I’ve ordered it consistently for over a third of my life. Wait…..I will comment on it. Best Teriyaki Chicken in Wichita hands down. If Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay put their minds together and created the best teriyaki chicken they could come up with, had it blessed by the pope, and served to me by Kate Upton, I still think Japan Express would taste better. Remember…..we are going for taste here.
This was not served to me by Kate Upton
On the walls, they display a bunch of artwork. I don’t know much about artwork but the prices they are trying to sell the pieces for are a little high for what I’d spend given the art.

Would you pay $450 for this?

So aside from the food and the wall decor, I must mention that there is a nice little older lady that works there quite often at the cash register. Seriously one of the nicest ladies I’ve met. I don’t know her name, she doesn’t know me, but it always brings a smile to my face every time I see her there. She is always so kind and polite it gives me hope that there is good in this world. I talk about her all the time, its borderline creepy and similar to an Alicia Keys music video except I’m not looking to date this nice little older lady.

On a serious note, if you’re ever in the area you HAVE to give Japan Express a try. It’s one of the best hidden secrets in the northeast side of Wichita. I have not met a person who has gone there and didn’t like it. If I did, I’m guessing they went to school at Creighton and don’t know good food when they see it.
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Bad Parenting 101 Offered at Chuck E. Cheese

The commercials for Chuck E. Cheese really make the place look like a haven for fun and entertainment. Any child who watches it and is not scared of big talking mice will awe in the amount of fun to be had at Chuck E. Cheese. I’m much older and have the same amazement level. If they served beer, I’d probably go there on the weekends. Every game there only costs a token so that’s a huge plus.
I would never go there for the food but if the kids you go with get hungry, you’ll likely be forced to purchase one of their horrible tasting pizzas. You’d be better off grabbing a cup of water and squirting ketchup into the cup if you’re looking for something that offers some flavor.
I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese before and know what to expect but some of my nieces and nephews have never been so my brothers and I decided to take them on a magical quest of fun, games, and bad parenting.
Yep. If you want to see shining examples of some of the worst parenting, head over to Chuck E. Cheese on north Rock Road. It’s a model illustration to how NOT to raise your kids. I have zero kids and don’t know a thing about how to be a great parent, but on the flipside I know an obnoxious kid when I see one and what the reason is for that.
Examples:
1.)    I am playing a football toss game and having a random kid run in front of you and grabbing a football to play along. I look at the kid and realize I have no idea who he is and ask him what he’s doing. He ignores me and I look over and his mom is just standing there, doing nothing.
2.)    Having my nephew and niece playing this arcade game and a couple kids coming over wanting to play and moving their bodies into my nephew and niece until they can get a hold of the controller.
3.)    My niece waiting patiently to ride this horse arcade game that last 60 seconds per game and the same kid deciding to play it 7 straight times.
4.)    Seeing kid after kid just standing randomly crying; no parent around the vicinity……that we know of.
I don’t condone violence but if it was morally and socially acceptable I would have shoved any kid immediately who kept laying their fingers on one of the kids I was with. Because saying the words “Don’t do that” surely didn’t work.
It was really great birth control but at the same time pretty annoying dealing with so many rugrats that didn’t have simple knowledge of good etiquette.
Here’s the kicker, only the adults realize all this.
The moment we all got into my car, I look back and there’s a huge smile on each of the kid’s faces while they hold on to all their “Made in Taiwan” toys that cost 200-300 tickets to get but only cost Chuck E. Cheese a quarter to buy. At the end of the day, the only thing they will remember is all the fun games they were able to play, a weird looking talking mouse doing the cupid shuffle, and their Uncle Eddy absolutely dominating the Skee Ball machine that they had to wonder if he was really human.
As annoying as it all was at times, I'm sure we'll go back. Because one, I'm a sucker for arcade machines and two, I have a hard time saying no to those kids when they ask me to do something.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jon's Ale House: Recently Opened

There’s a new bar in downtown Wichita. Far away from the mean streets of 2nd and Mosley which has been notorious for shootings and bar fights. This place is further south on Douglas near the Beacon and the Wichita Eagle building. The place is Jon’s Ale House.

825 E Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS
(316) 268-6000
A group of us made a brief stop by Jon’s Ale House to just check the place out and get an initial first impression. When reading an article online about what to expect, we read that it was going to be a place similar to The Anchor. The place was going to house plenty of beers according to the owner; more than 120 kinds of beer according to one article.
When we arrived, the place for the most part looked like Kelly’s Irish Pub if you were ever there when it was opened. Made sense because Jon’s Ale House to over the previous spot of Kelly’s Irish Pub. 

While I’m not the beer connoisseur of my friend group, a buddy who's "beer" opinion I value much more than most mentioned that they had less than 10 beers on top, none of which were special. They had a bottled beer list which included about 40 or so beers, most of which were very common beers. They definitely did not offer a wider selection than the Anchor just down the street; let alone close to the number. We aren’t sure if they were trying to get more beers or not, but it’s not close to the 120 kinds of beer mentioned in the Kansas.com article.
I was hungry and love this thing called food, so I ordered their Chicago Dog. It came with a side of Frito’s chips; not sure if they were the actual Frito’s brand.  The actual hot dog and the toppings were delicious but the bun itself was a little much. I’m not a big fan of the big thick buns. The type of bun where each bite you take in a hot dog, when there’s three times more bread in your mouth than an actual hot dog. That’s just too much. I’ll say it’s a much better hot dog than what you can get from walking down to QuikTrip at the corner of Douglas and Washington for a dollar.
Our server wasn’t too happy that when we arrived, some of us ordered our drinks at the bar because we didn’t know how the place operated. She made us go to the bar and tab out instead of doing it for us if we didn’t order drinks from her. Understandable I suppose but that goes against going above and beyond the level of customer service.
Did I mention that they have a pinball machine? I love pinball and will always play at least once. They even had a new machine, The Avengers! But here’s the bad part, it was a dollar per play. A dollar? That’s a little too much for pinball if you ask me.
Initial impression though among friends was they weren’t impressed. We may go there later again when the place starts to organize itself out more as they literally just opened the previous week but for now, it’s not high on the priority list.
Sometimes it can take a new establishment a while to get things going but at the same time, you only get one chance to make a really good initial first impression. Fortunately we are more forgiving and like to drink so I'm sure we will make another stop here at some point in the future to giving this place a deeper look and a second review.
Until then........
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