The aging framed photographs that hang in Kwan Court’s lobby recall the days when the restaurant at 1443 N. Rock Road was one of Wichita’s most popular dining destinations.
They’re autographed shots of celebrities, local and otherwise, who once claimed Kwan Court as one of their favorites: B98-FM disc jockey Brett Harris looking mulleted and 20-something. Longtime Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan, who served until 1995. Actors Glenn Close and Christopher Walken, stars of “Sarah Plain and Tall: Winter’s End,” a 1999 movie filmed partly in Wichita.
But on Sept. 18, the 21-year-old restaurant — known for its lunch buffet, white grand piano and lush indoor atrium — will close its doors for good and will join names like Albert’s and Abe’s on the list of beloved Wichita restaurants gone but not forgotten. Owner Kong Wong, a former employee who took over the restaurant in 2006, is closing the restaurant because of financial issues, he said. Court records show that Wong filed for bankruptcy in July.
He told his 30 employees last weekend about his plans for closing and alerted customers this week via a sign on the door, urging them to e-mail memories of the restaurant. “They all have been saying, ‘Don’t close,’æ” Wong said. “They ask if we can relocate, but it would cost too much to relocate. I don’t see myself relocating.”
Quan Diec opened Kwan Court in July of 1990 in a vacant building that had previous housed Charlie Brown’s club and ran the restaurant with family members.
At the time, Diec owned three Kwan Wah restaurants in Wichita and one in Topeka. He spoke to The Eagle that year about his dream of turning Kwan Wah into a national chain. Kwan Court was one of Wichita’s earliest sushi purveyors, and in a town full of Chinese buffets whose quantity was far greater than its quality, Kwan Court consistently turned out a lunch buffet full of fresh, delicious dishes — even famously offering peel-and-eat shrimp on its salad bar.
Wong, a four-year employee of the restaurant, bought it from the Diec family five years ago. In 2009, he gave the restaurant a much-needed facelift, putting in new carpet and new aquariums.
The restaurant chugged along, continuing to put on its famous holiday “grand buffets” and keeping a stable of its longtime fans.
But several Kwan Court enthusiasts admit that they hadn’t gone back in recent years as much as they would have liked to.
Karrie McCormick said she fell in love with the restaurant when she moved to Wichita 12 years ago. It was the first place she tried sushi.
During her first pregnancy, she craved Chinese food and regularly visited her favorite restaurant. Her now 6-year-old daughter, a picky eater, never says no to Kwan Court’s lo mein and sesame chicken, and she loves to hear the piano player, who tickled the white grand piano on weekends.
On a recent visit, McCormick was saddened to see the closing sign on the door.
“Now I wish I had eaten there more often lately,” she said.
NOW YOU KNOW
KWAN COURT’S CLOSING
The restaurant at 1443 N. Rock Road will permanently close at the end of business on Sept. 18.
Hours until then are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
To share a Kwan Court memory with the owners, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 316-634-1828. Or post your comments on our dining blog at blogs.kansas.com/dining.
To read former restaurant critic Diane Lewis’ original review of Kwan Court, which ran in the Eagle on Oct. 5, 1990, visit this link.