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Great taste on fresh-made buns

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, at 1:40 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at 12:59 p.m.

If You Go

Mooyah

* * *  and a half out of four

Where: 352 S. West St., suite 100, 316-558-5600

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Type of food: Burgers, fries, shakes

Alcohol: No

Web site: mooyah.com

More information

Five Guys has company.

The new guy in town is Mooyah, a burger chain similar in approach to the famously fawned-over Five Guys. Former KSN news anchor Anthony Powell opened Wichita’s first Mooyah in early November in the former Blockbuster space at 352 S. West St. He hopes to open more over the next several years.

The restaurant’s juicy burgers, homemade buns, fresh-cut fries and whimsical decor have gained it a quick following, and the place has been bustling over the holidays.

ON THE MENU The straightforward menu – burgers, fries and shakes – is conveniently spelled out on cards distributed to diners as they walk in. Using Mooyah-provided red ballpoint pens, diners check off what sort of bun they want (white or whole wheat), what kind of cheese (American, Cheddar, Swiss, Blue, Pepper jack) and which toppings (the long list of options includes standard ketchup, mustard, onion, lettuce, tomato plus choices such as Buffalo sauce, jalapenos, sliced avocado, fried onion strings, bacon and more. Two French fry options are fresh-cut Idaho with the skin on or sweet potato.

Shakes come in flavors such as vanilla, banana, cookie dough and mint chocolate chip.

DON’T MISS DISHES Mooyah’s burgers are juicy and beefy and taste extra good on the fresh-made buns, which customers can see employees preparing in the open kitchen just behind the cash register. Though the menu is designed for customers to build their own burgers, we had the best luck with the only pre-determined burger on the menu, made “Mooyah Style.” It’s topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and Mooyah sauce, which is Thousand Island-ish.

But one of the most important choices Mooyah customers have to make is what meat to put between their buns. A Mooyah burger is $5.25 and has two thick patties, but for a reasonable appetite, a single-patty “Little Mooyah” for $3.75 is more than enough, especially when loaded with toppings.

Mooyah also has good options for vegetarians and waistline watchers. Their turkey burger ($5.25) is thick and meaty and among the best we’ve tasted. And the veggie burger is pretty good, too. It’s black-bean based, cumin-y and a little spicy. Next time, we’d order it topped with Southwest flavors such as avocado, jalapenos and Cholua sauce instead of the Swiss and sautéed mushrooms we chose.

Definitely order the regular fries ($2.95 for a regular serving) over the sweet potato ones ($3.95 for a regular serving.) The former are crispy and perfectly salty, served in a paper cup. The latter have a nice flavor, but Mooyah can’t get their sweet potatoes crispy enough, and on one visit, our cup of sweet potatoes fries were so soggy, they were hard to pick up. (A replacement cup was happily provided, but the results weren’t much better.)

The shakes are rich and wonderful. We got one filled with chocolate chip cookie dough – and I can’t believe I’m about to type this because there are few things I love more than chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough – but ours was so overly populated with dough chunks, it was a tad alarming. When the ice cream finally melted, we found two or three more full spoonfuls of dough chunks at the bottom. A big shake is $3.75, and a small one is $2.75.

AMBIANCE Mooyah’s dining room is bright and whimsical, with a black and white checkerboard floor and exposed air ducts that are painted bright green. Hanging light fixtures are made out of items such as school rulers and glass milk jugs. The best part: One wall is covered by an enormous chalk board, which will keep little burger fans occupied while their parents eat.

PRICE RANGE It’s a Wichita thing: A chain burger place opens, and the masses declare it too expensive. No one around these parts likes to pay much for their burgers. Compared to some of the home-owned diners in town, Mooyah is expensive -- $5.25 for a turkey, veggie or double-patty Mooyah, $3.75 for a little. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, but if you add fries for $2.95, and a drink for $1.95 or a shake for $3.75, the total price of the meal gets up there.

SERVICE Service is good. Powell’s recognizable face is a regular presence in the dining room, and the restaurant is usually bustling with about 10 people in the open kitchen and several more on the floor, helping customers figure out how the fill-out-the-card ordering process works. Our orders always came out accurately, and the servers on the floor were quick to clear away our trash and fetch things we needed. One thing I really love about Mooyah: Each table has its own bottle of ketchup, which saves the time and hassle of filling up a million of those little paper cups from a community spout.

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