Local diners, there’s fine dining at hotels, too

08/16/2012 1:58 PM

08/16/2012 1:58 PM

Locals don’t often stay in hotels in their own cities, and hotels don’t often build restaurants that are visible to locals from the street.

In Wichita, that means that diners sometimes forget about some of the city’s best restaurants.

But the fancy new Ambassador Wichita hotel scheduled to open at Douglas and Broadway in December might help undo that.

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse will open on the ground floor of the hotel when it’s finished in December. It’ll be a fine-dining restaurant featuring an upscale interior visible through floor-to-ceiling windows facing Douglas.

The restaurant’s primary goal is to attract business travelers, manager Michael Frimel said, but many of its regular customers will be Wichitans grabbing a business lunch, stopping in for after-work happy hour or having dinner before an event at nearby venues.

The restaurant doesn’t have a menu yet. Owners are interviewing executive chefs, and once one is hired, he or she will develop the menu, which will feature steaks, fresh salads and upscale Italian items.

The 2,400-square-foot restaurant will have eating for 100 and a 500-square-foot patio facing Douglas. Restaurant-goers will be allowed access to the hotel’s parking garage.

Many aspects of the restaurant, especially its placement on a visible downtown corner, were designed to help the restaurant avoid being forgotten by residents, Frimel said.

“I think Wichita will really embrace this restaurant,” he said. “If someone is looking at us as a hotel, it will be an amenity for the hotel, but the restaurant will be marketed as a separate entity to the locals as a great place before going to the Orpheum or the arena or Century II.”

Here are some of Wichita’s other hotel restaurants that locals shouldn’t forget about:

AVI Seabar & Chophouse, 135 N. Waco, 316-262-3300: The much-anticipated AVI opened last fall on the west end of the remodeled Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview. Though it’s had a tumultuous first year in business — chef shuffling, menu changes, financial struggles — the restaurant has good food both at lunch and dinner. AVI’s interior is gorgeous and upscale, with dim lighting, dark wood tones and a giant fireplace. The hotel bar on the upper level is a great place for a late-night drink. It’s owned by Ben Arnold, who also has Corporate Caterers in Wichita. Among AVI’s best menu items: a grilled Caesar salad, fish tacos, steaks and blackened red snapper.

Harvest Kitchen/Bar, 400 W. Waterman, 316-613-6300: Harvest is one of Wichita’s best-kept secrets — and the secret keeps because the beautiful restaurant tucked inside the Hyatt Regency Wichita isn’t visible at all to passers-by. Opened in October 2008, the restaurant adopted a “farm-to-table” approach, meaning that most of the ingredients come from local vendors such as Yoder Meats, Bagatelle Bakery and Carriage Crossing. Unless the hotel is busy, the restaurant seldom is, but it offers a luxurious and modern dining room, a comfortable bar and a menu with items such as steaks, fish and pork chops. There’s also a lower-priced, more casual bar menu that features burgers and truffle fries.

Chef Paul Freimuth, who arrived in Wichita in January 2011, is a regular on the charity party circuit, often cooking for fundraisers that feature local restaurants. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Dinner is from 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily.

Legends Restaurant & Lounge, 2098 Airport Road, 316-945-1966: The restaurant inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wichita Airport has long been popular for its nightly specials, especially the Saturday night “Seafood Extravaganza,” a $29.95-a-person seafood buffet that’s stuffed with crab legs, seafood crepes, white fish, peel-and-eat shrimp and more. Legends is open for dinner from 5 to 10:30 p.m. daily. The regular dinner menu features items such as steak and rack of lamb, and there’s also a weekday lunch buffet offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Black Angus Grille, 9100 Corporate Hills Drive, 316-651-0333: Another chef-about-town is Peter Morietti, who heads the kitchen at the Wichita Marriott. His Black Angus Grille features steaks, seared sea bass, pastas and more. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. daily.

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