Tis better to have eaten and lost than never to have eaten before.
Or is it?
Two weeks ago, we asked Wichita Eagle readers and food fans to share memories of once-beloved Wichita restaurants that lived out their life cycles and closed, leaving fans hungry and nostalgic for years and years. We heard from more than 300 people, who responded via Facebook, e-mail, phone calls and snail mail.
They named nearly 200 Wichita restaurants that are no more – some that have been closed for decades, some that have been closed only a few years, months or weeks. They lamented burgers they could still taste, yeast rolls they could still smell and missed menu items that haven’t been matched since and probably never will be.
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By far, the most-mentioned missing restaurant was Angelo’s, which closed in 2006 after serving Wichita pizza, manicotti and Italian salad with pickled eggplant for 46 years.
“Too bad Angelo’s is no longer,” Judy Young said in her e-mailed response. “Long before fast food this was the cheapest place to feed my family of four. We would split an order of spaghetti, share a pizza and load up on garlic bread. All would go home full and happy and Mamma didn’t have to cook or wash the dishes.”
The Italian restaurant was started by Angelo and Anna Fasciano, who started out making pizzas out of their basement in the late 1950s. Sicily-born Angelo, who worked at Boeing, would sell the pizzas to co-workers, and the demand was such that he that he finally opened a small restaurant on South Laura in 1960. Wichita had several Angelo’s over the years, the final of which was at 1930 S. Oliver.
By that time, the founders had both passed away and the restaurant was being run by their son, Jack Fasciano, who struggled to keep it afloat. These days, he’s still making the pizzas and manicotti out of his house and plotting a return. All that’s standing between Wichita and an Angelo’s revival, Fasciano has said on the “Bring Angelo’s Back to Wichita” Facebook fan page, is a serious investor.
The second-most-mentioned restaurant was Dr. Redbird’s Medicinal Inn, which operated in several locations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. (The best-remembered one was at 120 E. Douglas.) It was owned by Richard and Marnie Vliet, who also started the Looking Glass and the original Larkspur, and it was known for its piled-high sandwiches.
Reader Ted Jillson shared a scan of a menu he still has, which lists sandwiches with medical-sounding names like the “Consumption Cure,” the “Daily Regulator” and the “European Restorative.”
“Best sandwiches in the whole world,” said Carol Stein Beat in a Facebook post. “My favorite was the turkey with asparagus. This restaurant probably closed 30 years ago, and I still miss it.”
Rounding out the rest of the top 10, with the highest vote-getters first, were:
This Chinese restaurant was founded by Albert Mar in 1947 and operated on North Hillside until it moved to Kellogg and Woodlawn in 1953. It closed in 2001 after 54 years of business, the victim of increased competition, a tight job market and a new generation of family members uninterested in taking the restaurant over from its aging founders.
During its early years, Albert’s was one of the only places in Wichita to get international cuisine. Its fans remember its black booths, red lacquered walls and a candy and gum display near the counter. “I have never found comparable Asian cuisine,” said Pete Janzen in his Facebook response. “Their walnut chicken is something I still wistfully recall when I go past there on the frontage road.”
This restaurant, which operated in the 1970s, had at least three locations, including the original at 13th and Oliver. It served pasta and pizza and had a salad bar that was built into the bed of an antique truck. Customers still rave about its Gilbertini, a pasta dish made with sausage, cheddar, Mozzarella and garlic.
•Romano’s Macaroni Grill:
It was a chain pasta restaurant, but it was a good chain pasta restaurant, say its many fans. Romano’s Macaroni Grill opened in 1997 and closed almost exactly 10 years later after opting not to renew its lease at Bradley Fair. It was demolished, and Barnes & Noble was built on the site. Diners liked the pasta dishes and the singing waiters.
“That was where my husband and I had our first official dinner date over 14 years ago,” said Marina Fulton in her Facebook response. “We used to go back on our anniversary until they tore it down for a book store. Very disappointing. I loved their lobster ravioli and how they served you Chianti in water glasses.”
This chain still exists, but not in Kansas. Grandy’s pulled out completely in 1999, when it closed its five Wichita stores, one of which was at 233 S. West St., where Hog Wild operates now. It was known for its fried chicken, yeast rolls and cinnamon rolls.
For years, Bill Rowe’s Willie C’s Cafe & Bar was the place to be in Wichita. Rowe closed Wichita’s last Willie C’s, at 656 S. West St., in 2008, ending a 24-year run. Rowe started the restaurant in 1985, and at one time, there were five Willie C’s, including two in Wichita. It was known for its automobile decor and its family-friendly menu.
• La Palma: This home-style Mexican restaurant, founded by Bogota, Colombia, native German Reyes, opened at Lincoln and Governour in 1974. It moved to 5231 E. Central, where it operated until it closed in 1992. La Palma served fresh tamales, pork chile verde, ham-and bean-filled flautas and more.
“Still my favorite Mexican restaurant to date,” said Timirie Shibley, co-owner of Doo-Dah Diner at 206 E. Kellogg. “Great flour fried tacos, enchiladas and their salsa was like none other.”
Alan Bundy opened Magnolia Cafe in 1986 at Central and Woodlawn. It specialized in Caribbean, Cajun and Creole food and had a hot-pink exterior. He turned it into Charlie Tango’s in 1994.
This longtime favorite in Brittany Center at 2120 N. Woodlawn closed in the summer of 2000 after being in business for more than six years. It was a popular breakfast and lunch spot and served giant cinnamon rolls.
“My favorite Wichita restaurant of all time,” said Marni Lanowy. “I loved the variety of different potato casserole entrees and being able to choose from awesome muffins – raspberry and morning glories were my favorites.”
Other restaurants that received multiple mentions: Kwan Court, The Lazy R, Portobello Road, Estalita’s, Rio Bravo, Tommy’s, The Old Way Station, Chateaubriand, Pasta Mill, Steak & Ale, Johnny Carino’s, The Black Eyed Pea, Spaghetti Warehouse, Hickory House, Yen Ching, Abe’s, The Fife and Drum, Elizabeth’s, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, Ichiban Japanese Restaurant, Diamond Head Restaurant, Mr. Dunderbak’s, Ferrell’s, Longneckers, Gambucci’s, Amarillo Grill, White Castle, Red Mesa, Ted’s Montana Grill, Cafe Chantilly, Bartelli’s, Italian Garden, Joe Kelly’s Oyster Dock, Sub n’ Stuff, Brown’s Grill, Pizza Inn, Tippin’s, Cedar Saloon, Buck’s Barbecue and Zipps Drive Thru.