Review: Rain Cafe and Lounge
Rating: Two and a half forks out of four
Where: 518 E. Douglas, 316-261-9000
Hours: Food served 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 1 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Type of food: Mediterranean, American
Web site: www.raincafeandlounge.com
By night, it's a sleek nightclub with a progressive vibe.
But from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (1 to 9 p.m. Sundays), Rain Cafe and Lounge is a place to get a good and inexpensive Mediterranean meal downtown.
The bar opened a little more than a year ago in the space formerly occupied by The Boulevard and Big Sky before that.
Since then, it's been tastefully remodeled, and the menu has earned it a reputation as a dining destination, especially at lunch.
ON THE MENU: Rain's menu is filled with the Mediterranean fare served at many local restaurants — hummus, kibbe, gyro, falafel, schwarma and fattouch.
A few un-Mediterranean, more bar-friendly items also occupy the menu, including queso and chips, bruschetta, burgers, cheesesteaks and enchiladas.
DON'T-MISS DISHES: We'd heard that Rain's falafel sandwich ($7.50) was something spectacular, and it was. It was made with three ball-shaped falafel patties, stuffed into a large pita and dressed with cilantro, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, tomato and a generous dousing of creamy Tzatziki sauce. Served with a side of citrusy tabouli and the restaurant's signature red pepper hummus with pita chips, it was a hard-to-forget meal.
Though the chicken schwarma sandwich ($7.50) wasn't quite as memorable, it was good, too, stuffed with nicely marinated grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, onions and schwarma sauce. A burger we ordered ($6.50, with a side of steak fries) was passable, too, but with so many delicious Mediterranean options, it seems wasteful to place such a dull order.
We started the meal with an appetizer order of kibbe balls ($5), flavorful wheat and ground beef patties stuffed with onions and pine nuts and served with a side of yogurt. And the waiter convinced us that the nachos ($7) were worth a try, too. They featured ground beef, potatoes, onions, peppers, olives and melted queso over a bed of fried pita chips. Though they were pretty tasty, they were just nachos, and we wished we'd tried the grape leaves ($5.50), fried portobello mushrooms ($5), or goat cheese bruschetta ($6) instead.
We weren't crazy about the fattouch salad ($5.50). The salad components — lettuce, olives, feta, pita chips — were a bit too finely diced, and the dressing was too tart and not at all fatouch-y. The dressing was served on the side, and the salad might have been better had it all been tossed in the kitchen.
The roasted red pepper hummus, which is available on the side or as an appetizer, had a different texture and color than most hummus in Wichita — it was thick and mealy rather than creamy and had a reddish hue. But it had a nice garlicky flavor and was delicious scooped up with the accompanying fried pita strips.
AMBIENCE: The space has been remodeled nicely and has a classy feel, with tall tables with stools, lots of wood, dim lighting and an aroma fabulously free of stale cigarette smoke. (Thanks, smoking ban!)
PRICE RANGE: Sandwiches are $7 and $7.50. Salads are $5.50 to $7. Appetizers are $4.50 to $7.
SERVICE: Our waiter was efficient and friendly and happy to provide suggestions when asked. He did appear to be working the dining room alone during a Monday lunch, so had the crowd been bigger, he might have gotten overwhelmed.