This year’s Wichita Ribfest will have more than ribs and music
Last year was the first year for the Wichita Ribfest — a sticky, saucy three-day gathering of professional rib vendors from around the country — and it was a near-complete success, said Christine Pileckas, Intrust Bank Arena’s director of sales and marketing.
The only setback was dealt by Mother Nature, who delivered a stormy, windy night that forced Intrust Bank Arena officials, who put on the event, to cancel the final night of activities.
It kept the attendance tally at about 10,000, which was 5,000 short of what the arena hoped for.
If the weather behaves better this year, though, Pileckas says the festival should have no trouble drawing a big crowd, especially since organizers have done a little Ribfest tweaking based on lessons and feedback from the first go-round.
Ribfest, which started on Thursday, continues through Saturday and will be set up just east of Intrust Bank Arena in Lot D, the city-managed parking lot at 777 E. Waterman. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Barbecue and music fans pay $4 at the entrance and then can purchase barbecue meals from the six vendors set up at dramatically tall booths, each one decorated with banners proclaiming barbecue cook-off championships. The meals cost less than $10, but prices vary from booth to booth. Kids 12 and under get in free, and attendees can get in for $2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.
Visitors also can listen to music provided by local and national acts. The festival’s headliners are country acts Keith Anderson, who plays at 9 p.m. Friday, and Phil Vassar, who performs at 4 p.m. Saturday. In all, 14 bands will perform by the festival’s end.
Pileckas said that organizers are excited about Saturday night’s lineup, which will feature back-to-back performances by two Mexican bands — Grupo Flamante De Tierra Caliente and Kazzadorez — from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. A similar lineup was planned last year, but the weather got in the way.
Based on feedback from the first year, organizers have added several other activities to make the event feel more festival-like, Pileckas said.
On Saturday, the first 500 kids through the gates can participate in a Home Depot Kid’s Workshop, in which they assemble and decorate a tool box. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., a classic car show will be set up inside the gates, and spectators can watch teams participate in a cornhole tournament, which is a beanbag toss game.
For an extra $5, kids can get unlimited access to bouncy inflatables, and admission is free to the Pepsi Sport Zone, where participants can hit a baseball, throw a football or shoot a basketball.
“This year, our main focus was adding more interactive activities so people have something to do after they get their ribs and watch the bands on stage,” Pileckas said.
The arena also is trying to erase confusion from the festival’s debut year. Many people who attended assumed that the festival was organized like the annual Wagon Masters Chili Cookoff and arrived planning to sample all the vendors’ ribs. But that would only happen if visitors bought a plate from each booth.
Last year, it appeared that folks chose their vendor based on who had the prettiest booth or the longest line.
A panel of local judges will choose rib winners based on the ribs’ tenderness, texture and taste, and a people’s choice winner will be named, too.
By Ching Brubaker
Large portions, friendly service at Felipe’s Jr.
My husband, Brian, and I have been loyal Felipe’s Jr. customers for the past two decades.
I used to work down the street from their old Harry and Rock Road location, so I ate there frequently, sometimes several times a week. Even after the restaurant moved to its current Harry and Webb location, I continued to be a regular. We’ve visited the restaurant less often in the last few years, but it continues to be one of our favorites.
Brian and I were craving Mexican food on a recent Friday night after a long workday, so we decided to swing by Felipe’s Jr. on the way home. It had been months since our last visit, but the same smiling faces welcomed us with warmth and familiarity. That’s the advantage that locally owned, family-run businesses have over chain restaurants.
We ordered queso with meat to start our meal. Their queso is not the greatest, but it’s very good. It has just the right amount of spiciness. After some deliberation, Brian and I decided to split the burritos entree that consists of two burritos, beans and Mexican rice.
We asked for one burrito to be stuffed with pork chili verde and the other with beef. Both burritos were generously slathered with chili verde. I absolutely love the chili verde at Felipe’s Jr. I went through a phase several years ago where I would just get a small bowl of chili verde and a side order of rice for my meal. I had to order it this way because they didn’t have the Mexican special — chili verde served with beans, rice, guacamole and tortillas — on the menu years ago. I’m pleased to report that the chili verde recipe hasn’t changed, and it’s just as delicious as I remembered.
There are so many great choices on the menu ranging from $7 to $14. I particularly like their carnitas (marinated pork, cooked until tender), and the combination plates are a good value. My only caution is to either come hungry or be prepared to take leftovers home.
Brian and I have found it best to split a meal so that we don’t end up overeating, which is easy to do when the portions are large.
For dessert, Felipe’s Jr. offers several options, including sopapillas, churros and fried ice cream. I’ve enjoyed all of them on previous visits except for the churros, which we were going to try had we not gotten too full on our meal. I think we’re going back just for the churros next time.
The quality of the food at Felipe’s Jr. is among that of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Wichita, but it’s really their friendly service that’s inspired our loyalty. We will keep going back.
Three food and drink events this week
1. Food Trucks at the Fountains: The monthly gathering of Wichita food trucks is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the WaterWalk Pavilion and will feature local truckers such as the Flying Stove, MMM Sandwiches, Cakeface Bake Shop and B.S. Sandwich Press. R&J Concessions also will be there. The gathering is adding a new vendor, too Wichita-based festival vendor Bakerman Concessions, which specializes in cinnamon rolls. The gathering will have live music, and representatives from the Kansas Humane Society will be there ready to perform on-site adoptions.
2. Bocconcini Wine Dinner: Chef Nathan Toubia has another wine dinner planned at Bocconcini Italian Eatery, 4811 E. Central, this one at 6 p.m. Sunday. The dinner will feature a five-course meal, each course paired with wine. Among the courses being offered are a braised citrus lamb and a spring herb and cheese ravioli. The dinner is $65 a person. Call 316-613-2523 for reservations.
3. Swing Around South America Wine Dinner: This dinner, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at YaYas Eurobistro, 8115 E. 21st St., is being put on by the Wichita chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. It will feature a four-course dinner, each course paired with a wine from South America. The speaker will be Lucia Christensen, brand manager for Finca El Origen winery in Argentina. The dinner is $65 for AIWF members and $80 for nonmembers. For reservations, call 316-682-5502. The reservation deadline is noon Tuesday.
Battle of the Burger in September
Theres a new food fundraiser in the works that will pit local burger cookers against each other in a Battle of the Burger. The event, being planned by KETCH, will be Sept. 14 at Cowtown and asks restaurateurs to bring their burgers to battle it out, both for a judges award and for a peoples choice title. At the moment, the organization is recruiting restaurants to participate. Those who are interested should call Ashley at 316-38-8889.
Bid on a foodie dream job
The centerpiece of the Childrens Champions charity event, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Botanica, 701 N. Amidon, is an auction offering people the chance to perform restaurant dream jobs. Among the opportunities being auctioned are a chance to work a shift for the Flying Stove food truck and create a sandwich or burger for the menu; a chance to have a hands-on chocolate making experience with Cocoa Dolces Beth Tully; and the chance to go behind the scenes at River City Brewing Company and craft a beer with brewmaster Dan Norton. The event will feature hors doeuvres provided by The Anchor, soup from Tanyas Soup Kitchen and custard from Freddys Frozen Custard. Tickets are $75 at Facebook.com/ChildStartWichita. The event supports local children participating in Child Starts head start programs.
Now open: Molinos Mexican Cuisine
The wait for fans of the former Fridas is over. Mario Quiroz, who closed his Mexican restaurant Fridas at 1580 W 21st St. in 2010, last week opened his new restaurant, called Molinos Mexican Cuisine. Its in the former Las Tias de Beto spot at 1064 N. Waco, right next to Juarez Bakery, and has everything Fridas used to have and then some, including its famous piratas. The menu also features several new dishes, including a whole lot of enchiladas, tacos, authentic Mexican dishes and even cauliflower ceviche. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.