Dining with Denise Newsletter
July 30, 2014

Top 10 favorite Wichita restaurants that have closed

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.

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:

•  Albert’s: 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.”

•  Applegate’s Landing: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.”

•  Grandy’s: 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.

•  Willie C’s: 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.”

•  Magnolia Cafe: 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.

•  Garden Cafe: 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.

Three impending dining events

1. Food Trucks at the Fountain: The last Sunday of the month always means that another mega-gathering of Wichita’s food trucks is about to happen. This month’s Food Trucks at the Fountain happens from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at 515 S. Main. It’ll include founders and organizers of the Flying Stove plus B.S. Sandwich Press, Hopperoni Express, Let’m Eat Brats, Brickhouse BBQ and Park-n-Pork BBQ. Two new participants have signed up, too: the just opened Funky Monkey Munchies and Kona Ice, the snow cone truck that earns more Wichita fans by the day. The event also will include a band performing live jazz.

2. Scotch & Sirloin wine dinner: The restaurant at 5325 E. Kellogg is putting on a Ste. Michelle Wine Estates wine dinner that will feature five courses, each one paired with a wine. It will happen at 7 p.m. Monday and costs $75 a person. Winery representative Mark Schroeder will be there presenting the wines, and the menu includes an ahi tuna tartar appetizer and entrees featuring seared diver scallops and broiled lamb chops. For reservations, call 316-685-8701.

3. KMUW Fill Your Mug event: KMUW is turning 65 and is celebrating with cake and gelato. The public radio station will celebrate its birthday with the seventh annual Fill Your Mug event, which will be put on from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Eaton Venue, 517 E. Douglas. Attendees should bring their KMUW mugs for a free gelato from Caffe Moderne and birthday cake made by Wichita Cake Creations. Those who don’t have mugs can make a pledge to KMUW at the event and get one. The event also will include live music from folk group Elliot Road.

Luciano's food truck rolls into Wichita

Fans of Luciano’s, the well-regarded Italian restaurant in Mulvane, know that if they want to enjoy owner Luciano Mottola’s homey pasta dishes, they’re going to drive.

But not any more.

Luciano and his wife, Nancy, have just launched a Luciano’s mobile food business that they’re calling Strada, which is the Italian word for “street.” It’ll be in the Brittany Center parking lot at 21st and Woodlawn from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday).

The couple decided to start the food truck, Nancy said, after getting requests from Wichita fans.

“A lot of people wanted us to open a location in Wichita, but we felt that would take away from what we were doing here,” she said. “We felt like this would fill that need without taking anything away from Mulvane.”

The trailer will offer pasta dishes made popular in the Mulvane restaurant, and it will also serve salads using cone-shaped versions of its famous Parmesan salad bowl.

The dishes will be less expensive than they are in the restaurant and are intended to give people a “fast and friendly way” to have a taste of what they can get in Mulvane, Nancy said. Today’s menu includes a shrimp and mushroom penne with cream sauce.

The trailer will be out for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The Mottolas are interested in getting involved in Food Trucks at the Fountain and also are open to serving at special events on weekends.

On Friday, the’ll be parked at Bing Brothers Liquor in Winfield from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Schedules can be found on the Luciano’s Facebook page and on its Twitter account.

For more information, call 316-777-0045.

New food truck hits the streets

Lisa Palacios and her husband, Eddi, finally have their Funky Monkey Munchies food truck up and running. The truck, which will focus on fusion food made mostly from non-GMO, organic and locally sourced ingredients, had its first few outings this week and plans to be at Sunday’s Food Trucks at the Fountain event, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at 515 S. Main. From now on, they’ll update the truck’s location each day on the Funky Monkey Munchies Facebook page.

ChileHead Competition is next month

Hatch green chile season is just weeks away, and so is the 2014 ChileHead Competition at Johnson’s Garden Center, 2707 W. 13th St. The event is from noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 23 and will feature five food trucks and six breweries competing to create the best food items and beers made with Hatch green chiles. Participating food trucks, which also will be serving the gathered crowd, include B.S. Sandwich Press, Chino’s Parrilla, Hopperoni Express, Let’m Eat Brats and Park-n-Pork BBQ. The breweries are Central Standard Brewing, Hank Is Wiser, Hopping Gnome, River City Brewing Co., Wichita Brewing Co. and Walnut River Brewing. Admission is free, and so are beer samples. Food will be for sale.