Keeper of the Plans

Hard-to-find soda inspires years-long quest through Wichita

Wichita Eagle reporter goes on a quest to find elusive beverage

Wichita Eagle reporter Matt Riedl loves the soft drink Mr. Pibb, or Pibb Xtra as it's now branded. He found only two places in Wichita where you can buy the drink in cans or 2-liter bottles.
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Wichita Eagle reporter Matt Riedl loves the soft drink Mr. Pibb, or Pibb Xtra as it's now branded. He found only two places in Wichita where you can buy the drink in cans or 2-liter bottles.

I’m a man of simple tastes.

Chief among them is Pibb Xtra — the modern-day version of Mr. PiBB soda, popular in the late ‘70s.

This presents a problem for me and other local Pibb lovers, as this delicious soda is hard to come by in the Wichita area.

As a public service, I’ve embarked on a years-long (off-and-on) quest to locate the Pibb Xtra in town, wherever it may flow.

But first, let’s get one thing straight: Pibb Xtra is NOT Dr Pepper.

Au contraire.

True, the Coca-Cola Company introduced Mr. PiBB in 1972 to compete with Dr Pepper, but this modern-day Pibb Xtra has a refreshing zip to it that clearly distinguishes it from the saccharine Dr Pepper.

Despite many considering Pibb a long-forgotten relic, the soda still commands a loyal legion of imbibers who will go to great lengths to drink this elusive beverage. I mean, 12-packs of the stuff sell for upwards of $20 apiece on Amazon (one reviewer likened it to “paying for expensive craft beer for the Pibb lover ... but they are like diamonds.”).

I’ve driven to Emporia, where Pibb Xtra abounds, to pick up a 12-pack of the pop.

The best man at my wedding, Tony Snickel, brought a 12-pack for the groomsmen and I to drink before the ceremony.

Select restaurants in Wichita have Pibb Xtra in the fountain — or on tap, as I like to say — the most popular of which include Chipotle, Fazoli’s, Zoes Kitchen and Pita Pit (a full list of where to find Pibb Xtra is included at the end of this article).

My passion for Pibb (and seemingly ongoing futile quest to find it) has become somewhat of an in-joke with my friends. Frequently when we go to a restaurant, I ask if the place carries Pibb Xtra and only once have I been told yes (at Firebirds Wood-Fired Grill).

What can I say? When I commit to something, I commit to something.

But last week, my whole world got flipped, turned upside down.

I discovered the official Pibb Xtra website had a “Locator” feature where aficionados can search for the stuff within a 10-mile radius of their ZIP code.

A search of various Wichita ZIP codes revealed the usual suspects — Chipotle, Fazoli’s and the like — but also a few one-off smoke shops and a dry cleaners.

Until that point I had been stumbling aimlessly in my Pibb quest, relying on word-of-mouth.

I’d long given up on any local stores carrying cans or bottles of Pibb Xtra.

Though one smoke shop listed on the site was a bust (Smoke Plus at 837 S. Oliver), I couldn’t believe it when I actually found a few 2-liter bottles of Pibb Xtra for sale at Cigars Etc. at 4800 W. Central.

The owners of the shop, which is attached to Taylor Retail Liquor, said they stock the drink because they are personal fans of it and can’t buy Pibb elsewhere.

“If no one else buys it, I’ll drink it,” one of them quipped.

Besides the west-side liquor store, there’s one other place in town that supplies the stuff: Welch Cleaners at 21st and Tyler.

Russell Parker, who owns the dry-cleaning joint, gives cans away to his customers — though he will deal it to Pibb fans on the side.

Parker, who said he and his family love Pibb, said he wanted to stock it because it would allow him to give his customers something no one else in town offers.

You can buy Pibb by the can for 40 to 50 cents, depending on how you arrange the deal with Parker — but he will also sell it by the 12-pack.

So why can’t you just find the stuff at Dillons? Why do you have to go to random restaurants, a liquor store and a dry cleaners to drink it here?

I can’t say for certain, as my multiple messages left with Coca-Cola’s press office have been unanswered.

I’ve heard it has to do with where Dr. Pepper is bottled in a certain geographic area — whether it’s distributed by Dr. Pepper itself or by Coke or Pepsi bottlers (the idea being that if Dr. Pepper is distributed by Pepsi, Coke will sell Pibb Xtra as an alternative).

If I hear back, I’ll update this story.

But until then, if you’re looking to get your Pibb Xtra fix in Wichita, here’s where you can find it. Unless otherwise noted, it’s in a fountain.

Enjoy:

  • Chipotle, 515 N. Hillside; 535 S. Rock; 7130 W. Maple; 3015 N. Rock; 2241 N. Maize; 1700 N. Rock in Derby
  • Fazoli’s, 3553 N. Rock; 8520 W. Central
  • Zoes Kitchen, 1441 N. Webb
  • Pita Pit, 3242 N. Rock; 1918 N. Rock in Derby
  • Dairy Queen, 3248 N. Rock
  • Longhorn Steakhouse, 440 S. Towne East Mall Drive; 2720 N. Maize
  • Great American Cookies, 7700 E. Kellogg (in Towne East Square)
  • P.F. Chang’s, 1401 Waterfront
  • Firebirds Wood-Fired Grill, 10096 E. 13th
  • Winchell’s Donut House, 1205 W. Pawnee
  • Johnson’s General Store, 1003 S. Seneca (fountain in convenience store)
  • Cigars Etc, 4800 W. Central ($2 2-liter bottles)
  • Welch Cleaners, 2130 N. Tyler (40-cent cans)

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.


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