Very few restaurants in Wichita have been around longer than Old Mill Tasty Shop, which has been a downtown Wichita landmark for decades.
I discovered the restaurant, located on Douglas near St. Francis, several years ago when I first started working downtown. It quickly became one of my favorite places to eat lunch.
Busy work schedules, fad diets and tight budgets have kept my husband Brian and me away from Old Mill Tasty Shop during the last few years. But I was excited to return because I have fond memories of their delicious food. I remembered Old Mill Tasty Shop as a cozy and old-fashioned American diner offering tasty sandwiches and yummy desserts. It was comforting to see that not much had changed. The restaurant still had the same menu, marble bar, honeycomb tile floors and unusual configuration of booths and bistro tables.
I always order their toasted chicken salad club sandwich ($7.95), but we went on a Thursday, also known as Chicken Fried Chicken Day. Naturally, I had to order the special. In keeping with the old-fashioned diner image, the blue plate special ($8.25) — consisting of chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes slathered in gravy, green beans and cornbread muffin — is served on a blue plate. It wasn’t the best chicken fried chicken meal I’ve ever had, but the dish clearly is a favorite at the restaurant. We watched servers deliver the blue plate special to tables all around us.
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Brian, who isn’t the adventurous type, stuck to the familiar and ordered a hot ham and cheese sandwich on a Kaiser roll ($5.75) with a side of potato salad. Brian liked both. I thought the potato salad was good but could have used less mustard.
You can’t skip dessert when dining at Old Mill Tasty Shop. But we were both quite full, so we decided to split a chocolate malt ($4.25). It’s a tad on the expensive side as shakes go, but they give you enough of the good, old-fashioned malt for two people.
Since I didn’t get my toasted chicken salad club sandwich on this visit, I talked Brian into returning a couple of days later. The sandwich was even better than I remembered. It’s the perfect combination of owner Mary Wright’s delicious chicken salad, bacon, lettuce, and tomato in between three slices of toasted bread — and it’s still my favorite menu item at Old Mill. The best part is you can order a pound (or two) to take home.
We also ordered the Old Mill Special — two scoops of chocolate ice cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with marshmallow, strawberry, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a couple of cherries. We skipped the strawberry ice cream, and that’s another nice thing about Old Mill: They don’t mind substitutions.
Unlike other places where servers grouse at you for asking questions or requesting a substitution, the folks at Old Mill are always accommodating. Such was our experience when Gale, who has worked at the restaurant for more than 20 years, helped us. She’s one of the most cheerful and enthusiastic servers I’ve ever met.
Ching Brubaker is a member of the Wichita Eagle Dining Panel. Read more about the panel, including member reviews, at Kansas.com/dining.