Dining With Denise Neil

Where Chefs Eat II: Another round of Wichita experts share favorites

Monarch owner Jennifer Ray loves the smothered pork burrito from El Patio.
Monarch owner Jennifer Ray loves the smothered pork burrito from El Patio. The Wichita Eagle

A few weeks ago, I published a list of restaurants where local chefs and restaurant owners – people who presumably know a lot about local food – say they like to eat.

They also shared what they order, and readers were treated to a list of restaurants – from El Rancho to My Tho – that are worth checking out.

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The story was so popular that I decided to do another installation and asked a second group of local food experts to name their favorite restaurants and the dishes they order when they visit. The new collection includes just as many hunger-inducing suggestions, from an inside-out cheeseburger to a mango shake with Mexican spices.

Jennifer Ray

Job: Owner, The Monarch, 579 W. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Little Saigon (1015 N. Broadway), Annex Lounge (6305 E. Harry), El Patio (424 E. Central), Knolla’s (several Wichita locations), Joan’s Cafe (454 Martin Ave., Stafford)

What she orders: At Little Saigon, Rae likes the MX-2, which is pan-fried egg noodles with veggies and beef. “It’s one of the first things I ever ordered and have just stuck with it. It’s one of my comfort dishes, especially paired with an order of their steamed dumplings.”

At Annex Lounge, she has The Inside Out Burger. “For all intents and purposes, it’s nothing special,” she said. “But they flip the buns, butter them, top them both with American cheese and grilled onions. Pair it with a big red beer, and your hangover will disappear.”

At El Patio, she orders the smothered pork burrito. “It’s so saucy that you can scoop up whatever you missed with your chips. They use a lot of oregano in their salsa, which I love as well,” she said.

At Knolla’s, she likes the supreme pizza. “It has enough veggies that it almost feels healthy. I really like Knolla’s when it’s warm, but I love it cold the next morning for breakfast,” she said.

At Joan’s, a little cafe that Ray and her boyfriend, Gavin Peters, discovered in Stafford (about 85 miles from Wichita), Ray likes the comfort food. “It’s a bit of a drive, but they have the best fried chicken buffet every Sunday. Gavin and I love to drive up there and fill up on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and homemade gravy. We always finish it off with a slice of homemade cherry pie and a cup of coffee.”

Jeff Schauf

Job: Co-owner, The Flying Stove food truck

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Thai Tradition, (650 N. Carriage Parkway), Restaurante Usuluteco (2265 S. Seneca), Lemongrass: Taste of Vietnam (300 N. Mead), Los Pinos (1225 W. Douglas), Mr. Taco (711 W 25th St. North)

What he orders: Schauf, who consulted with his partner and chef-brother Rob to compose his list, had trouble narrowing it down. In addition to the restaurants listed above, he also named his three go-to sushi spots – Kanai, Ninza Sushi and Tokyo – as well as local hangouts The Monarch, Public at the Brickyard, The Anchor and Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.

At Thai Tradition, he likes to order papaya salad, whole fried snapper, basil fried rice, drunken noodles and Thai basil chicken. “Rob and I have been coming here for 20 years,” he said. “Everything is good.”

At Restaurante Usuluteco, a Salvadoran restaurant, he orders pupusas, which are filled corn cakes. “It’s one of the few places in town to get pupusas, and they happen to be excellent,” he said. “Throw in great hosts, El Salvadorian beer and a futbol match on the TV, and it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon.”

At Lemongrass, Danny Nguyen’s new Vietnamese restaurant in Old Town Square, the brothers like to order Cajun and garlic butter crawfish.

Los Pinos, a tiny Mexican restaurant in Delano, has the best chicken quesadillas around, Schauf said.

Mr. Taco, he said, is a “great late-night taco joint with a cool little outdoor patio.”

John Michael

Job: Executive chef and department chair for culinary arts at the Butler Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts

Favorite Wichita restaurants: N&J Cafe (5600 E. Lincoln), The Anchor (1109 E. Douglas), Newport Grill (1900 N. Rock Road), Pho Special (2409 E. Pawnee), Georges French Bistro (4618 E. Central)

What he orders: At N&J, he always orders the appetizer combo. “It’s got a bit of everything; hummus, kebe, falafel, tabouleh and not to mention the best baba ganoush in the world. You can find me here every Monday for free hummus Mondays.”

At The Anchor, he likes the portobello burger with sweet potato fries. “This burger is amazing. I will happily order it over its meaty cousins. It is no hyperbole to state that I will sometimes dream about this burger all week. It also doesn’t hurt that they have the best beer selection in the state.”

At Newport Grill, he likes steak tartare. “I have eaten steak tartare in London, Paris, New York and San Francisco and can honestly say this is hands down the best steak tartare I have ever had,” he said.

At Pho Special, he orders shrimp papaya salad. “Crisp green papaya, toasted peanuts, tender cool shrimp, a chiffonade of mint and a slightly sweet, slightly tart, slightly fish saucy dressing. Yum,” he said.

At Georges French Bistro near College Hill, he likes the moules frites (mussels and fries). “Moules frites is a simple dish that when executed correctly with attention to detail can be incredibly delicious, and Georges does a great job. I have never had a bad mussel here, and they have always been perfectly cooked.”

Travis Joy

Job: Chef, Harvest Kitchen/Bar inside the Hyatt, 400 W. Waterman

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Ginger Asian Cuisine (19894 W. Kellogg Drive, Goddard), Elderslie Farm (3501 E. 101st St., Valley Center), The Flying Stove, food truck

What he orders: At Ginger Asian Cuisine: “I love the dumplings. I always get them pan-seared. The wok gives them a great crispy outside and keeps the filling moist. Wonton soup there is so simple but the broth is great. And the Thai curry fried rice has rice that’s cooked to perfection, and the curry gives the fried rice a nice twist.”

At Elderslie Farm, which opens a seasonal cafe during the summer and does farm-to-table dinners: “During the summer, they offer great hand-made scones, muffins, breads, and granola. Your really can’t go wrong sitting on their patio looking out over a blackberry bramble eating some delicious breakfast.”

At the Flying Stove, he orders everything. “The guys there are super passionate about their food and the food truck scene,” he said. “They always kill it.”

Marty Spence

Job: Owner, Songbird Juice Company, 1142 Bitting

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Redrock Canyon Grill (1844 N. Rock Road), R Coffee House (1144 Bitting), The Anchor (1109 E. Douglas)

What she orders: At Redrock Canyon Grill: “First I order their nice ‘little’ house salad (minus goat cheese, substitute feta), the shrimp cargo, a caramel appletini, and I always save room for their house-made key lime pie.”

At R Coffee House, which is owned by Spence’s partner and is next door to her shop: “I crave their veggie breakfast tacos. Not only are they loaded with fresh vegetables, but they get their tortillas locally and their salsa is made in house. Some days I think I could eat two orders.”

At The Anchor: “Two words: Truffle fries.”

Jason Febres

Job: Chef, Taste & See, 255 N. Washington

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Doo-Dah Diner (206 E. Kellogg), The Anchor (1109 E. Douglas)

What he orders: At Doo-Dah Diner: “I get the French dip sandwich. It’s beefy and cheesy with the perfect rich au jus to dunk it in. Fries on the side make the perfect meal.”

At The Anchor: “I like to get their Midnight Marauder, which resembles very much a Cuban sandwich with roasted pork, Swiss, ham, pickles and mustard.”

Manu English

Job: Owner, Let’m Eat Brats food truck

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Passage to India (6100 E. 21st St.), College Hill Deli (3407 E. Douglas)

What she orders: At Passage to India: “I order the chicken tikka masala, mild, with garlic naan,” she said. “I love the awesome flavors and creamy sauce. This has become a comfort food for me. My husband and I love to go there also because it’s family-owned.”

At College Hill Deli: “Ali (owner Ali Yassine) is one of a kind. It’s like walking into a friend’s home who hugs and talks to you. My favorite is the fattoush salad with a gyro. It has great flavors, and the salad is refreshing.”

Brad Steven Jr.

Job: Co-owner, Wine Dive, 4714 E. Douglas, and The Hill, 4800 E. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Chester’s Chophouse (1550 N. Webb Road), Bocco Deli (3010 E. Central)

What he orders: At Chester’s Chophouse: “You can’t go wrong with the nightly specials, but ever since Bobby (chef Bobby Lane) turned me on to the chopped steak, I have been unable to order much else. I prefer the French onion style. It’s basically chopped beef on top of a small, thin piece of flatbread and then completely drenched in this dark, rich sauce with caramelized onions and cheese. I order it medium rare and with a glass of red wine, and I’m set.”

At Bocco Deli: “For lunch, I eat at Bocco Deli the most often. The staff really makes you feel at home. I always get the Sicilian sandwich, which is layered with ham, salami, provolone, Parmesan, peperoncino and red peppers on focaccia. Their addicting focaccia bread is made in-house daily and has the perfect texture to soak up the mayo, red wine vinaigrette, and all the delicious natural juices from the toppings. Their soups are always on point as a side to dip your sandwich in.”

Lisa Palacios

Job: Owner, Funky Monkey Munchies food truck

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Bite Me BBQ (132 N. St. Francis), Tacos Porfinas (2247 N. Broadway), Big Apple food truck, Espresso To Go Go (102 N. St. Francis), The Big Chill ice cream truck

What she orders: At Bite Me BBQ: Loaded sweet potato fries with sliced brisket.

At Tacos Porfinas, she gets the al pastor and bean and cheese gorditas with extra lime and green sauce.

At the Big Apple Food Truck, she loves the meatballs. “Love at first bite,” she said.

At Espresso To Go Go, she always orders a sweetie chai for breakfast. “Just that,” she said. “Nothing else needed.”

At the Big Chill food truck, she loves the chamango shake, which is mango Italian ice bended with vanilla soft serve. “It’s topped with sweet Mexican chili sauce called chamoy, Japanese peanuts and Takis chips. Um yeah. Seriously. Crazy good.”

Pete DeFazio

Job: Owner, DeFazio’s, 2706 N. Amidon

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Thai House (969 N. West St.), El Rancho (2801 N. Broadway), Tortas Locas (1580 W. 21st St.), N&J Cafe (5600 E. Lincoln)

What he orders: At Thai House: “I order egg rolls and the paad see ewe medium hot with chicken. The egg rolls are not greasy and the paad see ewe has just the right heat, savor and sweet for me.”

At El Rancho: “The barbacoa at El Rancho is nicely seasoned and the texture is amazing.”

At Tortas Locas: “One of my new favorites is the al pastor tacos and tortas at Tortas Locas. The meat is seasoned just right and all the ingredients and condiments work very well for me.”

At N&J Cafe: “For a salad, I like N&J’s Greek with chicken. The veggies are always crisp and the feta and olives just hit the spot for me.”

One of Wichita's favorite Italian restaurants is back, and people are willing to wait as long as it takes to taste its food again. Video by Denise Neil / March 24, 2016

Gina Hogan

Job: Co-owner, Angelo’s Italian Foods, 5231 E. Central

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Felipe’s

What she orders: Cheese enchiladas with chili verde. “I spread guacamole and mild salsa over the top. It brings me back to my childhood.”

The magical new restroom mirrors at Picasso's Pizzeria (Feb. 5, 2016). Video by Denise Neil/The Wichita Eagle.

Kurt Schmidt

Job: Owner, Picasso’s, 621 W. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Dempsey’s Burger Pub (3700 E. Douglas), The Anchor (1109 E. Douglas), The Artichoke (811 N. Broadway), Bierock Kitchen (2065 E. Central)

What he orders: At Dempsey’s: “I love a good burger and love to eat at Dempsey’s. I usually get the Kobe burger or the smoked stack burger. Their burgers have so much flavor, and their homemade ketchup is awesome.”

At The Anchor: “I think the Anchor has the best Philly sandwich in town. It is always the perfect combination of meat and veggies. I have yet to find one better.”

At The Artichoke: “I love Nancy’s No. 8 with a side of pasta salad. Great sandwich.”

At Bierock Kitchen: “For a good bierock I always go to the Bierock Kitchen and get one with cheese.”

Ryan Verbeckmoes

Job: Co-owner, Ziggy’s Pizza, 3700 E. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Harry’s Uptown (3023 E. Douglas), Wine Dive (4714 E. Douglas), The Artichoke (811 N. Broadway), Bella Luna (2132 N. Rock Road, 2441 N. Maize Road), The Anchor (1109 E. Douglas), The Hill (4800 E. Douglas), The Monarch (579 W. Douglas)

What he orders: At Harry’s: “My favorite thing on their menu is the chicken Philly sandwich. I get a side of au jus with it and it’s awesome.”

At Wine Dive: This is Verbeckmoes’ choice for brunch. “I usually get the American breakfast with a side waffle. The waffle is so good. It’s like a dessert.”

At Bella Luna: “I usually get the trio of beef, chicken and shrimp kabob. It’s my favorite real entree in the city.”

Kate Clause

Job: Owner, Sunflower Espresso coffee truck

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Espresso To Go Go (102 N. St. Francis), The Flying Stove, Public at the Brickyard (129 N. Rock Island)

What she orders: At Espresso To Go Go: “I’d been hooked on their sweet iced Americano with a triple shot for months. It’s sweet and strong and simple. Lately though, I’ve been crushing hard on their Turkish Thunder. It’s similar, but it’s served hot and includes a dash of cardamom. That cardamom sends the flavor through the roof.”

At The Flying Stove: “I’ve been addicted to the Thai pulled-pork sliders from the Flying Stove all summer. One of my mom’s best friends is from Thailand and the fresh lime and chili flavor in those sliders really bring me back to my childhood, hanging out at the Stalcups’ house with my friend Erika.”

At Public at the Brickyard: “The cheese and garlic in their grits are paradise. Their brioche French toast the stuff of dreams. And I know I can get a solid cup of Reverie coffee to go with breakfast there.”

Ryan Revard

Job: Owner, Headshots Bar & Grill, 6140 E. 21st St.

Favorite Wichita restaurants: N&J Cafe (5600 E. Lincoln), Wichita Brewing Company (535 N. Woodlawn, 8815 W. 13th St.)

What he orders: At N&J: “Lamb shank is one of my favorite things on the planet and only available on Fridays at N&J. I hardly ever get anything else but the lamb shank and hummus.”

At Wichita Brewing Company: “I currently carry all the beer they bottle at my own restaurant but I end up there almost every week for an Itis or Farius Wheel pizza and whatever new beer they’ve brewed.”

Mary Cortez

Job: Co-owner, Cortez Mexican Restaurant, 344 W. 29th St. North

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Town and Country (4702 W. Kellogg), DeFazio’s (2706 N. Amidon)

What she orders: At Town and Country: The prime rib and the cinnamon rolls.

At DeFazio’s: “DeFazio’s is our Italian place for lasagna and of course their house salad. We tend to dine more at family-owned restaurants to keep them alive. Too many of the family-owned places are closing up due to the chain restaurant competition.”

Jodi Buchanan

Job: Co-owner, B.S. Sandwich Press food truck

Favorite Wichita Restaurants: Stroud’s (3661 N. Hillside), Pizza John’s (208 S. Baltimore, Derby), Redrock Canyon Grill (1844 N. Rock Road)

What she orders: At Stroud’s: “They are famous for their pan-fried chicken, but we love their chicken and noodles soup. Their green beans are so delicious as well.”

At Pizza John’s: “Love their thin-crust pizza, which has the perfect amount of seasoning, and there is something special in the sauce.”

At Redrock Canyon Grill: “Their rotisserie chicken and ribs are always delicious, but their key lime pie is to die for. It’s topped with homemade whipped cream that adds just the perfect amount of sweetness to the tart of the key lime. Amazing!”

(FILE VIDEO) Jack Fukuda opened his ramen restaurant at 613 W. Douglas on April 24, 2016. He had a soft opening several days before.

Jack Fukuda

Job: Owner, Yokohama Ramen Joint, 613 W. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Cracker Barrel (995 E. 61st St. North), Il Vicino (4817 E. Douglas, 2132 N. Rock Road)

What he orders: At Cracker Barrel, he always orders the farm-raised catfish platter with fried apples, mac and cheese and steak fries

At Il Vicino: He orders the Da Vinci pizza and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Craig Miles Lloyd

Job: Owner, Dappery Dodo breakfast burrito food truck

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Sport Burger, 134 N. Hillside

What he orders: “I get three regular cheeseburgers and a side of cheese fries, which I smother with ketchup. There’s something about the way fake nacho cheese and ketchup mixes together that is intoxicating. Plus, I’d argue that they have the most well-seasoned flat top in all of Wichita. You can literally taste decades of burger and onion flavor in every bite. Also, their price point is unbeatable. Only drawback is there’s always a line around the block so you could be sitting in the drive-thru for a while. Still worth it, though.”

Larry Walker

Job: Executive chef, Crestview Country Club

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Walker loves burgers. Really loves them. His favorites are from Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Five Guys.

What he orders: At Freddy’s: “I always order the triple cheeseburger with the California sauce, and I love the shoestring fries. The burger is thin and crisp and yet still juicy.”

At Five Guys: “I like the backyard style of the burger piled high with three beef patties with sauteed onion, mushrooms, bacon and gooey American cheese. The fries are also terrifically hand punched, perfectly seasoned and plentiful.”

Sebastian Gordon

Job: Manager, Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 3700 E. Douglas

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Watermark (4701 E. Douglas), My Tho (500 E. Central), Hungry Heart (222 S. Commerce)

What he orders: At Watermark: “I always get the Great Expectations (sliced smoked turkey breast, apricot-curry mayo, lettuce and chopped walnuts on focaccia). I grew up on it and can’t seem to change my order when I grab a sandwich from there.”

At My Tho: “I usually get the No. 6 with a banh mi. I’ve never had a bad meal, and the staff is wonderful.”

At Hungry Heart: He loves the ahi wanton nachos and the Korean short ribs. “The food is always perfect and one of my favorite spots in town.”

Warren Tandoc

Job: Owner, Espresso To Go Go, 102 N. St. Francis

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Little Saigon, 1015 N. Broadway

What he orders: “Start with homemade kimchi that is mild enough to be accessible, but effervescent enough to alter your consciousness permanently. The charbroiled pork bahn mi sandwich is porky perfection with fresh, fluffy bread dressed with butter and pickled veggies that will satiate even a giant human creature absolutely. Either the soda limeade or a sweet, milky iced Vietnamese coffee completes a triad of winning that will ruin you in the best possible way forever.”

Bryce Kuhn

Job: Owner, Twelve Restaurant and Bar, 12111 W. Maple

Favorite Wichita restaurants: Ziggy’s (3700 E. Douglas), Picasso’s (621 W. Douglas), Kobe Steak House of Japan (8760 W. 21st St.)

“In my house, we love pizza. My wife and I really like to sit on the patio at Ziggy’s and Picasso’s on the rare occasions we actually get to go out.”

What he orders: At Ziggys: I always eat a Hawaiian pizza at Ziggy’s, while my wife gets a taco pizza (I make her share).”

At Picasso’s: I always get a slice loaded with mushrooms and pepperoni.”

At Kobe: “We also love to celebrate special occasions at Kobe steakhouse. Filet and shrimp is always my order.”