Dining With Denise Neil

Once-favorite Wichita restaurant getting a one-night revival

Willie C’s was a Wichita dining destination during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s former owner is bringing its dishes back for one night. This picture is from 1999.
Willie C’s was a Wichita dining destination during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s former owner is bringing its dishes back for one night. This picture is from 1999. File photo

Last spring, the onetime owner of a onetime popular Wichita restaurant – Willie C’s Cafe – brought the restaurant and many of its most popular dishes back to life for a one-night buffet.

The event was a hit, to put it mildly. That night, 490 people showed up, and former employees wearing their old uniforms were among them.

"It was a little crazy," said Bill Rowe, Willie C’s former owner, who now owns Blue Moon Caterers. "One guy came in and showed me pictures of his bathroom that he had remodeled with materials and colors from Willie’s – bead board siding and hex tile...seriously. Another showed me a picture of his baby son at his first restaurant outing at Willie’s. Standing next to him was his son, now in his 20s.

The event was so popular that Rowe has decided to do it all over. On Friday, he’ll stage another Willie C’s buffet. It’ll happen from 4 to 10 p.m. at Rowe’s Villa Luna event center, 8406 W. Central.

It will feature Willie C’s favorites like chicken fried steak, stacked enchiladas, quesadillas, grilled burritos, meat loaf and fajitas, and beer and margaritas also will be served. The cost is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 4 to 12, free for ages 3 and under. Rowe isn’t taking reservations – it’s first come, first served.

Willie C’s, one of Wichita’s most popular dining destinations during its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, closed its last location in 2008.

Rowe founded Willie C’s in 1985 and modeled it after a Texas-style cafe. At one time, he had five restaurants including an east-side restaurant on the perimeter of Towne East Square and a west-side restaurant at 656 S. West St., just north of the West street exit on Kellogg. He also had Willie C’s in Topeka, Lawrence and St. Joseph, Mo.

He closed the out-of-Wichita restaurants in the late 1990s, followed by the east-side Willie C’s in the fall of 2000. He kept the west side going until May 2008.

For more information, call 316-612-4694.

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