Dining With Denise Neil

A double-decker London tour bus turned restaurant? Wichita has that

2017: Kind Kravings’ double-decker bus

FILE VIDEO -- Food truck owners Shea West and Rochelle Collins of Kind Kravings, a mobile vegan restaurant in a refurbished double-decker bus, complete with upstairs seating. (Video by Denise Neil with photography by Jimmy Vo/March 29, 2017)
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FILE VIDEO -- Food truck owners Shea West and Rochelle Collins of Kind Kravings, a mobile vegan restaurant in a refurbished double-decker bus, complete with upstairs seating. (Video by Denise Neil with photography by Jimmy Vo/March 29, 2017)

People just can’t believe the size of it.

Wichita’s first rolling restaurant is so huge that getting it here from California required days of intricate planning to avoid bridges.

It’s so huge that it barely squeaks under the power lines over its owners’ driveway.

And it’s so huge that it won’t be able to traverse through Wichita neighborhoods with older trees’ canopies over the streets.

On Friday, Kind Kravings owners Rochelle Collins and Shea West will open Wichita’s first dine-in food truck, and when they roll it out of their north Wichita driveway and head toward downtown’s ICT Pop-Up Urban Park, their massive new truck – set up in a 14.5-foot-tall double-decker tour bus from London – will no doubt become a local legend.

It’s already a legend in towns that stretch from Monterey, Calif., where they picked it up three months ago, to Wichita. As West and a buddy drove the bus eastward, people posted photos on social media and truckers discussed the bus on CB radios so frequently that gas station attendants in the next towns already knew who they were by the time they arrived.

The eye-catching bus is a first for Wichita. On the first level is a deluxe kitchen where Collins can cook her signature vegan dishes such as veggie burgers and roasted cauliflower tacos. Up a narrow flight of stairs is a dining room, where West and Collins have arranged the original bus seats around tables made from upcycled wood pallets to create a space that will fit 30 people.

The new Kind Kravings mobile restaurant will open for the first time this weekend. It’ll be parked at the downtown food truck park at 121 E. Douglas from 3 to 9 p.m. on Friday and from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday. It’ll then be set up for lunch and dinner throughout April during times when other food trucks have vacated the spot.

Collins and West have dreamed of opening a restaurant in a double-decker bus since before they opened their original business in a graffiti-covered trailer in 2015.

“We actually thought it up before we ever started a food truck,” West said. “And then we wanted to test the waters with vegan food in Wichita. We met a friend and we ended up going to London and actually saw a vegan double-decker food truck there. We went and talked to that dude and fell in love.”

The original Kind Kravings was an even bigger success than Collins could have imagined, she said. There’s an appetite for vegan fare in Wichita but very little supply.

The success allowed the couple to start shopping for a bus, and they found one for sale in California. It had been brought to the States from London by a man who’d been using it for wine and ghost tours.

Collins was too stressed out by the idea of driving it across country, so West recruited a friend to fly to California and make the trip back with him. Their 1,600-mile trek was not without challenges, and at one point, they found themselves stuck in Arizona with no way out that didn’t involve getting past bridges they couldn’t fit under. (West, luckily, had some relatives in a nearby town who met with them and helped them plot a path.)

“We got it here, and I was a little nervous about what I got myself into,” he said with a laugh.

He recruited friends with skills in areas like carpentry and electrical wiring, and after three months of near nonstop work – interrupted frequently when fascinated neighbors and passers-by would stop and ask to take a look inside – they finished.

Customers will order their food at the window on the bottom level, then choose whether to take it to go or find a seat upstairs. There’s even a little bar area upstairs that has space where Collins envisions having musicians or stand-up comedians perform on occasion.

Her menu will include the old favorites, but she’s adding to it with dishes like spinach and kale enchiladas with white sauce, and chickpeas and dumplings with mashed potatoes. Soon, the restaurant will start serving breakfast, and Collins is working on a new morning menu.

Kind Kravings likely won’t participate in events and food truck rallies in the near future. They don’t have a generator to run the massive truck and need to be someplace they can plug in, like the Pop-Up Park.

Their long-term goal is to find a plot of land to park the bus permanently and grow their own produce in a garden outside.

“It wasn’t going to be worth our investment to put any more into what we had because we were already limited on space and we were growing so quickly,” Collins said. “So it was just like the universe pushing us in this direction.”

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Kind Kravings grand re-opening

What: A new restaurant on wheels with dine-in seating on the upper level

Where: ICT Pop-Up Urban Park, 121 E. Douglas

When: The bus will be open to the public for the first time from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through April 7.

After that, hours are: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. April 8; 3-8 p.m. April 11-14; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. April 15; 3-8 p.m. April 19-21; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. April 22; 3-8 p.m. April 25-28; 11 a.m-8 p.m. April 29

Info: Visit www.kindkravings.com or call 316-302-3992.

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