Dining With Denise Neil

Finally, Wichita is getting a restaurant on the river

The Hyatt’s new owners plan a riverfront gastropub to replace Harvest.
The Hyatt’s new owners plan a riverfront gastropub to replace Harvest. The Wichita Eagle

The new owners of Wichita’s Hyatt Regency have some big changes planned for diners, including a riverfront gastropub with open-air seating.

Casino magnate Phil Ruffin, who purchased the hotel for $20 million from the city earlier this year, officially takes over on Thursday, and his son, Chris – the Hyatt’s new general manager – will start planning in earnest the big changes he has planned for the hotel.

The one he’s most excited about is the new gastropub, he said. He plans to build it where the coffee shop and west-facing patio are now, he said, and hopes to extend the patio area another 20 feet or so. The new restaurant would have retractable doors so that people could enjoy the outdoors as well as views of the river and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

“It will have big windows that open up so you can be outside and enjoy the view and the game,” he said. “It’s so pleasant out there when they’re playing baseball. You can hear it from the patio, and it’s really nice.”

Chris Ruffin said the restaurant is more than a year away. He plans to include it in the budget for next year, which he will begin putting together soon, and it should take about a year from budget approval to complete it, he said.

Harvest, the fine-dining restaurant that has operated in the Hyatt since 2008, would be turned into a breakfast restaurant, Chris Ruffin said. The current coffee shop will be incorporated into the new gastropub.

One of the reasons he’s so excited about the restaurant, Chris Ruffin said, is because he’s hired one of Wichita’s top chefs to run it. Damian Lehman, well-known for his years as executive chef at the Wichita Country Club, is leaving his job as executive chef at the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport to take over head chef duties for Paul Freimuth, who just accepted a job at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va.

He and Chris Ruffin will work to develop the new gastropub’s menu which he said will feature steaks and high-end cocktails.

“You lose one superstar chef, you have to get another,” Chris Ruffin said.

Chris Ruffin also plans an on-site herb and vegetable garden for the restaurant, and he’s adding parking near the main entrance to help lure locals.

Among his other plans for the hotel is a major remodel of the hotel’s presidential and vice presidential suites and a front lobby redo that will give it a brighter look.

“I think in hotels now, colors are coming back in,” he said. “I’m going to introduce colors and get out of some of this grayer stuff, just warm it up.”

Stay tuned for updates on construction.

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