Dining With Denise Neil

Yet another local restaurant taking over Downtown YMCA cafe

The little cafe inside the Downtown YMCA is about to get a new tenant.
The little cafe inside the Downtown YMCA is about to get a new tenant. The Wichita Eagle

The little cafe inside the lobby of Wichita’s Downtown YMCA has had several operators since the gym opened in 2012.

First it was the Hyatt. Then it was Cafe 402. Then, in August of last year, Mead’s Corner took over but closed down after just six months. The space has been vacant since February.

But now, a new restaurant is about to reopen it. A Taste of Times Square owners Ramy and Melissa Salem say they hope to have the cafe ready by the end of June and will call it A Taste of Times Square at Cafe 402.

Melissa Salem said that the couple contacted the YMCA about the space when they noticed it was vacant.

“We want to expand but also to be more involved in the community,” she said. “That’s really our main focus.”

The Salems’ flagship restaurant, which serves sandwiches, burgers, pita sandwiches and breakfast items named for New York City-area neighborhoods and landmarks, has operated at 217 E. Douglas since last summer. It had been in the Petroleum Building at 221 S. Broadway, but after air conditioning woes, it quickly moved. A Taste of Times square originally opened at 13th and Grove in 2014.

The Salems won’t start working on putting the new space together until after the Wichita River Festival is over, they said. They plan a menu of coffee, smoothies, salads and sandwiches, including their popular gyro. Hours will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

That’s not the only big change that the Salems have planned.

They just got their liquor license for their Douglas restaurant, and starting on Friday, they’ll have a full bar available plus extended hours. They have been closing after lunch, but their new hours will be 10 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. It will have happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays and will offer wine discounts on Wednesdays. It also will have a show up for this weekend’s Final Friday.

When they first moved to Douglas, Melissa Salem said, downtown was fairly dead in the evenings. But over the last several months, as more people have moved into the area and BikeShareICT has installed a set of rent-able bicycles near the restaurant, that’s starting to change.

“This end of Douglas is really starting to pick up with people moving in,” she said. “We see more life here, and it’s an opportunity for us.”