Dining With Denise Neil

Alton Brown calls to gush about Wichita, one of his ‘Top 10’ cities

Food Network star Alton Brown loves Wichita. He’s made that no secret.

And he swears that he doesn’t say that about all the towns.

In fact, Brown says, of all the towns he looks forward to visiting when he tours the country, Wichita, Des Moines and Madison, Wisc. always top his list.

“And I think Wichita is still better than Madison,” he said.

Brown, who will return to Wichita in October with his new show, “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science,” called recently to discuss the tour. But what he really wanted to discuss was his favorite Midwestern town.

“I don’t want to make it sound like I’m pooping on other towns, but Wichita is special. It absolutely is. When I try to make my list when tours are over and think, ‘Where did you like going and where would you like going back to,’ Wichita is always in my top 10.”

The star’s love affair with Wichita started when he was in town in 2014 and visited several local restaurants and coffee shops. After he left, he devoted an entire post on his blog to detailing what he loved about dining in Wichita. Among the businesses that he praised: Espresso to Go Go, Reverie Coffee Roasters, Public at the Brickyard and Tanya’s Soup Kitchen. It was in this post that he also famously declared Nifty Nut House a “national treasure.”

He returned in October 2016 to promote and sign copies of his cookbook “EveryDayCook” at the Orpheum Theatre, and once again, he stopped in some of his favorite places, including Reverie and Espresso to Go Go.

Then, in February, Wichita came up again on Brown’s podcast, called “The Alton Browncast.” On the episode, recorded at the Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif., where Brown said he was filming “Iron Chef Gauntlet,” Brown was interviewing guest Duff Goldman of “Ace of Cakes” fame, and the two discussed Wichita’s awesomeness.

No, Wichita is not getting the wrong idea, Brown said in the recent phone interview. He really, really, really loves us.

A few highlights from the conversation:

▪ On Wichita’s coffee scene: During his many visits to Wichita, Brown has been known to pop in to his favorite coffee shops, and he is a return visitor to both Espresso to Go Go – where he drinks Vietnamericanos and takes selfies under the shop’s signature disco ball – and Reverie Coffee Roasters. (Owner Andrew Gough has a framed 2014 photo of himself and some employees with Brown hanging in his office.)

“I love Wichita, and I especially love coffee in Wichita,” Brown said. “Wichita is one of my favorite coffee towns in the United States. I adore that places like Espresso to Go Go and Reverie exist in towns like Wichita, which could easily not have any of that – and there are a lot of towns that still don’t.”

▪ On Nifty Nut House: After Brown’s 2014 visit to Wichita, he declared Nifty Nut House, the candy and nut shop at 537 S. St. Francis, “a national treasure.” And he stands by that declaration, three years later.

He even has a souvenir.

“You can’t forget that little squirrel,” he said of the shop’s logo. “I still sleep in that T-shirt.”

▪ On always wishing he could stay longer: “I always seem to meet fun people,” Brown said. “When we get to Wichita, we look around and say, ‘Wow. We have a lot to do. And that’s just the places we know about. In some towns, we look around and think, ‘Wow. This is going to be a long day.’”

▪ On making his list of Wichita restaurants to visit in October: Brown will again be dropping in on Wichita restaurants when he visits in October. Where he goes is up to his fans.

Sometime in September, he’ll ask fans to tell him where he should visit, and will ask them to answer him on Twitter using a special hashtag. The restaurants that get the most mentions will get a visit from Brown.

“We go where my fans tell me to go,” he said. “I hope that there are some new things, and if there aren’t, if people send me to the places I’ve already been in Wichita, I’m okay with that.”

Among the restaurants he visited based on hashtag mentions in 2014: Espresso to Go Go, Old Mill Tasty Shop, Little Saigon, Riverside Cafe , Reverie Coffee Roasters, the Donut Whole, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Public at the Brickyard and Nifty Nut House.

▪ On his other favorite Midwestern town: “My other favorite is Des Moines, Iowa,” he said. “Des Moines has just got a dynamite food thing going on, and one of my favorite restaurants in the U.S. is in Des Moines: Fong’s Pizza. It’s an old-school Chinese takeout joint that became a pizza/tiki joint. It’s freaking magnificent. I love the place. I make sure that Des Moines is on my tours just so I can go there.”

Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 18

Where: Century II Concert Hall

Tickets: $47.50, $67.50, $77.50 and $115. On sale at www.wichitatix.com, by calling 316-303-8100 or at the Century II Box Office.

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