Dining With Denise Neil

Review: Caesar’s Table a lavish – and undiscovered – downtown buffet

A little-known restaurant that’s tucked into the bottom floor of an office building in downtown Wichita is becoming the go-to spot for diners in a hurry, diners who have big appetites and diners who want to jet downstairs or across the street for a quick salad, a to-go container of pasta or a lunchtime feast of fried chicken, coconut catfish and mashed potatoes and gravy.

Caesar’s Table, owned by Air Capital Catering’s Sam Kuns, originally opened in 2014 on the mezzanine level at 155 N. Market. Then, last summer, the restaurant moved to a fancy new first-floor space at 125 N. Market.

The owner, who notes that his restaurant is still largely unknown, said he chose the name Caesar’s Table to reflect the daily feast he offers inside. For one price, diners can fill their plates full of entrees like fried chicken, coconut-crusted catfish, apple pork tenderloin, grilled asparagus, green beans, rice and big fluffy yeast rolls. There’s also a salad bar, a pasta bar and a counter filled with pies, cakes, brownies and other desserts.

Caesar’s Table is easy to miss, which is why many people still don’t know about it. It’s on a one-way street where people mostly drive past, and its outside sign is subtle – nothing much more than a painted logo on the window.

But if you take the time to find it, you’ll likely be surprised by its convenience, its little perks like free valet parking, its finely appointed dining room, its friendly staff – and by the fact that it’s been there all this time without you noticing.

▪ On the menu: Caesar’s Table caters to all appetites.

For $6.90, diners get access to a daily soup as well as a salad bar, filled with fresh lettuces and veggies like carrots, beets, broccoli and various prepared salads. For $9.68, they also can eat from a build-your-own pasta bar that includes both spaghetti and penne pastas, red and white sauces, grilled chicken, grilled veggies and bread sticks.

The most expensive option, $12.90, lets diners also eat from the hot food buffet, where they can always find fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and Caesar’s signature coconut-crusted catfish. It also has rotating features each day, with choices like teriyaki chicken, chicken pot pie, and pot roast. Tuesdays recently became “Taco Tuesdays,” with a build-your-own taco bar, and the restaurant also offers a Sunday brunch, when the buffet is filled with biscuits and gravy, homemade cinnamon rolls, quiche, bacon and eggs and more. (Brunch is $15 for adults, $8 for children and free for ages 3 and under.)

Dessert and a drink are included with all options.

▪ Don’t-miss dishes: The food at Caesar’s Table is acceptable for a buffet restaurant. The chef attempts a classed-up approach, but there’s only so much you can do when hot food is sitting out, getting less hot by the minute.

When we visited, we tried a little bit of everything, starting with the salad bar. It offers a nice variety of colorful veggies, and the lettuce was all crisp and fresh. But it commits the cardinal sin of offering only bottled dressings. When I visit a salad bar, the salad dressing is the highlight, and I want the creamy, fresher versions that I ladle on – not the shelf-stable versions I could buy myself at the grocery store. Turned off by the bottles, I chose the already-dressed Caesar salad, which had lots of Parmesan but was pre-dressed and a little soggy.

Next, I tried the pasta bar, filling a bowl with pre-buttered and seasoned penne pasta and topping it with a little bit of the restaurant’s white sauce and a little bit of its red sauce. The white sauce was too runny and didn’t taste like much, but the red sauce was full of chunky tomatoes and flavor. The two sauces mixed together were a treat, though, and I also topped my bowl with bits of sliced chicken breast and grated Parmesan. All of the hot items on the pasta bar are set up in round chafing dishes in their own area.

The selection of main courses had hits and misses, but I did like the fried chicken. The staff kept the buffet stocked with various pieces, including legs and breasts, and the breading remained crispy, even though the chicken itself wasn’t all that hot. It made a nice meal with the mashed potatoes and chicken gravy that were plentiful nearby.

One of the biggest surprises was the coconut-crusted catfish, which also is offered every day. Its coating was crispy, and the sweet coconut complemented the fish.

We also tried some apple-smoked pork tenderloin, which had a nice herby flavor but had been dried out on the buffet. The chef, who was chatting up the dining room and keeping a close eye on the buffet, told us that he’d made the pork for a catering that day and decided he’d cook up some extra for the buffet.

Nearby, though, a tray full of saucy and sweet beef brisket was the opposite of dry. We also liked the veggie offerings, including some almond green beans and some grilled asparagus. And I was thrilled to find a basket of the giant, doughy yeast rolls so many restaurants used to serve before cutting back to smaller, drier pop-n-serves. It took all the strength I had not to take two.

The dessert bar was the hardest to resist. It featured an array of pies, brownies and squares of cake, and the friendly staff urged us to take some to go. We left completely stuffed with a chocolate cream pie and a chocolate cake topped with whipped cream and bits of toffee.

While making his rounds, the smiling chef told us that the largest part of his business, and his biggest moneymaker, is his catering and that the restaurant is something he does just because it’s an easy extra to offer. Though not everything on the buffet was a hit, which is true of any buffet, if you poke around and try little bits of everything, you’ll find something you like.

▪ Ambience: The recently remodeled restaurant was quite luxurious, with stylish carpet and tiles, new booths, pendant lights and a red-and-gray motif. Natural sunlight filled the dining room, and in the buffet area, everything was kept clean and clear. In addition to the main seating area, there were lots of tables in the atrium of the 125 N. Market office building. Caesar’s Table also has a large private meeting space with seating for 32.

▪ Price range: The price – $6.90 for soup and salad, $9.68 for soup salad and pasta bar and $12.90 for everything – seems reasonable considering how much food you get – and the fact that dessert and drinks are included.

▪ Service: The staff is incredibly friendly and chatty and encourages people to take dessert to go, offers them drinks to go and urges them to come back to try out the Sunday buffet (where diners are allowed to bring their own adult beverages with no corkage fee.) The restaurant also is well-staffed with people keeping the buffet in shape and filled.

If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Caesar’s Table

1/2 out of four

Where: 125 N. Market, 316-946-5879

Type of food: Buffet

Alcohol: No, but people can bring their own bottles

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays through Fridays

Website: caesarstable.com

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