It was the worst kept secret in Wichita last week.
Famous chef Gordon Ramsay zipped in to town, filmed an episode of his soon-to-debut reality show “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” then zipped back out.
When he left, Fetch Bistro – the dog-friendly restaurant at 7718 E. 37th St. North – had a new-and-improved look and a new-and-improved menu.
The episode of the show, in which Ramsay transforms a struggling restaurant in 24 hours, won’t air until early next year. But Fetch is now back in business, and anyone who wants to can go see the improvements. So that’s just what I did on Monday.
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Several weeks ago, when rumors first started swirling that Fetch had been chosen for the show, I went for lunch to scout things out. So I was familiar with the restaurant’s most recent look and menu. Our experience that day was fine. I had an Italian sandwich, and my lunch date had a burger. (Mine was better than his.) The restaurant was bright and clean – looking almost exactly the same as it had when it was occupied by original tenant Pacific Coast Pizza – and the only dogs there when we visited belonged to the owners.
Fetch has a much different look, now. It got a new, more modern paint job and lots of whimsical doggy touches, including a wall covered in turf, a display of giant tennis balls and a wall full of whimsical framed photos of various pups.
It got all new tables and chairs – the booths are gone and contemporary wooden tables and chairs are in their place. There’s a big “Fetch” logo on one of the walls, and there’s a photo booth in the back where diners can pose with their pooches. Though it’s not officially working yet, the area is fitted with a camera that will either print out pictures for a charge or e-mail them for free to customers. The booth has a whole bunch of props that dogs and their people can dress up with before snapping their pictures.
The ceiling, which was previously draped with lights, now has painted wooden crates hanging from it at different heights. The tables are decorated with pretty plants and flowers, and a few dog beds and water bowls are strategically placed on the floor near the tables.
Also, the restaurant got a fancy new dog play area outside. It’s fenced in and has green grass, big balls, fire hydrants and an agility ramp.
The menu also underwent a pretty drastic change. It’s clear that Chef Ramsay seriously cut down the number of menu items the restaurant was offering, and the ones that are coming out of the kitchen have a more refined look. I had fish tacos, which were served in a metal mesh basket on top of a pile of flavorful fried chips. The mahi mahi in each taco was a filet, not chopped fish, and they were divine. My friend equally loved her Asian chicken salad, and I saw a very nice looking plate of meatloaf with sides of mashed potatoes and bright green broccolini come out of the kitchen, too.
While we visited, various well wishers came in to congratulate owners Greg and Pamela Buss and to rave about the remodel. The pair have a chalkboard in the restaurant inscribed with a particularly salty quote that is attributed to Ramsay.
It was fun to get reports from readers who were spotting the film crew all over town. One sent me a photo of Chef Gordon Ramsay seated and laughing next to Wichita’s police chief, who shares his name. Another wrote from the runway at Eisenhower Airport to tell me that Ramsay was seated near him on his Chicago-bound plane.
I was out of town for Thanksgiving when the episode was filmed, so I missed all of the fun. I can’t wait to see the episode, and rest assured that we’ll have plenty of reports and more information when the air date arrives.
In the meantime, you can visit Fetch yourself and see the transformation. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Or you can watch my video attached to this post to get a taste.