Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita’s dining critic tells you where to eat while in town for the NCAA Tournament

The Anchor is a favorite hangout in Wichita for burgers, beer and reliable bar food.
The Anchor is a favorite hangout in Wichita for burgers, beer and reliable bar food.

Don’t let Wichita fool you, visiting foodies.

We’re not big, and we’re not flashy. But we have a lively and diverse dining scene, full of unique dishes that you’ll be talking about even after you leave.

Although we don’t have the sheer volume of restaurants some other host cities might have, Wichita ha 11-11s just about everything you might want. And we do a few things better than most. An example: Our large Lebanese community has afforded us dozens of restaurants that specialize in healthy fare like fattoush salad, shawarma, falafel and hummus. Not many communities larger than us can say that.

We also have a big Vietnamese community, too, so there are lots of places to get banh mi, pho, bun and other amazing specialties.

If you want fancy, we have that. If you want hole-in-the-wall burger, we have that, too. We have great pizza, fabulous steak, great Mexican – and a few interesting dishes that are uniquely Wichita.

Use this guide to plan your eating while in Wichita. And if you have a question, e-mail me – Wichita’s restaurant reporter – at dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

If you want something uniquely Wichita

NuWay, several Wichita locations, including the 1930 original 1416 W. Douglas. This local chain is 88 years old and specializes in “crumbly” loose-meat burgers, house-made root beer and onion rings. Locals love it.

Old Mill Tasty Shop, 604 E. Douglas: Located just a block north of the Intrust Bank Arena, this iconic soda fountain has been around for 87 years. It’s famous for its green chili, chicken salad sandwiches and ice cream treats.

Knolla’s Pizza: Wichita’s local pizza delivery chain makes great pies, and you can get them delivered to your hotel. Try the Coney Island with chili, onions, diced pickles, hot dogs and mustard. It sounds weird but it’s wonderful.

Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, 1725 E. Douglas: This near-downtown soup restaurant is a Wichita favorite and has some of the creamiest, best soups you’ve ever had. It’s mostly a lunch spot, though it serves dinner on weekend evenings. It also has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

If you want to stay near the arena

Public at the Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island: Located in Wichita’s Old Town district (which is walkable from the arena), this “gastropub” is a big draw. It’s in a dimly lit, below-street-level space and serves things like prairie sliders, Cuban sandwiches, brisket tacos and local beer.

District Taqueria, 917 E. Douglas: This hip taco spot is just a few blocks from the arena and serves designer tacos in a fun setting. Order the unique queso, and get a taco topped with an egg.

Larkspur, 904 E. Douglas: This longtime Wichita restaurant is a little upscale but not too expensive. It has a broad menu of fish, chicken and steak dishes as well as salads and sandwiches, and if the weather’s nice, its patio is one of the most pleasant places to sip wine in Wichita.

Sabor, 309 N. Mead: Hop on the Q and head to nearby Old Town Square for a meal at this Latin restaurant, which specializes in fish tacos, chimichurri steak and mojitos. (It’s Harrison Ford’s favorite when he’s in town.)

If you want something fancy

Chester’s Chophouse, 1550 N. Webb Road: It’s a bit of a drive from downtown, but Wichita’s fanciest, most exclusive steakhouse is on the east side.

6S Steakhouse, 6000 W. 21st St.: This high-end new steakhouse just opened on Wichita’s northwest side, and everyone is talking about it.

Georges French Bistro, 4618 E. Central: You won’t believe you’re in Wichita at this gorgeous restaurant, which feels very Parisian despite its location in a strip center in Kansas. Its food is nice but not fancy, expensive French. It’s bistro food like French onion soup, steak frites and chicken paillard.

Newport Grill, 1900 N. Rock Road: If you want seafood in landlocked Kansas, this is the place to go. It’s upscale and pretty and rarely disappoints.

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse,104 S Broadway: This hotel restaurant has one of Wichita's most stunning dining rooms and views of Douglas. It also has a top chef who makes his own pasta on site.

Scotch & Sirloin, 5325 E. Kellogg: Wichita's oldest steakhouse, which recently underwent a big remodel, is dimly lit, comfortable and a longtime go-to for steak dinners and more.

If you want breakfast

Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg: You’ll likely hear a lot about this place while you’re in town. It’s not far from the arena and specializes in giant plates of diner goodness. It’s open only for breakfast and lunch, and on Sunday, it serves a lavish, gut-busting buffet.

The Beacon, 909 E. Douglas: This downtown diner turns out some of Wichita’s best greasy breakfasts and blue plate lunch specials. It’s not fancy, kind of throwback, but it’s a solid breakfast choice.

If you want a burger

The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas: This downtown bar is one of Wichita’s most popular places to get a burger or a sandwich, and it recently was named the Best Beer Bar in the state for its huge selection. If you’re brave, order the Haystack, an open-faced burger that’s served on Texas toast then piled high with fries and drenched with queso.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 3700 E. Douglas: Another Wichita favorite, this restaurant specializes in somewhat fancy burgers, fries and good beer.

If you want Mexican

Molino’s Mexican Cuisine, 1064 N. Waco: A short drive from downtown is this Mexican restaurant, which is less Tex-Mex and more fine Mexican cuisine. Get the street tacos or the pirata, a grilled taco/quesadilla hybrid served with meat of choice. Do yourself a favor and pop into the amazing Juarez Bakery next door when you’re done.

Connie’s Mexico Cafe, 2227 N. Broadway: One of Wichita’s oldest and most beloved Mexican restaurants operates in a part of town that is filled with authentic taquerias and taco trucks. It’s a straight shot north on Broadway from downtown.

If you want pizza

Angelo's, 231 E. Central: This restaurant was so popular for so long in Wichita that when it closed in the early 2000s, people went into mourning. A Go Fund Me campaign helped bring it back two years ago, and now its deep dish pizzas are more popular than ever.

Picasso’s Pizzeria, 621 W. Douglas and 5900 E. Central: Wichita now has two locations of this popular pizza spot, which specializes in giant New York-style slices. The one on Douglas is closer to downtown.

Ziggy’s, 3700 E. Douglas and 12115 E. 21st St. North: This locally owned pizza restaurant is so good, it also just opened a second location. (The one on Douglas is closer to downtown.) It has rectangular pizzas, salads, margaritas and beers. Order the Mamacita’s Taco pizza.

Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria, 1706 E. Douglas: This gem of a pizza restaurant makes uniquely topped pies just like they do in Naples, and it's quickly become a local favorite.

If you want Mediterranean

College Hill Deli, 3407 E. Douglas: It’s near downtown, and it has some of Wichita’s best gyro, falafel, fattoush and more.

N&J Cafe, 5600 E. Lincoln: This is the perfect place to get an introduction to Lebanese food in Wichita. Get the hummus, the shawarma, kibbe, falafal, fattosh... get one of everything. And visit the market next door before you go.

If you want Vietnamese

Little Saigon, 1015 N. Broadway: The Vietnamese soup (pho) is rich and satisfying, and its giant Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) features meat (get char broiled pork) stuffed onto a buttered French roll and topped with cucumber, carrot, cilantro and jalapeno. Douse the meat with a little soy sauce to maximize the flavor.

Saigon, 1103 N. Broadway: Try the bun, a vermicelli noodle dish that’s topped with lettuce, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts and charbroiled pork. Get the No. 45.

Still curious about Wichita? Here are more handy tips about this city:

What to do between games: Wichita has more must-sees than you'd think

Here's where to find the NCAA parties in Wichita this week

Coming into town for the tournament? Here are the best bars and breweries in Wichita

Basketball fans: You don't need a car to get around downtown Wichita this week

A guide to Wichita shopping for NCAA tourney visitors

That flag you're seeing everywhere? It's a sign of Wichita pride

NCAA haters back off: Wichita is an interesting and fun place, and this list proves it

Episode 3: The Wichita Eagle's Denise Neil visits a couple of area restaurants that specialize in gigantic portions of food that few people could eat by themselves. (Video by Travis Heying / The Wichita Eagle)

(FILE VIDEO) Wichita Eagle food writer Denise Neil takes a look at some Wichita restaurants with small properties and big reputations. What makes a good "hole in the wall"? Find out in the first episode of "Dining with Denise." (2016)

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