Dining With Denise Neil

Brothers on a dining streak eat at the same Wichita restaurant every day of the week

It's common to have a favorite restaurant you visit frequently and a favorite dish you order every time you go.

But it takes a special diner to eat at the same restaurant every single day.

El Patio Cafe, the longtime Mexican restaurant at 424 E. Central, has two of those customers.

Jerry Engstrand, 48, and his younger brother, David, have for the past four months or so been eating lunch every day of the workweek at El Patio. They haven't missed a day, and on occasion, they even stop in for Saturday lunch. (El Patio is closed on Sundays.)

"We like the people here, so that's a big plus," said David, 43. "Everybody's happy."

It started as a matter of convenience, the brothers said. The two work maintenance for a building that sits just behind the restaurant, and David needs to keep his blood sugar up. Around 11 a.m., they're ready for lunch.

Not long ago, they started walking across the field that separates their building from the restaurant. They'd always settle into their favorite booth in the corner. They got to know the waitresses.

"Jerry would come by himself once or twice a week, and then he started bringing his brother," said Alizia Vasquez, whose grandparents own the restaurant. "Then they started coming a couple of days a week. Then they started coming every day."

After a few weeks, Jerry and Vasquez realized they had something in common. She was about to have a baby, and his daughter was due at the same time. They'd share stories and compare notes.

The brothers order something different every day. Usually, they'll try the special — unless it's something that sounds unappetizing to them (like seafood enchiladas).

"We're not eating that," Jerry said to his brother on a recent Friday.

"We're not?" David replied.

They like the monterreys, and they love the street tacos. Often, they'll order one of each of El Patio's five street taco varieties

They still haven't made it though the whole menu, Jerry said.

"I haven't had chile relleno yet," he said.

David loves the chips and salsa so much, he needs a fix when El Patio is closed. He recently purchased a big bag of chips and a giant jug of salsa to enjoy at home.

Over the years, Vasquez said, the restaurant has had several regulars. Some will have spurts where they come every day. Several stop in multiple times a week.

The customers start to feel like family, she said, and if they don't show up, the staff gets concerned. Some customers are so in tune to the restaurant, they notice when certain cooks aren't at work.

"We have a lot that we know their orders right when we see them," she said. "They like that."

Unless they for some reason start working somewhere else, the brothers say, they don't see their streak ending anytime soon.

And as far as the Mexi-calories go, David says, don't worry. At the moment, he's trying to gain weight.

"It's just nice to have a happy environment ," he said. "Look at these girls. They're all so happy."

Do you know someone who eats in the same Wichita restaurant every day? If so, I'd like to hear about them. E-mail me at dneil@wichitaeagle.com or leave a comment at Dining with Denise on Facebook

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