Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita awash in island flavors as cooks from Antigua, Jamaica and Hawaii set up shop

Wadadli Island Cuisine is a new food trailer in town specializing in flavors from Antigua.
Wadadli Island Cuisine is a new food trailer in town specializing in flavors from Antigua.

Perhaps a trip to the islands is not in your summer budget.

Join the club.

But there's some consolation for Wichita thanks to a tropical trend that's suddenly flooding the city with restaurants and food trucks specializing in island cuisine.

The city adds more Hawaiian-inspired options every day, and we also have a Jamaican food truck. And just in the last couple of months, a mobile vendor specializing in the cuisine of Antigua — an island in the West Indies — has opened.

The Hawaiian businesses are offering fresh fish flavors in the form of poke bowls, and they're also teaching Kansans that in 2018, Spam can be spectacular.

The Jamaican and Antiguan trucks are both run by natives selling things like jerk chicken, fried dumplings and macaroni salad.

Here's a list of places you can dine this summer to at least get the flavor of the islands.

Antigua

Wadadli Island Cuisine, food trailer: Natives of Antigua call their island "Wadadli," and that's what Junior Mason and Tony Martin — cousins and both natives of the island of Antigua — are calling their new mobile food business. The two opened their trailer about two months ago, and it specializes in foods that are native to Antigua, specifically jerk chicken, curry chicken, coconut rice and peas, ox tail and fried plantains.

Mason said he and his cousin have been dreaming about opening a restaurant for a while. Both are truck drivers based in Wichita.

"I have a buddy that I work with, and we took him back to the island about a year and a half ago," Mason said. "He came back and kept saying to me, 'Man, I could go for some of that island food right about now.' After hearing that a couple of times, the idea just came to my head. That's when I told Tony that we should start a restaurant."

The two looked into starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but overhead was too high, Mason said. So they bought a pull-behind food trailer.

They plan to start setting up at local food truck parks and to join in at monthly rallies. They also try to park the truck at 6050 N. Prospect Road in Park City every Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Today (Tuesday, July 3) they'll be serving at the Wichita State University Food Truck Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They plan to add a few more items to the menu soon, including pepperpot — a Caribbean stew made with sausage and cod. To find Wadadli Island Cuisine, check its Facebook page.

Jamaica

Sorrel Rhoden and his wife, Christine, are offering a little slice of Jamaica in a parking lot on East Douglas. They serve cuisine from their native country out of a stationary food trailer called Sorrel Jamaican Foods. They're parking it at 2808 E. Douglas while they look for the perfect spot to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Visit their trailer and close you eyes, and you can almost imagine you're in Jamaica. You'll smell the aromas of jerk chicken, pick up the notes of Sorrel's thick Jamaican accent and hear the reggae sounds of Jamaican music.

The Rhodens, who have even added a picnic table under a tent out front, serve jerk chicken, jerk pork and ox tail. They also have dishes like fried dumplings, coco bread, boiled green bananas, salt fish and a variety of stews.

Their trailer is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays. They close at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and are closed on Saturdays.

Hawaii

Noble House, 3238 E. Douglas: Hawaiian food arrived in Wichita in the spring of 2015, when chef Akamu Noble first rolled his Noble House Hawaiian food truck into town. His dishes became popular enough that last year he opened a brick-and-mortar shop at 3238 E. Douglas.

Noble, who grew up in Hawaii and once lived in Japan, serves a menu that includes a long list of Hawaiian specialties, including "plate lunch," which consists of a meat entree like pork, shrimp or chicken, plus two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. He also serves poke, a Hawaiian favorite served a bowl full of rice, diced fish and fresh veggies and sauce.

Spam also is a Hawaiian specialty, and Noble has it all over his menu. You can order a side of fried Spam or get it musubi, a snack made of fried Spam sandwiched in white rice and wrapped in seaweed.

There's still a Noble House food truck in town, which parks at various rallies and food truck parks. The brick-and-mortar restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Poke Mix, 8918 W. 21st St.: This restaurant opened in May 2017 near the west Warren Theatre, specializing in build-your-own poke. It also serves Spam musubi.

Mo's Hut, food trailer: This new business bills itself as "Hawaiian bbq," and it serves marinated meats like barbecued chicken, chicken katsu, teriyaki beef and barbecued short ribs. It also has a loco moco, which is a hamburger patty topped with rice, brown gravy, two over-easy eggs and a side of macaroni salad. The owners hail from Oahu, Hawaii, and they open the truck from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday at 445 N. Market.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments