Wichita has lots of breakfast places — and they're almost all usually packed, especially on the weekends.
But with the exception of Doo-Dah Diner, which arrived on the scene in 2012, most of Wichita's breakfast restaurants are a whole lot of the same — greasy spoon diners or big breakfast chains.
What I like about HomeGrown, the new breakfast concept that Carlos O'Kelly's parent company, Sasnak Management, opened last May at 2835 N. Maize Road, is that it's different from anything Wichita has. And I'm not the only one who's noticed. The restaurant draws big crowds, especially on the weekends, and on a Sunday, you could wait for more than an hour for a table.
In fact, that wait is about the only thing I don't like about HomeGrown, but I've even found a way to deal with that. (More on that soon.)
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The restaurant looks like it was designed by Joanna Gaines of "Fixer Upper" — all butcher block tables, shiplap room dividers, white subway tiles and cotton stems as table decor.
And the menu has lots of modern touches, too. Sure, it includes the standard biscuits and gravy and omelets, but it also features trendy dishes like avocado toast, homemade Pop-Tarts and several varieties of eggs Benedict. The kitchen also takes advantage of another restaurant trend, focusing on locally produced ingredients from places like Yoder Meats and Delano Bakery.
On the menu: HomeGrown serves breakfast and lunch only, opening each morning at 6:30 a.m. and closing each afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Its breakfast menu includes a list of pancakes, from classic buttermilk to blueberry streusel, plus croissant or cinnamon swirl French toast, a few egg-and-meat combos, several omelets and scrambles, and three different eggs Benedict recipes. The restaurant's brand innovation director, Cocoa Dolce founder Beth Tully, brings whimsy to the menu with items like homemade Pop-Tarts (the flavors are always changing), a coffee cake with caramel sauce served on the side for drizzling, and "boozy cereal," an occasional special that tops sweet breakfast treats like Cocoa Puffs with alcohol-spiked milk.
Lunch offerings include a several sandwiches, including a Cuban and a croque madame, four different salads and two soups.
HomeGrown also serves fresh-squeezed orange juice, and it has a bar that offers mimosas, bloody Marys, screwdrivers and a few other cocktails.
Don't-miss dishes: I try something new every time I go to HomeGrown, and I haven't encountered a dish I didn't like. But I have encountered several I loved, most notably the avocado toast ($8.50), a vibrant, colorful plate that stars a large slice of toasted bread smeared with smashed avocados, nicely aligned grape tomatoes and crushed red pepper. The meal comes with two eggs on the side and a cup of fresh fruit. I felt healthy eating this breakfast, even though the bread supporting my avocado was thick and chewy. It's one of those dishes that's so pretty, you'll feel compelled to photograph it even if you're not into photographing your food.
I also was impressed with the biscuits and gravy ($9.50), whose best components were the incredibly soft and flaky biscuits that served as a base for the Yoder sausage-spiked gravy. The meal comes with two eggs cooked how you want as well as breakfast potatoes. And those breakfast potatoes ... I'm usually a hash browns girl, but these tiny cubes of roasted rosemary potatoes are so tender and well-seasoned, I could easily do without hash browns from now on.
Eggs Benedict is also one of my favorites, and you can't go wrong with any of the three choices at HomeGrown — a traditional made with bacon and poached eggs; a Florentine topped with sauteed spinach, mushrooms and onions; and a turkey and avocado topped with fire-roasted turkey breast and avocado ($9.50). The last one is my choice because of the addition of the avocado, but the reason HomeGrown's Benedicts work is because its Hollandaise sauce is made correctly. It's lemony and zingy and bright and not too thick.
Because I love something sweet and silly, on my visits I've also ordered the homemade Pop-Tarts and the coffee cake with caramel sauce (both $4) and loved both. The former encases a sweet filling inside a flaky, buttery crust that's a lot like pie crust. The latter features a dense cinnamon coffee cake that tastes even better the more hot caramel sauce you dump on top. Both are fun to share with the table.
And HomeGrown gets huge, giant points in my book for serving me an individual metal pitcher of half-n-half to go with my coffee, which is so much more pleasant than having to tear open packet after plastic packet. (Plus, the white coffee cups are quite elegant.)
The only dish I've tried that I might not order again is the croque madame ($8) from the lunch menu. It wasn't the sandwich I expected but rather a piece of bread topped with ham and an egg, and the serving was much smaller than I thought it would be.
Ambience: The dining room is pretty and modern with an HGTV-approved look and color scheme. I really love the tables HomeGrown had hand-made. They're constructed out of butcher block, and each one has an awesome "Handmade in Wichita" stamp on it. You'll wish you could take one home.
The waiting area can get pretty chaotic, especially on the weekends, but it's big enough to accommodate a crowd. Here's that tip I referred to earlier: HomeGrown is the No. 1 reason to get the NoWait app for your phone. If you check the app at any given time on a Sunday morning, you'll likely be told the restaurant has a 50- to 90-minute wait. But the app lets you put your name on the list from home and tells you what time you should arrive to get your table. It constantly updates you on where you are in the line. I've used it on every visit, and it has kept me from going crazy from the long wait. I hope all restaurants adopt some type of NoWait system in the future.
Price range: HomeGrown costs more than your neighborhood diner. Pancakes and French toast dishes range from $7 to $8.50. Omelets and scrambles are $9 to $10. Benedicts are all $9.50. Lunch items range from $8 to $9.
Service: I don't remember much about my servers from HomeGrown, which is a good sign. Food came out quickly, and our orders were always right.
Where: 2835 N. Maize Road, 316-351-5783
Type of food: Breakfast, lunch
Alcohol: The bar offers cocktails made with beer, prosecco, vodka and bourbon, and bar sales start at 6:30 a.m. thanks to a new law that was championed by HomeGrown founder Jon Rolph.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily