Our little guides to what to eat in Wichita are becoming a bit of a tradition. Two years ago, we put out a list of “50 Wichita Restaurants You Should Try,” and then last year, we got more specific, offering “50 Wichita Dishes You Have to Try.”
This year, we’re adding another couple of categories — and another palate.
In this guide, you’ll find Dining with Denise’s suggestions for 25 Appetizers to try. It’s a collection of some of Wichita’s best small bites, both well-known and waiting to be discovered.
You’ll also find Keeper of the Plans Matt Riedl’s guide to 25 Cocktails to try. He spent weeks exhaustively researching his nominations (someone’s got to do it) but he reports that he was honored to make the sacrifice to help readers make good drinking decisions.
We hope this guide will help you plan your next happy hour.
Here are the first 10 on the list, which appeared in a special booklet that was inserted in Sunday’s newspaper. There’s also a version of this guide that you can get for free inside the VIP Wichita magazine, which is available on racks all over town. (Look for the August issue with local rocker Jenny Wood on the cover.)
We’ll post 10 more entries every day this week.
APPETIZERS, by Denise Neil
1. The Kitchen, Disco Fries
You’ve likely heard of the Canadian dish called poutine, which tops fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. The Kitchen’s version uses its crisp fries for a base and tops them with tender cubes of grilled white meat chicken, a rich brown gravy and shredded Mozzarella cheese. Careful: They’re addictive. $11, 725 E. Douglas, 316-928-2899
2. The Monarch, Loaded Sweet Potato Tots
If you think a sweet potato french fry is good, you have to try a sweet potato tot. These golden nuggets are among the tastiest things on The Monarch’s menu, and they’re just as tasty without the “loaded” in the title (melted cheddar, green onions, diced bacon.) Use them as a base to absorb some bourbon from this bar’s extensive collection. $7.99, 579 W. Douglas, 316-201-6626
3. Albero Cafe, Italian Nachos
They’re an appetizer, yes, but the Italian nachos at Albero Cafe are so decadent, they could also be a meal (or two). The plate features fried pasta chips piled high and drenched with a homemade cheese sauce plus shredded lettuce, sliced pepperoncini, tomatoes and Mediterranean tomato relish. Top with chicken or sausage for $4 extra. $8, 4811 E. Central, 316-260-9667
4. Two Olives, Meshwi Platter
This is listed as an entree on the Two Olives menu, but it could also serve as a shareable appetizer that would be perfect paired with a bottle of wine. It includes an array of Mediterranean favorites, which are perfectly produced and artfully arranged by the Toubia-led kitchen: shawarma chicken, lamb kefa, kibbe, tabouli, hummus, olives and pita. $13-$24, 2949 N. Rock Road, 316-681-1100
5. Redrock Canyon Grill, Stuffed Poblano
This restaurant’s menu is sprinkled with Southwestern flavors, and one of the best examples is on its appetizer menu. The stuffed poblano is filled with Redrock’s signature rotisserie chicken plus chipotle sour cream then deep fried and served with a side of black bean salsa and salsa verde. $11, 1844 N. Rock Road, 316-636-1844
COCKTAILS, by Matt Riedl
1. Felipe’s Mexican Grill, Flaming Cazuela
No list of Wichita’s signature cocktails would be complete without the Flaming Cazuela from Felipe’s. This 40-ounce cocktail contains a smorgasbord of alcohol (specifically tequila, vodka, rum and triple sec) mixed with lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit juices. It’s served in a terra cotta pot, and an Everclear-soaked grapefruit rind on top is set ablaze before it’s served. This cocktail has been a big party hit since the 1980s and it’s one you need to try with friends at least once. $11 or $16 for the top-shelf version, 3434 W. Central, 316-942-9131, 445 S. 119th St., 316-729-2500, 9718 E. Harry, 316-684-8931, 2241 N. Woodlawn, 316-652-0027
2. Bite Me BBQ, Bloody Mary
Trust me, Bite Me BBQ’s Bloody Mary is unlike any you’ve had before. The concoctions, which already come in large mugs, come with about a full meal’s worth of meat skewered on top. These drinks come with a spare rib, burnt ends and a hot link, as well as more traditional Bloody Mary pairings, including olives, pickles, celery, and cheese cubes. It’s worth trying simply for the novelty factor. $12.50, 132 N. St. Francis, 316-729-2904
3. Wheat State Distilling, Dash’s #GFD
This bar has a staff of bartenders who often come up with innovative new cocktails, so you can’t really go wrong by ordering any of their specials. But a particular favorite is the GFD. It’s made with Wheat State’s barrel-aged gin, lime juice, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, Jack Rudy Small Batch Grenadine, cardamom bitters and a lime wedge. It’s slightly floral but also sweet, with a little sour taste. The benefit of ordering drinks from Wheat State: All of the alcohol used is distilled right here in Wichita, and the grain comes from Kansas. $9. 246 N. Mosley, 316-831-7413
4. Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Sangria
Sabor, known for being a frequent hangout of Harrison Ford when he’s in town, also happens to serve some of the best sangrias in town. Sabor sangrias, which can be had in either red or white wine varieties, are served with a refreshing blend of juices and other liquor. It’s the perfect sipping drink to start a night out in Old Town. $8 for a glass or $30 for a pitcher, 309 N. Mead, 316-201-4880
5. District Taqueria, Flaming Ginger
This tequila cocktail is made with muddled jalapenos, which makes for an interesting tasting experience. The drink, which also features Tres Agave Single-Barrel Anejo tequila, ginger beer, grenadine, lime juice and bitters, has a refreshing taste initially, but as you drink it, a burning sensation builds at the back of your throat. You don’t taste the jalapeno on your tongue, only afterward - a perfect mix for those who don’t mind a little kick in their beverages. $7.25, 917 E. Douglas, 316-832-8155