Dining With Denise Neil

In memoriam: Restaurants Wichita loved, then lost, in 2018

Restaurants Wichita lost in 2018

Beloved Wichita restaurants that closed their doors in 2018.
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Beloved Wichita restaurants that closed their doors in 2018.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a friend — especially when that friend reliably fried up your favorite burger, was the first place you ever tried Chinese food, or served as your coffee shop home-away-from-home for a decade.

Every year, as Wichita celebrates the new restaurants that open, it has to deal with the loss of some old favorites.

Here’s a list of the restaurants we lost in 2018 that hurt the most – along with one reason to be hopeful about each closing.

1. Annex Lounge, 1958-2018: The Annex Lounge at 6305 E. Harry was one of Wichita’s favorite south-side burger joints, replete with greasy patties, retro interior wood paneling and lots of vinyl and Formica. Then, one day in January of this year, it closed after 60 years in business. Not long after, its contents were auctioned off. The Annex Lounge may have been best-known for Inside Out burger, made with excessively buttered, inverted buns. Burger fans in Wichita have been stuck with nothing but right-side out buns ever since.

Silver lining: There isn’t one unless you consider that Wichita still has several other burger hole-in-the-walls, like Bomber Burger and Buster’s Burger Joint, and this is a good reminder to keep them in business.

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The Annex Lounge’s Inside Out burger is another favorite of Jennifer Ray. Nancy Jo Palacioz Courtesy photo

2. Mead’s Corner, 2008-2018: For 10 years, Mead’s Corner at 101 N. Emporia was one of Wichita’s most utilized — and most spacious — downtown coffee shops. And, it appeared, it had finally broken a curse on the building at the corner of Douglas and Emporia, which for years had seen businesses open there and then quickly close. Then, in May of this year, the church that ran Mead’s announced that it would have to close because of a “significant rent increase.” The last day in business was July 28.

Silver lining: This is only a silver lining if you consider the demolition of an old downtown building to make way for a sleek new building to be progress. Earlier this month, the Wichita City Council voted to allow a developer to demolish the building that held Mead’s and to provide more than $5 million in sales tax support and property tax breaks to the developer who plans a four-story building for offices and retail on the spot.

3. Jerry’s Bar & Grill, 2000-2018: If you liked to dance, party and listen to music and were of a “certain age” (read: too old for dance clubs in Old Town) then Jerry’s Bar & Grill was the place for you. But in June, owners Jeff White and Denise White announced that they were closing the business to try something new, saying “all good things must come to an end.” It closed on June 23 after one final night of fun and music by The Dirty Gentlemen.

Silver lining: The owner of Blu Night Club, Matt Hiatt, and a business partner are thinking about reopening Jerry’s, but they’re trying to decide if the public will support it. They launched an informal poll on Facebook, asking people what they’d like to see in the building and are set to close on the space in January.

4. Hong Kong, 1977-2018: In late September, Hong Kong at 3028 S. Seneca — one of Wichita’s longest running Chinese restaurants — closed its doors for good. Longtime fans unloaded their grief on social media, wondering where they’d ever find Mandarin chicken, apricot sauce and cinnamon rolls that good ever again.

Silver lining: Owners Julie and Kan Yip and Julie’s brother, Jimmy Chu, who were always working in the restaurant, just wanted to rest, the Yip’s son said. And when the restaurant closed, they finally got to take a vacation. Plus, for those looking for reliable throwback Chinese restaurants, Wichita still has a few, including Ming’s at 1625 S. Seneca and Lee’s at 6215 W. Kellogg.

5. Beard Papa’s, 2013-2018: It’s rare, really rare, when Wichita gets something not a lot of other places have. But in 2013, Yokohama Ramen Joint owner Jack Fukuda opened Beard Papa’s on the upper level of Towne East Square, and Wichita was suddenly the only city in the Midwest that had a Japanese-style cream puff store. He sold fresh-filled cream puffs, Taiwanese style shaved ice, mochi ice cream and boba tea, but he closed the shop at the end of October, saying he could no longer afford the mall rent.

Silver lining: There’s already a new business in the Beard Papa’s space — The Green Place — and it specializes in another unusual offering: teques, a Venezuelan specialty. And closing Beard Papa’s has freed up Fukuda to focus on his new restaurant, which he’ll call Yokohama Ramen Izakaya. He hopes to have it open somewhere on the east side this spring.

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Empty cream puff shells await filling at Beard Papa’s. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

6. Hurts Donuts East, 2016-2018: Like it does pretty much everywhere it opens, Hurts Donut caused a big stir in Wichita when its first store arrived in Wichita in 2015. The following year, it expanded its business — selling big, crazily topped and colorful doughnuts — to the east side, opening at 3750 N. Woodlawn. But in early November, the east-side store abruptly closed, and the owners never did say why.

Silver lining: The east-side Hurts space won’t be vacant for long. The new owners of The Donut Whole plan to open there in early January. Also, the east-side Hurts provided Wichita with the indelible image of pop star Pink feeding a doughnut purchased there to her tiny son when she performed in Wichita in March. She and her husband, Carey Hart, both posted on social media the picture of young James biting into a pink doughnut with sprinkles, and their captions indicated it was his first taste of a doughnut ever.

Workers hang the sign on the new Hurts Donut store near 37th and Woodlawn on Monday. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

7. Miri’s Minis, 2017-2018: It was so pretty and bright and dainty, and the mini doughnuts it put out were nothing short of adorable. But Miri’s Minis, the doughnut shop that Jessica and Alex Lessman opened at 2543 E. Douglas in October 2016, lasted only a year. It closed in early October after the couple had twins born four month early who required extensive medical care. In the brief time it was open, Miri’s Minis became known for hosting picture-perfect kids birthday parties.

Silver lining: A new mini doughnut business just opened. And although The Dapper Doughnut, set up in a Union Station canopy at 701 E. Douglas, doesn’t have space for birthday parties, owner Brett Alstatt does have a nifty mini-doughnut maker he can roll into parties to fry up the tiny treats on the spot.

8. Genghis Grill, 2009-2018: Remember back in 2009 when the Mongolian barbecue trend was just catching on in Wichita? Suddenly Wichita went from having zero restaurants where you could load your bowl up with raw meats and vegetables and then watch as a chef cooked them on a grill, to three. Then four, including two Genghis Grills. By 2018, only two were still in business, including the Genghis Grill at 111 S. Rock Road. Then in August, it abruptly closed. HuHot is now all we’ve got.

Silver lining: After Genghis Grill closed, the owners of the building said they had lots of interest in the space, which sits on a high-profile spot on busy Rock Road. So it’s possible something even more delicious will take over the space.

With Genghis Grill closing and Bank of America following in a couple of months, some people have wondered if something bigger might be happening at the corner of Douglas and Rock Road. Property owner Max Cole says nothing is in the works except for finding another restaurant and possibly another bank. File photo

9. Cinnamon’s Deli, early 1990s-2018: Back in 2015, Wichita had four Cinnamon’s Deli restaurants, which served up big sandwiches and soups in bread bowls. But after the restaurant at 1885 S. Rock Road closed in May, Wichita became a one-Cinnamon’s town. Owner Larry Wilson had closed the Cinnamon’s at 21st and Webb in 2017, and in 2015, he’d closed the one at 21st and Maize.

Silver lining: Wichita still has one Cinnamon’s left, and it’s at 209 S. West Street. Perhaps the past year has taught us not to take it for granted.

10. Hooter’s, 1994-2018: For those who loved Hooter’s wings and waitresses, the news of its sudden closing at 3151 N. Rock Road in May was somewhat shocking. The rumor spread around town on a Sunday night, and people crowded in for one last visit. Eight months later, the building still sits sad and vacant.

Silver lining: If Hooter’s was your thing, Wichita has two Twin Peaks, which follow the Hooter’s script.

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Wichita’s only Hooter’s restaurant has closed. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

Other restaurants we lost in 2018:

The Big Apple, food truck

Pedro’s Express, 602 N. Tyler

Tacos Lopez, 2110 N. Maize Road

Verita Coffee, 9414 W. Central and 3700 E. Douglas

The Kamayan Truck, food truck

Jerseys Grill and Bar, 3213 N. Toben

Jimmie’s Diner, 2121 N. Tyler

El Viejito, 5518 W. Central

Lou’s Place, 220 S. Commerce

The Chalet, 3030 N. Penstemmon

Mo & Izzy’s Hash House, 803 N. West St.

Ming Moon, 7011 W. Central

The Bullpen/Keys, 222 N. Washington

Smallcakes Cupcakery, 7130 W. Maple

GangNam Kitchen, 2121 N. Rock Road

Emerson Biggin’s East, 2120 N. Woodlawn

Long John Silver’s, 630 E. 47th St. South

Chiquita’s Corner, 828 W. 11th St

La Isla, 748 N. West

Jimmy’s Egg, 200 S. West St.

Mumbai Rail Indian Bistro, 711 E. Douglas

Pie Five Pizza, 2035 N. Rock Road

Freezing Roll, 2110 N. Maize Road

Taco Bueno, 427 N. Hillside

Lynn’s Curbside Cookout, food truck

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.