Dining With Denise Neil

Downtown Doo-Dah is almost done. Meanwhile, owners have landed a spot on national T.V.

And just like that, the downtown Doo-Dah Diner is almost ready to reopen.

Patrick and Timirie Shibley closed their popular downtown restaurant at 206 E. Kellogg at the end of last year, promising a complete overhaul that would result in way more seating and a big new kitchen that could keep up with the increased volume. In the meantime, they’ve be operating the diner out of a spot at 1530 S. Webb Road.

This week, the Shibleys invited me for a tour of the almost-completed downtown restaurant, and the results are pretty amazing. Construction crews have turned the diner into one giant room, removing the wall that separated the dining room from the massive waiting and retail area.

Now, it’s all just one never-ending dining room, with space for lots of red vinyl booths, tables and chairs. The diner’s signature yellow-and-red paint is now up on the walls, and the famous counter is back in place. It still faces the kitchen, which is now visible through a big opening in wall finished with red and white subway tiles.

Customers will barely recognize the newly remodeled Doo-Dah Diner, which is now just one big room. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

There’s still a decent-sized waiting area, and the diner now has spacious multi-stall restrooms for both men and women. There’s also a vestibule that will keep cold air from rushing into the dining room in the winter, and the floors will be black-and-white checkerboard.

If they can get all their licensing lined up in time, Timirie said, there’s no reason the diner couldn’t open on the Fourth of July or that weekend, as planned.

Timirie said she can’t wait to get back into the diner, partially because she misses her downtown customers and partially because the space on Webb has been a challenge. The building didn’t fare well during recent rains, and the diner was plagued with leaks and other issues.

She also spilled a few details about a recent national television gig the diner has landed. Crews from a national network (she couldn’t say which one yet) will be in town before the end of June to film a segment at Doo-Dah. The show will air sometime before the end of the year.

Shibley also dished about another television gig the diner almost got, one that set their downtown remodeling plans back about nine months.

Timirie said that Doo-Dah Diner was also being seriously considered back in 2017 for the Gordon Ramsay show “24 Hours to Hell and Back.” The producers for the show ultimately chose Fetch Bistro instead and filmed a 24-hour makeover there in late 2017. It aired last summer, and the restaurant has since closed.

But Doo-Dah almost got the spot. The Shibleys and their staff spent months interviewing with the crew, she said, and they performed extensive background checks on the Shibleys and all of their then-employees. Not long before being approached, the Shibleys had announced plans to remodel the downtown restaurant, but producers told them that to remain in the running, they had to leave the diner unchanged.

Timirie said she found out that the diner had not been chosen the day the crew pulled in to town to start filming at Fetch. Until then, she had no idea any other Wichita restaurants were even in the running.

In retrospect, she said, she’s glad Doo-Dah wasn’t chosen. The diner wasn’t having trouble as a business, it just had a troubled building, and she would have hated if the show had implied otherwise.

Also, she said, it allowed her and Patrick to make the new diner just how they wanted it, even if it took much longer than they would have liked to get started.

“We just couldn’t produce enough drama,” she said. In hindsight, we’re so thankful we didn’t get the show. But at the time, we felt like it was our only hope to get our broken building fixed.”

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.