Dining With Denise Neil

Well-known former Wichita chef says he’s returning after 14 years to open a new restaurant

He’s best known for cooking at one of Wichita’s one-time most popular upscale eateries — Restaurant 155, which once operated at 155 N. Market.

But that restaurant closed in 2003, and Chef Anthony Card left town, moving to Tulsa, in 2005.

Now, Card says he’s ready to return to Wichita and try out the restaurant scene again. He’s “in negotiations” for a spot downtown where he would open a new restaurant, which would be “middle priced, like Restaurant 155,” he said, and would offer French/ California-style food with a New Orleans flair.

“There will be a lot of etouffee, red beans and rice and jambalaya,” he said. “It’ll be California-type farm-to table food — very fresh and elegantly put on the plate.”

Card said he plans to find a spot in Wichita even if negotiations fall through on the space he’s planning on, and he’s not ready to reveal where that is until everything is signed, he said.

He decided it was time to move back, he said, after closing the last of his Sponz restaurants in Tulsa. Over the years, he’ d opened four different versions of Sponz, based on the Sponz 242 restaurant he helped open in Wichita at 242 N. Mosley in 2002.

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Tony Card was once well known as the chef at Restaurant 155, which closed in 2002. He left Wichita in 2005. JAIME OPPENHEIMER Jaime Oppenheimer

Most recently, he opened two Sponz at a giant office park there. But that turned out to be a bad decision, he said, especially after several competing restaurants moved in.

“It was my worst business decision I had ever made,” he said. “It unraveled the empire I had built.”

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Card built a long restaurant resume in Wichita in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He was the chef at the Greyhound Park and worked at Terradyne Country Club and Crestview Country Club. He also served as the chef at Larkspur before opening Restaurant 155.

He had a falling out with his business partners in Restaurant 155, who sued him for mismanagement and other things when Restaurant 155 went bankrupt. The judge eventually awarded his partners more than $67,000.

That’s when Card’s friend and mentor Phil Ruffin suggested he relocate to Tulsa, he said.

Now, Card said, he’s ready to return to Wichita and see what it has to offer. He said he frequently hears from onetime fans who miss his cooking, and when he started looking at the restaurant scene in Wichita, he said, he decided it might be a good time to return.

“As everyone kind of moved downtown, downtown became vibrant again,” he said. “We want to be a part of that.”

Card’s father was Bill Reaves, who in the 1970s owned a popular east-side jazz club called Bill’s Le Gourmet. Card started cooking there at age 10.

I’ll keep you posted on his plans.

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.