Dining With Denise Neil

Coming downtown: drive-through coffee and smoothies, patio dining, Indian food (+video)

We know that the new Union Station project, which is moving along quickly at three underutilized downtown buildings on East Douglas, will house several new eating and drinking places.

But the delicious details of the $54 million project are even better for downtown dwellers and workers – and more immediate – than we knew. (Pardon our giddiness: The complex is right next door to the Wichita Eagle building, which sits at the corner of Douglas and Rock Island.)

The project will result in a new restaurant tenant, two new beverage drive-throughs, a two-story Indian restaurant with a late-night walk-up window, and more outdoor seating than the rest of Douglas combined.

It also will bring three new hard-to-visualize permanent street vendor booths, and organizers even have visions of adding a glass-walled bar that overlooks Douglas.

And if you really get project manager Chad Stafford dreaming about the redevelopment project, which spans 10 downtown acres, he talks of a downtown grocery store and more restaurants.

Here’s an east-to-west, building-by-building explanation of exactly what dining and drinking establishments are planned for the project and when they’ll open.

Grand and Patrick Hotel building

This is the building right next door to the Wichita Eagle. The building whose construction has rattled our desks and closed off Rock Island access to our building for months. We all knew the new project was to include a Scooter’s coffee shop, but we didn’t realize until just a few weeks ago that it would be right outside our front door. The new Scooter’s, which is set to open at the end of December or beginning of January, will have a drive-through on Rock Island. The drive-through lane cement went down a couple of weeks ago, and the pass-through window was carved out even more recently. Unlike most Scooter’s in Wichita, which are drive-through kiosks that no one but employees can enter, this Scooter’s will have a large indoor cafe as well, with lots of room for seating. The shop also will have patio seating outside on the newly reconstructed sidewalk. The rest of the building, which is now a lovely shade of brown and brand new inside, will have offices with lots of workers to patronize the coffee shop.

Rock Island Depot

The middle building, which sits just west of the Grand and Patrick Hotel building, has been home to restaurants before. It held Old Town Martini Steakhouse in the 2000s

Its new tenants also will be restaurants.

A Smoothie King should open in the front 1,500 square feet of the building by early December. It also will have a drive-through, which is now visible on the east side of the building, and it will offer ample outdoor seating along Douglas, Stafford said.

The back two-thirds of the building, both upstairs and downstairs, will be occupied by Mumbai Rail Indian Bistro. The bottom level will have a fast-casual feel, where people order Indian specialties at the counter. If they prefer, they can sit upstairs, where servers will deliver food to the tables. The upstairs section also will have a full bar. One interesting feature: A walk-up window on the west-facing side of the restaurant will allow after-hours crowds to order late-night food and drinks and enjoy them on a patio set up beside it. Mumbai Rail Indian Bistro also should be open by the first part of December, Stafford said.

Union Station Terminal Building

The third building, the one with the big columns out front, the one that previously housed Cox Communications, doesn’t have any indoor restaurant tenants – yet. But it will have three food vendors outside. They’ll be set up in glass-covered, steel structures that can be closed up at night. Stafford is still looking for tenants for the spaces, which will have granite counter tops, open-air seating and big-screen television sets, but he envisions a sandwich vendor, a taco vendor and a burger vendor. Visitors can buy food and adult beverages and enjoy them on the large plaza out front.

This is the building where Stafford envisions a grocery store. His dream would be to attract a Trader Joe’s, he said, but the growing downtown residential population probably needs to grow a little larger for that to be realistic, he said.

Also possible in the future, he said: More restaurants inside and a glass-covered bar constructed on the bridge over Douglas that would afford visitors views of the activity below.

Cox Customer Service building

When Cox wanted the original Tanya’s Soup Kitchen building at 725 E. Douglas in 2004, owner Tanya Tandoc lost her lease. Now, 11 years later, Cox is about to vacate and should be gone by January, Stafford said. He has several potential tenants interested, and all of them are restaurants, he said. He should be able to announce who will go in the space soon, and that restaurant should open not long after, he said.

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