Is there anything more satisfying in the doldrums of winter than a hearty breakfast or a rich, hot roast beef sandwich? How about old-fashioned goulash, or thick and creamy chicken and noodles? If your palate hankers for the homemade, Livingston’s Diner on North Webb Road between Central and 13th Street should be your next stop for breakfast or lunch.
Established by Andy Livingston at its original location on North Emporia back in 1910, Livingston’s is truly a Wichita tradition. Andy’s son Gene ran the restaurant at several locations, followed by Gene’s son Robert, who took over in the 1970s. Robert’s wife, Jeanne, joined him in the ’80s, and they moved Livingston’s to its current location 11 years ago. After Robert’s passing in 2012, Jeanne has carried on, using the same family recipes. But the good food at Livingston’s has gotten even better with the addition of Chef Jorge Morales, now in his second year. Chef Morales has taken the original recipes and added his own home-style touches. (Wichita has another Livingston’s – Livingston’s Cafe at 4733 E. Douglas – run by Andy’s granddaughter, Melissa Atkinson.)
It’s hard not to gush when such a supreme effort is put forth to make everything on the menu from scratch, and it’s an extensive menu at that. In fact, we didn’t know where to start. Since Livingston’s has built its reputation on breakfast, we decided to begin there. Our personable waitress, Brigit, recommended the Livingston Special. At $7.75, it’s a nice assembly of breakfast choices: bacon or sausage, two eggs made your way and two large, fluffy, perfectly cooked pancakes.
For a slightly lighter option, we ordered the turkey club sandwich, made with turkey, bacon, lettuce and mayonnaise between three slices of toasted bread. It was a nice take on a common menu item, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Livingston’s has more than just standard coffee-shop fare, though, and these are the menu items that make it more than a run-of-the-mill diner. For example, the meatloaf is a highly seasoned, thick slice of hand-formed ground sirloin mixed with onions, green pepper, lots of garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Its bold, rich flavor sure beats the bland, glorified hamburger served in most eateries. Served with buttery mashed potatoes smothered in a savory brown gravy (more about that in a minute), along with a mixture of corn and green beans and a fresh-out-of-the-oven dinner roll, this is comfort food to the max.
We couldn’t figure out why the brown gravy was so delicious until Chef Morales explained that it was made with reduced pot roast au jus and a mirepoix of diced celery, onions and carrots. How refreshing to know the gravy is not made from a powder base mixed with water. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to appreciate the time and effort this takes. It’s no wonder the flavor was so complex.
This doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the tasty treasures found at Livingston’s. We couldn’t leave without sampling the soft, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits smothered in a sweet cream sausage gravy. And while we prefer bigger chunks of sausage in our biscuits and gravy, there was plenty of sausage flavor to make it something we would order again.
I’m always amazed when a restaurant offering such a variety of items still finds the time to make fresh desserts on the premises instead of bringing them in from outside sources. Even though our stomachs were bursting, the very accommodating manager, Mary, said we couldn’t leave without trying Chef Morales’ favorite personal recipe – bread pudding with caramel sauce. The presentation was like something you would get at a fine-dining establishment, and the flavor was better than most. A perfect blend of bread, eggs, cream and vanilla, this bread pudding was simply delicious. And the caramel sauce? You’ll want to eat it with a spoon.
Livingston’s is open seven days a week, and a buffet ($12.95) is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The decor is comfortable and cozy with a mix of booths and tables, and cheery artwork covers the walls. The back wall is filled with old photographs of all the different Livingston’s restaurants over the years, a wonderful testament to this family’s dedication to bringing good, wholesome food to the folks of Wichita.
Where: 832 N. Webb Road, 316-686-0488
Type of food: American
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Price range: Sandwiches are $7.25 to $8.99; entrees are $8.49 to $9.49; breakfast items are $3.50 to $9.99