Dining With Denise Neil

Former Tanya’s Soup Kitchen spot getting a new restaurant tenant

The Wichita Eagle

A new restaurant is going into the downtown space where the original Tanya’s Soup Kitchen was, and this one has a female owner, too.

Natasha Gandhi-Rue, a graduate of New York City’s French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center) and a former culinary manager for Williams-Sonoma, is opening The Kitchen at 725 E. Douglas. The space was most recently a Cox Communications customer service center.

But from 1997 until 2004, it was the first home of Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, which the late Tanya Tandoc later reopened at 1725 E. Douglas.

“I think it’s nice to imagine another restaurant here,” Gandhi-Rue said. “And I think she’d love the fact that there’s another woman chef here.”

The Kitchen will be owned by Gandhi-Rue and her husband Scott Rue, the owner of Rue Construction. It will be a lunch and dinner restaurant that will focus on panini sandwiches and salads made with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients at lunch and items like steak and seasonal pasta dishes at dinner. She’ll also serve fresh-made desserts.

The 1,820-square-foot building, which was originally the Union Station baggage area, is part of the new Union Station, a $54 million redevelopment project by developer Gary Oborny, which includes renovations of the property’s four existing buildings and the addition of 150,000 square feet.

Gandhi-Rue and Scott Rue hope they can have the restaurant ready by September. They’re renovating the space and will add an open kitchen. Rue Construction will be in charge of the construction.

Gandhi-Rue, who has been offering cooking classes in her home for the past several months, said that when she decided to open a restaurant, she wanted a space that was downtown and that offered plenty of parking.

“I feel like downtown is a local, vibrant business community, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

She chose the name The Kitchen because she felt it conveyed what she plans to serve – fresh food made from scratch with ingredients found locally.

She plans to add an outdoor patio and may eventually offer cooking classes in the restaurant, too. The Kitchen will have a full bar.

Oborny said he was immediately impressed by Gandhi-Rue’s kitchen abilities.

“We develop throughout the Midwest and the United States, and we’ve seen a lot of concepts,” he said. “We’ve had her food several times now – she brings food to about every meeting and we get to sample and try everything – and we’ve been very impressed with her concept and the quality of her food. We think it’s a great addition to Union Station and the downtown community.”

Marty Moody of J.P. Weigand was the couple’s commercial realtor, and Oborny and Mike Tokarz represented landlord Occidental Management.

Stay tuned for updates as The Kitchen progresses.