Dining With Denise Neil

Watch Lutz and Lutz fight fear of veggies, try Vietnamese food for first time

Eagle sportswriters Bob Lutz and his son Jeff Lutz frequently invite me to appear as a guest on their weekday sports talk radio show, The Drive with Bob and Jeff. It airs from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays on KFH, which is at 98.7 FM.

They want me to talk about Wichita restaurants when I visit, but I’m really not sure why. The two of them are picky eaters, and when I name all the fabulous restaurants opening in Wichita, they often stare at me with a mixture of dismay and revulsion. People actually eat that? (Let’s just say that the Lutzes prefer a straightforward diet of protein and potatoes – the elder because that’s what he likes, the younger because that’s all his dad ever served him.)

This happened again when I was on the air last week, so I threw down a challenge. I asked them to come to a Vietnamese restaurant with me for lunch and let me record their experience. Both seemed skeptical about the cuisine, which sounded too exotic. But it’s not, and in fact, Wichita has many good Vietnamese restaurants. Whenever I get an opportunity, I tell people that if they haven’t tried them, they should. (Besides my favorites include Little Saigon, Saigon, My Tho and Lemongrass.)

Today, dad and son agreed to meet me at Little Saigon, 1015 N. Broadway. They were immediately excited to see sweet and sour chicken on the menu, but I informed them it wasn’t that kind of lunch. I would be doing the ordering, and they would be doing the tasting.

I ordered three of my favorite Vietnamese dishes: bun, which is a vermicelli noodle dish made with lettuce, cilantro, sprouts, grilled meat and a sweet orange sauce; a banh mi sandwich, piled high with grilled pork and julienne vegetables on buttered French bread; and pho, a comforting and noodle soup with thin slices of beef, onions and sprouts, jalapenos, basil and lime served on the side for garnish.

I was proud of them both, as each one sampled all three of the dishes with little complaint, though Bob brought plenty of snark. Vegetables are not their thing. (I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched Bob pick every last diced tomato off his pizza.) But they said they liked the way the dishes they tried at Little Saigon masked the vegetables with other delicious flavors. Both agreed that the banh mi sandwich was their favorite of the three dishes.

Jeff was a convert, I think. He said he’d willingly visit again... if his wife wanted to. Bob was a little less enthusiastic, saying he’d return if he happened to have a car break down in the neighborhood and was hungry. Or if I invited him to go sometime. I’ll take it.

Eagle video editor Jaime Green came along and caught the experience on video. If you’ve been curious but reluctant about Vietnamese cuisine, watching Wichita’s two pickiest eaters tackle it will surely inspire you, too.