Dining With Denise Neil

West Wichita losing a 30-year-old diner but gaining a new Mexican restaurant

Emilia’s Family Restaurant and Pie Shop is closing after 30 years.
Emilia’s Family Restaurant and Pie Shop is closing after 30 years. The Wichita Eagle

West Street is losing a 30-year-old diner, but it’s gaining a new Mexican restaurant that specializes in ceviche and other Mazatlan-style seafood dishes.

The owners of La Isla, a “cevicheria” that’s operated at 1935 N. Broadway since April 2015, are planning to open a second location of their restaurant in the spot at 784 N. West St. where Emilia’s Family Restaurant and Pie Shop has operated for 30 years.

Alcino Cruzeiro, who owns Emilia’s, said he wasn’t sure what his next step would be, but he said he hadn’t yet shared the news with his customers, who often gather there for hearty breakfasts, burgers and fries and homemade pie.

“We will miss them,” he said. “But nothing lasts forever.”

Cruzeiro hopes to remain open through early October, he said.

La Isla, which translates to “the island,” is owned by Jose Gandara and his wife, Yuliana, who is the cook. They serve Yuliana’s grandmother’s recipes, with a focus on ceviche, a fresh seafood salad cooked with the acid from the lime juice added to it. It also serves oysters on the half shell, a unique cucumber treat known as “pepilocos,” and fresh fruit drinks garnished with soda and chamoy candy.

The tiny kitchen in the original restaurant doesn’t allow Yuliana to expand the menu beyond what she offers now, Jose said. But her new West Street kitchen will allow her to add around 15 new dishes to the menu, including a fried tilapia, spicy shrimp, garlic shrimp, soup and more.

Yuliana was raised by her grandmother in the seaside-city of Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico. She also worked in a Mexican restaurant in Dodge City.

The couple was nervous about expanding, Jose said, but in a recent article in the Wichita Eagle listing where local restaurant owners like to eat, Molino’s Mexican Cuisine owner Mario Quiroz named La Isla and raved about its food. Since then, Jose said, the restaurant has been crowded with new customers.

“We’ve had several customers saying, ‘You should go bigger,’” he said.

The couple hopes to open the second location during the second or third week of October. I’ll keep you posted.