Your brain might have trouble processing Doo-Dah Diner, a restaurant that’s sort of hard to classify.
It opened in September, owned by restaurant veterans Patrick and Timirie Shibley – an earnest duo dedicated to making their little business work. Patrick cooks, and Timirie runs the dining room.
They chose the no-frills space visible from Kellogg – but amazingly difficult to find though the maze of one-way streets that border it – that’s held a string of short-lived restaurants over the past few years, including Jade Garden Cafe, Cathy’s Diner, Lili Mae’s and R&S BBQ.
The name Doo-Dah Diner, the Shibleys admit, was chosen in part to attract future interest from Guy Fieri, the television host/chef who travels the nation visiting diners for his Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The restaurant’s ambiance and name, though, don’t really align with the fresh, colorful dishes Patrick pushes out of the kitchen. Though diner-y in inspiration, the dishes are far more “cafe” or “bistro” in execution.
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That’s not a bad thing, though. Word of mouth has helped the Shibleys collect a following of local food fans who keep sending their friends. The dining room is regularly bustling. Even Wichita celeb Kirstie Alley recently visited to try out the restaurant’s corned-beef hash, the Shibleys said.
ON THE MENU: Doo-Dah Diner serves breakfast and lunch and offers a variety of standard blue-plate dishes that are a step above usual diner fare. Breakfast offers choices such as banana bread French toast, eggs Benedict, a sandwich made with fresh grilled salmon and biscuits and gravy.
Lunch includes meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, stuffed cabbage rolls and chicken and noodles made with homemade noodles. Also available: a French dip, a Reuben, a muffuletta and burgers, both stuffed and otherwise.
DON’T-MISS DISHES: Several Doo-Dah dishes should truly not be missed, and in fact, I can’t wait to try them again.
Restaurant meatloaf can be hit-or-miss, but Doo-Dah’s ($8.99) is fairly amazing. Made from Timirie’s mother’s recipe, it’s stuffed with cheese and topped not only with a slice of jalapeno bacon but also with a thick layer of chili sauce, ketchup’s thicker, well-seasoned first cousin. We loved the vinegar-y bite back from the sauce, and the meatloaf was moist and rich. It came with a side of delicious homemade mashed potatoes, still lumpy with potato chunks. It also came with a side of skillet green beans, sauteed with slivered almonds.
The chicken-fried steak ($8.99, served with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans) had a great flavor, and the meat was good, but the breading wasn’t as crispy as I like it and retained a little too much grease. My chicken-fried-steak-loving dining companion, however, raved about it, took the leftovers home, and insisted it was even better the next day.
The biggest surprise from the lunch menu was the item that initially sounded sort of dull. Turkey focaccia sandwiches aren’t usually among a menu’s stars, but Doo-Dah’s are served on fabulous flat focaccia bread that Patrick makes himself and stuffs with smoky turkey, leafy spinach, avocado, dill havarti cheese, jalapeno bacon and honey mustard. It was anything but dull and is the dish I’d most likely order again. The fries on the side were good, too – the kind cooked with the skins on until perfectly crispy.
Breakfast also was good. The biscuits and gravy, big, fluffy biscuits topped with sausage gravy, were worth every calorie and some of the best I’ve had in Wichita. One split biscuit is $2.99. Two are $4.99.
The crispy corned-beef hash ($7.99) also was good and is a nice change of breakfast pace. It features a mix of cubed corned beef, potatoes and peppers topped with two eggs made to order and green chili sauce. The only way I would have liked it better is if the corned-beef chunks were a bit smaller and more proportional to the other ingredients in the mix.
I wasn’t crazy about the “Timi’s Benny” ($8.99), only because the Hollandaise sauce tasted tinny, but the poached eggs were just as I’d ordered them, and the maple pepper bacon was thick and wonderful.
But I can recommend the fried bologna and egg sandwich ($5.99), which features thick-cut bologna that’s not at all what Oscar Mayer served you for lunch, and the sandwich came on a wonderfully thick wheat-berry bread soaked in butter. And the banana bread French toast ($7.99) is somehow gluten free but is hardly healthy. Its decadent caramel topping was a bit much for our morning constitutions.
The new menu, which may be launched by press time, includes an outrageously delicious sounding item inspired by an episode of Fieri’s show: It’s called a “Beefy Doo-Dad” ($7.99) and features a beef, cabbage and onion mixture surrounded by mashed potatoes with a crunchy crust placed atop mushroom gravy and drizzled with horseradish sauce.
Sign me up.
AMBIANCE: The restaurant is clean and flooded with the kind of light that allows me to so beautifully photograph the focaccia. But the decor is very basic, which caused me to incorrectly expect the same of the food. The Shibleys have done their best to dress it up with plastic flowers on the tables, striped tablecloths and an exposed kitchen, but the place feels old and outdated, inside and out, and makes you hope that the duo will eventually sell enough meatloaf to upgrade the place.
PRICE RANGE: Reasonable, especially for the amount of food you get. Lunch ranges from $4.99 for a bowl of chili to $10.99 for a French dip made with prime rib. Most dishes are around $8 or $9. Breakfast dishes range from about $6 to $9.
SERVICE: Service is fine. It’s hard to miss Timirie, who often tours the dining room chatting up her customers. And her servers are occasionally a bit scattered but are fun, friendly and capable.