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LongHorn Steakhouse eyes Wichita for sites

WICHITA — It looks like the 29th and Maize area is continuing to attract restaurants.

Tuesday, Panda Express confirmed it's putting an almost 3,000-square-foot restaurant to the north of the Lowe's driveway near where several other restaurants opened this year.

Now, it looks like LongHorn Steakhouse is eyeing the area.

There are 334 LongHorn Steakhouses in 31 states — 32 with the addition of Iowa next month.

The chain, which plans to open about 25 new restaurants this year, is "kind of progressing west," says spokesman Rich Jeffers.

The first Kansas LongHorn Steakhouse will open in Manhattan early next  year.

Jeffers won't say if Wichita is slated to get the restaurant. He says the company typically only confirms a restaurant is opening after construction starts.

Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden among other brands, acquired LongHorn Steakhouse in 2007.

"It is a steakhouse that is kind of designed in a very upscale, casual design motif, if you will," Jeffers says.

When the first LongHorn Steakhouse opened in 1981, it was more of a peanuts-on-the-floor kind of place.

"It's evolved," Jeffers says. Today, it's "a little bit more sophisticated dining room."

Since the LongHorn Steakhouse in Manhattan is already announced but still won't open until early 2011, don't look for one in Wichita in the immediate future.

We'll keep you posted if and when a deal happens.