I recently put together this list of favorite restaurant recommendations for someone visiting Wichita, Kan., from the east coast for the first time to pick up his new airplane (read: budget isn’t a concern!). These are mostly my favorites but I also asked for suggestions from my Facebook friends and incorporated those to give our visitor a wide range of options.
Wichita has a ton of restaurants and this list is not meant to be comprehensive. I left off most of the chain restaurants in order to write this from the perspective of unique establishments a visitor should try. I know when I’m traveling to new places I try to eat local rather than at chains as much as possible.
Red Rock Canyon Grill — This is probably my top pick even though technically it’s a part of a chain (a very small chain with only 2 other locations). I always try to eat local when I travel, so I don’t often recommend chains but the atmosphere and food are too good here to pass up.
It’s in east Wichita and features southwest-inspired American cuisine in an upscale casual atmosphere. Very cool building with a nice patio, excellent service, non-rushed atmosphere and the food quality is among the best in Wichita. I love their house salad and dressing … the rotisserie chicken is good and I’ve enjoyed their seafood dishes, too. My husband loves the unique meatloaf dish, and I’ve heard the steaks are great, too.
You’re in beef country out here so typically all the steak entrees at the higher-end restaurants are going to be great!
Chester’s Chophouse & Wine Bar — locally owned and very near Beechcraft’s facilities. It’s another beautiful setting with high quality ingredients. It has a fine-dining atmosphere serves classic American dishes. There are lots of steak options, and their sides are interesting and often the favorite part of the meal for me. They also have a raw bar and this is one of the few places here in land-locked Wichita where I’d feel confident I was getting fresh seafood.
Bella Luna – There’s a large Mediterranean influence among our restaurants. You will have many choices and many are good … I’m partial to this one because the hummus is consistently outstanding. You really can’t go wrong on their menu. I love the pastas and also enjoy the tilapia. There are three locations around town: east, west and sort-of east-central. All three are good.
Sabor Latin Bar & Grille — this is a casual upscale spot in Old Town, which is Wichita’s downtown entertainment district. It would be a nice choice if you want to see another part of Wichita since you’ll likely be on the east side most of your time. I like the menu options but will say that service and food can be inconsistent between visits. If you do venture into Old Town, you might stop in at Oeno Wine Bar. They’ve recently expanded their food menu — I’m not too familiar with it — but they are really known for their selection of wines and a comfortable, classy atmosphere.
Taste & See — a newer place and it has an odd location out of the high-traffic areas of town. I’ve not personally been there but a lot of people I know are talking about it and really like it. It’s Latin American food and I’m told the Cuban sandwich is the best in Wichita (not sure how that stacks up against the rest of the world, however!).
Harvest Kitchen & Bar — another place I’ve not yet tried but hear great things about it. It’s in the Hyatt Hotel downtown and is focused on using local, fresh ingredients.
Some other casual dining options I enjoy:
If you really just need a burger and fries, go to locally-owned Fizz Burgers and Bottles (they grind their own meat daily and they have great dipping sauces for the fries). It’s fast but not a fast-food/drive-thru type restaurant.
Old Mill Tasty Shop — it has an old fashioned soda fountain
The Anchor is a fun pub with a large hand-crafted beer selection but the service can be inconsistent.
Also for sushi or Japanese hibachi-style meals, try SUMO by Nambara. I’ve noticed this is one of the most-often cited restaurants when Wichita chefs are asked to name their favorite dining out spot.
Cocoa Dolce — OK, so it’s not for a meal but it’s a yummy chocolate shop and the owner, Beth, has an inspiring do-what-you-love-and-good-things-will-happen story. I like to take friends from out of town here, and I also like to buy friends from anywhere gifts here :)
Other fine-dining options that are worthy of a meal (check reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon):
YaYa’s Eurobistro (new American)
Hereford House (steakhouse)
Cafe Bel Ami (french, mediterranean)
Newport Grille (new American, seafood)
AVI Seabar and Chophouse (steakhouse, seafood)
Siena Tuscan Steakhouse (italian, steakhouse)
Larkspur Bistro & Bar (American) — they often have live jazz on their patio
How’d I do? Are there any spots that you think deserve to be on the list? Let me know in the comments.
(p.s. I noticed that a lot of these restaurants do not have many reviews on Yelp even though I know they are popular with locals. I’m going to do a better job of reviewing local places and hope my Wichita readers will do the same! Let’s help out-of-towners navigate our city.)