There are two facts about our trip to Wichita that compete rather closely with each other for the title of “My Favorite Wichita Fact”. The first, and borderline winner, is the fact that my wife didn’t kill me over the sewer grate. See previous post if this confuses you. The second, which logically shouldn’t even come close to beating out the fact that I left Wichita alive, is the fact that Wichita has many well-staffed non-chain eateries. I do subscribe to the philosophy that good food is equal to happiness and contentment. Or at least that good food contributes much to those aforementioned qualities, thereby giving my surviving the trip a run for its money as my favorite fact. After all, what good is surviving if you aren’t pursuing happiness?
Enough of all that, though. On to the good stuff. My wife and I made a pact that we would eat at no national chain during our weekend away. We did break this vow twice. Shame on us, surely, but there were times we stuck to the pact so spectacularly that it cancels out our betrayal of our own selves.
First there was TJ’s Burger House. We stopped there after attempting to try a ramen joint in the older part of town. Our efforts to procure Asian soup were foiled by the joint’s apparent popularity and lack of parking. Good for them, I suppose, but not so good for us. Or so we thought. When we found a spot in front of TJ’s we decided it was a universal indicator that we should patronize the place. We did. We are happy we did. The dining room was quite roomy and the grumpy waitress wasn’t really as grumpy as she seemed. She was a bit gruff when we arrived, but we came to realize that, though outwardly she seemed dour and downtrodden, she was quick to laugh and very polite. I did appreciate the fact that she wasn’t overly friendly. I also appreciated that she brought me a very good burger. Not the best I’ve ever had but very very far from the worst. It was well cooked and tasty.
We broke our pact that evening and had Pizza Hut delivered. Also a good choice even if it did deprive us of a locally-owned dinner.
Breakfast on Saturday happened at Jimmy’s Diner. The waitresses wore poodle skirts and bows in their hair. The chicken fried steak was the best I’ve ever had and chicken fried steak is my go-to breakfast diner choice. The grits were of a good quality and, unlike the canister of grits in my cupboard, you could tell by taste that Jimmy’s grits were made from corn.
Lunch after the zoo (the one with the offensive chimps and violent fowl from a previous post) took place at Da Cajun Shak. This was the only place we had specifically planned on visiting when we planned the trip. As at TJ’s the waiter seemed a little gruff at first. Upon interacting with him further we realized that not only was he actually Cajun and concerned with providing great service, he was extremely friendly. The menu had many interesting options. I finally settled for the fried gator po’boy. I live by the saying “When in doubt, have a sandwich.” A weak saying at best, but that afternoon it proved its validity. The sandwich was nothing but bits of breaded and fried alligator on a roll of some sort with a sauce of some spicy/creamy sort on the side. I ate the whole thing without the sauce and I didn’t feel like anything was missing. My wife had chicken Lafayette. A much more complex dish and almost as amazing as the sandwich I had.
We had national pizza chain leftovers for dinner that night. Good, but still national chain.
We slept in on the last day of our trip and by the time we had checked out of the hotel, it was brunchish/lunchish time. We agreed to just head for home and stop if we saw something that looked good. We spent nearly an hour following our gps through switchbacks and u-turns and hadn’t even gotten past the Wichita suburbs when we saw a place called Spangles. It was a local chain 50’s themed diner/café type thing. I ordered a gyro, my wife some chicken sandwich. We sat before a life-sized Elvis effigy that appeared both mid-hip-gyration and mid-croon. Soon a team member advised me there was no gyro sauce within a 15 mile radius. A gyro without tzatziki is merely a beef or lamb roll-up, so I instead had a burger, which I think was the better choice anyway. I offer my thanks to that particular branch for being out of sauce that day. I left them what I hope they understood to be a very nice comment card and we went home to a land of food that we know and therefore, though they are good, they don’t feel so adventurous.
I bid you Adieu…and a don’t.
Adieu…visit any of the places I’ve described if you visit, or live under a rock in, Wichita. They were all worth it.
A don’t…forget about the ramen joint. If you ever happen to find a way to get in the door, I’d like to know how it was.