By Mike Thayer
Signature dishes, it's food that embodies a region, it's a celebration of iconic cultural flavors, where natives and tourists alike embrace that bowl, that plate, that sandwich, that finger food and say, "You HAVE to try this!"....
Examples of iconic signature dishes includes the Rueben sandwich in New York; crab cakes in Baltimore; The Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia; Fried Chicken in Atlanta; Deep dish pizza in Chicago; Bratwurst in Milwaukee; Gumbo in New Orleans and Cedar plank Salmon in Seattle.
So with all that iconic food in mind, does Wichita have a signature dish, or is the Mid-Continent City a melting pot of foods and flavors?
Having fun and inspired by this Signature Dish Challenge, I decided to visit Wichita Brewing Company and their reputation for great pizza.
I pulled into the parking lot shortly after 6pm on a Wednesday and there were a lot cars in the parking lot.
"This is a good sign," I thought to myself.
I walked in and saddled up to the bar, it took awhile to be greeted by one of the two bartenders. I soon learned one of them was in training. There were quite a few patrons seated at tables, but the bar was virtually empty.
BARTENDER IN TRAINING: Would you like a beer list and a menu?
ME: Yes please.
After a quick review of the beer list, I decided to sample the Thunder Blonde, a pale ale dedicated to the local hockey team, the Wichita Thunder.
I ordered my beer and it was poured in short order. It was pretty tasty, clean and crisp, going down like a light beer, but with more flavor if that makes sense.
After checking out the menu and watching some sports highlights on the big screen, I was in need of another beer and ready to order dinner. I asked for a 5:02 Amber in getting a second beer and asked....
ME: What is your best selling pizza?
BARTENDER DOING THE TRAINING: Our best sellers are probably The Banick and the Around The Horn. The Banick is kind of a meat lovers pizza and the Around the Horn is more like a supreme with meat and veggies.
The Banick: Spicy Capicola ham, chicken, Italian sausage, pepperoni, sweet pepper bacon & Andouille sausage.
Around The Horn: Pepperoni, Italian sausage, Andouille sausage, onions, black olives, mushrooms, yellow pepper
ME: The meat lovers kind of thing sounds good, I'll do the Banick.
BARTENDER DOING THE TRAINING: I'll get that ordered for you (she said as my 5:02 Amber was served up by the trainee).
The 5:02 Amber was a better beer than the Thunder Blonde. Not that the Thunder Blonde was bad, it's just that the amber features caramel and toasted malt, it's a more robust beer and a better pairing with The Banick pizza.
My pizza was set in front of me in what seemed like just a matter of minutes and it was DELICIOUS! It was a concert of high quality meats, set on a superb, thin, nicely seasoned crispy crust and what put it all over the top was that sauce! This was no typical red sauce and all the notes were spot on.
BARTENDER DOING THE TRAINING: How is the pizza?
ME: Fantastic (I uttered with a mouthful), thank you for the recommendation!
As I was enjoying my pizza and a better beer, some friends showed up. After a review of the menu and seeing my pizza, they too ordered The Banick, along with some house well drinks at half price to wash things down with.
Their pizza also arrived in short order, but they got freshly shaved Parmesan cheese on their pizza right there at the bar! Feeling slighted, I asked the gentleman bringing out their order to hit the remaining half of my pizza with the Parm. "No problem," he responded. The pizza was excellent without the parm, but it was even better with!
Why I didn't get that option when my pizza was delivered, is a question that went unanswered by the bar staff. And that's when the service went steadily downhill.
While the obligatory questions up to that point were asked by the bartender trainer and the trainee (how is your pizza? for example), now we were at a point where we had to ask for drinks to be refilled and my friends weren't asked how their pizza order tasted. The bar hadn't gotten busier either.
I ordered some Leopold Brothers BlackBerry whiskey for tasting. My friends and I all enjoyed it and agreed it was dangerously smooth, pleasurably fruity and sweet.
The beverages were top notch, the pizza was fantastic but the service was minimally obligatory. To repeat, we had to ask for drink refills, we weren't even asked if we wanted dessert and it took forever to get our checks and settle our respective tabs.
My pizza, select beers and whiskey cost me $42.10 to include tip. I usually tip 20%, but on this occasion, I only did 15%.
The Wichita Brewery Company gets four out of five Metro Pursuit stars. They could have gotten a five if they had better service. I'll tell you this, their pizza represents the Air Capital well. It's damn good and a repeat buy, despite the less-than-stellar service.
The Wichita Brewery Company visited is located at 535 N Woodlawn Blvd #375, Wichita, KS 67208
But my search has only just begun.... I'll be visiting a large variety of restaurants and sampling all types of food, getting input from patrons and restaurant gurus alike, trying to get a feel for what Wichita's Signature Dish might be..... Oh, and national chain restaurants will NOT be a part of this challenge, I'm keeping it as local as possible, a true evaluation in finding what might be Wichita's Signature Dish.
What a challenge huh? I am SO looking forward to the rest of this challenge!
What do you think might be Wichita's signature dish? Comment below.
$pend Wisely My Friends...
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