I’ve had about a month to get into the groove of Kansas’ largest city. So far, I really like it here, and that I get to rediscover a city that I thought I knew pretty well. Here are some of those discoveries to date:
Wichita is a big place. At almost 385,000 residents, the city is clearly larger than Topeka, which has a population of about 128,000. Compared to most urban areas located just about ANYWHERE else, it’s still pretty small and easy to navigate. Yet I’m still having to remind myself that it takes at least 20 minutes by car to get most places I want to go. I didn’t realize that Topeka was smaller by comparison.
Wichita drivers. It’s kind of an inside joke, but the drivers really are a bit more aggressive here than other parts of the state. I’m having a bit of an argument with myself, since this is where I learned to drive. Am I a terrible driver by default?
Wichitans love loud, frantic dance music at all times of the day. Most of the radio stations on my dial above 92.0 MHz seem to specialize in club tunes. There’s some good country mixed in, and some hair metal, but most playlists seem to skew heavily toward adult contemporary, or whatever we’re calling it these days, and songs most appropriately enjoyed out with your besties on a weekend night.
On the other hand, I can clearly receive two really good public stations. I like to think of it as a sign of balance in the world.
There’s at least one really great coffee shop. Mead’s Corner, on Douglas in the heart of downtown Wichita, is a great, quiet place that serves PT’s Coffee and, amazingly, flat whites, both of which I’ve discussed here. It is usually packed with a fantastic assortment of Wichitans: people conducting business meetings in suits to dreadlocked musician-types in hand-knitted stocking caps.
There’s a bar that serves duck bacon as a garnish. The Monarch is my best bet for the category of “Wichita establishment that keeps on trend.” It has the vibe of a hipster hangout — light fixtures made of bike rims, shiny cement floors, menus in brown kraft folders, a dedicated bourbon list. They also serve a loaded sweet potato tot dish with plenty of cheddar cheese, lots of green onions, and DUCK BACON.
Loaded sweet potato tots. A twist on the new-ish pub-food standard of sweet potato fries.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of bacon (judge me now, or judge me later) but the chewy, slender planks of salted fowl are the perfect topping for the dish. And sweet potatoes are great no matter how they’re prepared. (Hat tip to good friend Amy for introducing us to this delicacy.)
More to come later. I’m just getting started.