Restaurants & Bars


Wichita Trip: Sweet Basil, The Olive Tree


Live your best food life.

Sign up to discover your next favorite restaurant, recipe, or cookbook in the largest community of knowledgeable food enthusiasts.
Sign Up For Free
Restaurants & Bars 3

Wichita Trip: Sweet Basil, The Olive Tree

SmallCap | May 16, 2005 07:14 PM

I have not made the trip to Wichita in quite a while but spent a few days last week eating my way through town, so I thought I'd share a few updates.

Olive Tree Bistro continues to be good (no brainer, there!). I would consider it the most upscale place in Wichita, if not in atmosphere (Cibola ranks a close second on that one) then definitely in cuisine. They were serving mezzes (Mediterranean tapas) before tapas became all the rage, & they now have more of a Spanish influence than I recall years ago... prices are still, well, pricey. The wine list is pricey but large enough to find something reasonable, assuming you know how to look. Overall, if I were on an expense account or celebrating a special occasion, I'd end up here more times than not.

My other experience was not quite so positive, although that may be a preference issue -- Sweet Basil, which I understand to be somewhat of a Wichita institution. It felt that way, & not necessarily in a good way -- rather than just playing it straight as a "southern Italian" old-world type place (which it very much is, it just needed the red & white checked tablecloths!), they seem to be trying to pull off a more overall "fine dining" establishment & a romantic atmosphere. Neither of which quite work... it came off, instead, as a bit dingy & a little chintzy. Service was relatively unpolished. Food-wise -- our appetizers were all breaded & fried in exactly the same way, the wine list looked interesting but was actually out-of-stock for most bottles we chose, & the entrees were decent but nothing that sets Sweet Basil apart from anywhere else. More quantity than quality emphasis, here. Overall, a mediocre experience, although keep in mind I'm not a huge southern Italian fan -- quite frankly, their advertising is a bit misleading in that respect.

One parting word: I cannot say enough good things about the little Mediterranean kabob-style cafe on 21st Street that was once called Cafe Mediterranean... it's changed names since I was last there, & I can't recall the new name! Actually, it seemed to be the same place -- just with a nicer interior (i.e., suitable for dinner instead of just lunch) & an expanded menu. I'd already been in love with several of their chicken salads, & I tried their Lebanese beef kabobs the other day, which I now equally adore... their tabbouleh is good, their hummus is excellent... every dish containing lamb I've tried has been terrific. Service is quick & efficient. Their carryout lunch business looked brisk, & no wonder, with food/value/quantity as good as this!

That's my Wichita recap.

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound