Food. It’s likely one of the main reasons you come and visit this blog. A place where you look to find opinions on different restaurants and businesses around town. Or a place you visit out of pure boredom since nothing interesting is going on in this world.
If it’s for former, you’ve come to read the right Q&A. There are three guys in Wichita who are also food bloggers. The restaurants they visit are more focused on one type of food genre: tacos. It’s highly likely there are more restaurants serving tacos than any other genre. I had the pleasure to interview the gentlemen who have been cranking out taco review after taco review.
They are Shon Chapman, Chris Kurth and Travis Hettenbach. They are the men who started Wichita Taco Tour at the beginning of 2017, a blog dedicated to visiting every taco establishment in town.
I’d like to welcome our latest guests to the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series!
|(from l to r) Travis Hettenbach, Chris Kurth, Shon Chapman|
Eddy: Welcome guys. Would you like to briefly tell us all a little about yourself? How did you all meet?
Travis Hettenbach: I was born and raised in Wichita. Graduated from Friends University and worked at Koch for about 14 years. Then went into business for myself and haven’t looked back. I grew up in my parent’s shop (Kay’s This N’ That) and I’m currently involved in their business on the social media, marketing, advertising, and whatever else I can do on the day-to-day operations as well. And in the meantime, I’m also running my real estate investment business and online sales and anything else I can get myself involved in.
Shon Chapman: I’m a taco eating, K-State loving, insurance agent with a wife and three kids who love ME but hate my sense of humor.
Travis: Shon is an insurance guy (don’t hold it against him – generally he’s a pretty good dude). Shon and I are close in age and figured out we have similar taste in music and similar kids ages, etc. Chris and I met when I was in the LED lighting business and involved in the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. We were in the same leads group together and he is a car guy too – so we quickly hit it off. Even though he’s a young turd, we found our taste in cool cars was similar. Since then we’ve all gotten to be fairly close and have a great friendship with plenty of ridicule and harassing. We’ve even ventured to Vegas together for a guys trip with another mutual friend.
Shon: I met Thing 1 (Chris) through some professional networking and a mutual friend. This same mutual friend introduced me to Thing 2 (Travis) about 3 years ago. We realized we all really enjoyed harassing another buddy David and a friendship was born.
Chris Kurth: I met Shon when he was my parents insurance agent. We did some business together and just became great friends. Travis and I met at a Chamber of Commerce leads group. We discovered that we knew quite a few of the same people now he won’t leave me alone. These two old men needed someone young around to keep them on their toes and provide entertainment, that’s where I come in. When I am not eating tacos, I spend my day at Scholfield Honda, assisting clients with new and pre-owned vehicles. Either that or I am at home with my wife and 2 little girls.
Eddy: So out of this friendship grew the Wichita Taco Tour. Be honest with me, who came up with the idea?
Shon: Who doesn’t like a good taco?!?! We started going to Joe’s in Old Town for their cheap Taco Tuesday special. One time over tacos Chris says “Hey, we should eat at every taco place in town.” Boom. Wichita Taco Tour.
Travis: I think this was born out us trying to get together about once a week for lunch together – just to catch up and see what was going on in each other’s lives. It seems like it originated over a plate of Tuesday Tacos at Joe’s Oldtown Bar & Grill. I’m thinking maybe Chris brought up the idea first and I suggested that if we’re going to do it, we need a blog/Facebook page to chronicle our adventure. Shon likes to eat, so we didn’t have to convince him of much either. Ultimately we all thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to run with it. I think it took a few “we ought to” lunches before we decided to officially kick if off at the start of the 2017.
Eddy: You guys may want to settle this origination debates over some tacos in the near future. On this Wichita Taco Tour which can be found at http://wichitatacotour.blogspot.com/, do you have a review system?
Chris: I rate them quite simply. I want them to be delicious, full of meat and good service.
Eddy: That’s fair enough and straight to the point. How many places have you reviewed thus far? Any idea of how many more you have planned?
Shon: So far we’ve hit 26 places, with #27 coming up this week. We started out by saying we were going to hit 52 places in 1 year. But now I’m thinking we’re just gonna keep going till we hit them all.
Travis: The list started by just jotting down as many places as we could think of at first. We definitely Googled a few places too – “best tacos in Wichita”. We had been to a number of places but we didn’t realize how many places you can get tacos in Wichita. Since we all suck at planning, basically we “discuss” a few days in advance what the plan is for that week – but ultimately our list is on our blog and I am responsible for keeping it up to date. We get recommendations from friends and from comments on the Facebook page from our followers – as well as other review sites and just random “hey I drove by this place, we should check it out”. The official list on the blog is not in any particular order – other than the places we’ve already visited are crossed out and in the order we went.
Eddy: If you’re going to do something, you might as well go big and all the way. I probably won’t stop until I’ve tried every restaurant at least once in Wichita.
So you have your restaurants and your system down. Like any food review, it really comes down to personal preference. How do you guys describe your perfect taco? What’s your meat of choice?
Chris: Taco meats vary drastically by place. For example, carnitas is not my favorite meat in a taco yet my favorite taco so far is the carnitas taco from Pollo Express.
Travis: This is definitely evolving – having grown up in West Wichita, I went to Taco Tico a lot when I was little and Chicos. I was a meat-only kind of kid. Taco Shop became a staple when I got a little older and if I’m being honest, I didn’t frequent the traditional places very often (mostly tex-mex). However, as I’ve branched out during this tour, I’m really enjoying the carnitas and al-pastor tacos and a really flavorful chicken tacos. I think my fave is probably carnitas – so I’m going with pork for my favorite meat.
Shon: Perfect taco….hmmmm…..steak. I like a little extra kick in my seasoning. Lime, cilantro. That’s all it takes if it’s done right. Needs to stay together in the shell and priced somewhere close to free.
Eddy: Any favorite restaurants so far in your travels?
Travis: Hands down, it’s Pollo Express. This one was a recommendation from a high school friend of mine. I hadn’t been there before and he commented on our Facebook list that it was one of his regular stops. Oddly, when we were headed there, I just had this really good feeling about it. Seriously, best #&!^! tacos in Wichita (and maybe the world). CARNITAS! The family that runs this is humble and very nice – we’ve spoken to them both on several occasions and it’s a pleasure to give them our business. Once we discovered it, I think all three of us have been back at least 5-6 times or more (and it was only a few weeks ago we discovered them). They also have great salsa (buy some to take home). Their food is CONSISTENTLY good too – like every time we go, it’s the same! I’m not a guy who’s quick to call someone “the best” either. Like I have very few lists in my life that I can tell you who/what holds the #1 spot on – this is an exception.
Chris: So far, my favorite taco selling establishments in this city are Pollo Express, Molinos and Uno Mas, the taco truck.
Shon: Pollo Express, Molino’s (downtown), Las Mananitas are my top three. My favorite tacos have been the Carnitas taco at Pollo Express, the Asada taco at Molino’s, and the chorizo taco at Las Manitas. Also love the barbacoa taco at Los Pinos.
Eddy: What’s interesting is Pollo Express was one of the most recommended restaurants when I asked for restaurant suggestions of places I’ve never reviewed. Two of my close friends swear by this place. I actually planned to go there last Sunday. Was on the road and then realized they were closed on Sundays. It’s in my top five places of restaurants to visit soon.
Being a blogger on the side, there are certain things I love doing about it. You guys started this Wichita Taco Tour back in January. What’s been your favorite part about this whole experience?
Chris: I have visited restaurants in the past 6 months that I have driven by for years without ever stopping. The tiny hole in the walls seem to have some fantastic tacos. There is a magical correlation between delicious tacos and red and green sauces being delivered before the tacos.
Travis: Honestly I’ve gotten closer to Chris and Shon through this – we’ve all enjoyed each other’s company and definitely strengthened our friendships. It’s been fun to see how their tastes differ from mine and how they don’t. We are also constantly harassing each other – usually Chris and Shon are late so I let them know, and I’m the oldest so they seem to think there’s something funny about that. (Shon is only a month younger, so don’t let him fool you). Chris likes to eat “kiddie tacos” – he’s always asking to take stuff off instead of just getting them the way the restaurant makes them. It’s all in good fun, but we definitely let each other know about it!
Eddy: That’s hilarious. I too have a friend named Chris who eats the kiddie food. Any restaurant we go to, it seems like it’s chicken strips for him.
This next question is a question I ask all of our guests. What are your three favorite restaurants in town? For the sake of this particular Q&A, let’s say outside of tacos.
Shon: Wasabi!! I love sushi, but Thing 1 and Thing 2 are pansies so I have to eat it with other, more mature people. When I’m in the mood for a good burger, I like to go to TJ’s Burger House. My buddy owns Two Brothers out west and I like to frequent the buffet for a quick, tasty lunch.
Travis: Honestly that’s tough for me because as I said above, I don’t have too many #1s. I like fast/cheap pizza from Cheezies – but I like Knollas, Il Vicino, and Picasso’s). I think a pizza tour would be a great idea. I really like BBQ, but I miss dry rub ribs from Red Hot & Blue (seriously the best). We may have to do a BBQ tour soon – I still bounce around on who I like the best around here. Burgers – definitely a fan of Five Guys but I do like gorging myself at Red Robin (and I miss the old Walt’s). If I’m up for a headache due to excessive noise, I enjoy Buffalo Wild Wings. I could probably tell you about 15 more, but you asked for 3 (and I gave you extras)!
Chris: I enjoy tacos a lot so generally, if we go out, it is for tacos or Mexican food. Texas Roadhouse is certainly a favorite as their ribeye is delicious. Bubbas 33 has fantastic chicken wings, pizza and stromboli. Yes, I realize that the first 2 restaurants I have listed are owned by the same company. The third is where this gets difficult. It is hard to choose between TJ’s Burger House and Pho MC. Hoda at TJs is a hoot but the fried rice from Pho MC is delicious.
Eddy: Well certainly appreciate the time guys. I commend you for what you’re doing. You’re taking this at a better pace than I probably would have. I did a burger list and cranked out 30 burgers in 3 months which was against my doctor’s orders. By the end of it I was burned out, except I’m not sure one could get burnt out by tacos.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Travis:I think we have some more ideas for additional tours. Pizza, BBQ, burgers, etc. I think they’re all candidates and I’m thinking we may continue this idea. It’s been a lot of fun so far so why stop? Wichita has a LOT to offer for food. I wouldn’t consider myself a “foodie” – I’m probably a little more picky than many (but not as picky as Chris). I’ve lived her my whole life but there are still a TON of places I haven’t been. I feel a little guilty about that, so doing a tour like this kind of forces me to venture outside of my comfort zone. It’s been really good though because I’ve already discovered a lot about traditional mexican food that I didn’t know. So, here’s to continuing that trend and learning more and expanding my “palate”.
Chris: If you ever need a taco recommendation OR a new car, just call me. I can help with both.
Shon: Ignore their responses. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Eddy: Thanks to Chris, Shon and Travis for joining Wichita By E.B. today. Maybe you will see a joint venture blog in the future!
Be sure to follow these guys on Facebook to stay up to date on their taco ventures or you can check out their blog directly at http://wichitatacotour.blogspot.com. I’ve been utilizing their list to help formulate future restaurants for me to visit.
It’s another great resource for foodies in town looking for restaurants they’ve never been to.
If you know of anybody that would be great as a guest of the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m looking for anybody who impacts Wichita in any sort of way whether they be business owners, restaurateurs, volunteers, whomever. Thank you!