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?
Wichita has some rich food history, with nationally recognized restaurants like Pizza Hut, White Castle and Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers being founded here.
To start off this Signature Dish Challenge, I decided to visit Hog Wild. Barbecue is popular in this town, Hog Wild boasts of having award winning barbecue and they serve up all the BBQ classics. But is BBQ worthy of Wichita's Signature Dish status?
I walked into Hog Wild at about 6:30pm. There were about 8 patrons and nobody at the counter so I was able to step right up and place my order.
ATTENDANT: "Welcome to Hog Wild."
ME: "Hi, what is your best seller?"
ATTENDANT: "Well that depends, I mean, it's all good, the ribs are good, the hotlinks are good, you can get a three meat dinner, a two meat dinner...."
Thinking she was either too new to know what the best seller was or, didn't care to know what the best seller was, I placed my order.
ME: "I'll take the three meat dinner, ribs, hotlinks and pulled pork."
Including sides of Mac & Cheese and corn, I paid $12.35 for my order and stepped aside to wait for my carry-out box. I didn't have to wait long at all, maybe a minute.
Along with the three meats and sides, the meal comes with two slices of Texas Toast. So how was the meal you ask?
A friend of mine once described Hog Wild as, "The McDonald's of BBQ."
He's absolutely right.
While I got my meal fast food fast, it's average BBQ. The ribs were OK, but definitely not "Wow" good. The key to ribs done well is how good they are without sauce. Hog Wild dresses the ribs with a bit of sauce before serving so I wasn't able to evaluate the ribs dry. I can tell you the ribs I got were overdone and they needed the sauce. The hot links were tasty with just the right amount of heat and the pulled pork was good, but there's a caveat to that, it's kind of hard to screw up pulled pork. Of the three meats, I enjoyed the hot links the best. Hog Wild's sauce is average, not award winning in my foodie book. In full disclosure, BBQ is a passion of mine, so much so that I got certified as a competition BBQ judge and became a member of the Kansas City BBQ Society and don't forget to check out my grilling blog, www.grillinggoodeats.com.
The true test of knowing if BBQ - ribs, hot links, pulled pork or otherwise - is the signature dish of Wichita, will be to evaluate the other BBQ joints in town in a broad comparison. I have a strong feeling there's a better representation of BBQ out there in town.
Hog Wild is indeed average when it comes to BBQ and gets 3 out of 5 Metro Pursuit stars. I don't do 1/2 stars and I rounded up.
The Hog Wild location visited is located at: 1200 S. Rock Rd., Wichita
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 a local, Kansas regional thing, 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.
Related: Hog Wild and their "Burnt Ends"