Nu Way Cafe
7301 W. Central Ave.
By Matt Norris
One of the cool things about traveling this wonderful country of ours is experiencing those local culinary traditions that often give each region, state, or town its own uniqueness or fame.
There are so many local dishes and staples to enjoy all across America.
Lobster rolls in New England, jambalaya in New Orleans, Shoo-fly pie in Amish country.
But let’s just say some traditions stay local for a reason.
Like the loose meat sandwich of Nu Way Cafe in Wichita, Kansas.
For almost 100 years, Nu Way Cafe has been serving hungry diners a quirky twist on the traditional hamburger.
Instead of forming ground beef into a patty, Nu Way fries up crumbled ground beef and serves it “loose” on a standard bun with mustard, onions, and pickles.
It’s like a sloppy Joe. Only without the Joe. Or the sloppy.
And in order to get the full loose meat sandwich experience, you are really, really discouraged from deviating from the way it’s served up.
That means no lettuce, tomato, or ketchup. Not even a splash of hot sauce.
You cannot take away from the subtle flavor of the seasoned meat.
Emphasis on the subtle.
Nu Way’s loose meat sandwich tastes exactly like what it is—mustardy, oniony, boring ground beef on a bun.
Their homemade onion rings left me sad too. Thin and dry, they didn’t have the flavor or bite onion rings are supposed to have.
The only highlight of my meal was their Frito Pie—another culinary tradition of the Southwest.
But then again, how can a bag of Fritos smothered in chili and lava hot cheese be anything but good?
To drink, I ordered another Nu Way staple, their homemade root beer.
Served on draft in a big mug, this root beer tastes a little creamier than the high fructose corn syrup-laden stuff that comes in a can at your local convenience store.
I liked it enough, but frankly, I would’ve preferred a not root beer. If you know what I mean.
Maybe my problem is that I have too high an expectation for the mild-mannered tastes of the friendly Midwesterners.
Bland, crumbly ground beef, boring onion rings, and homemade root beer might get the folks in Wichita all excited, but I was glad to be moving on.
Fortunately for this proud traveler, I know there’s always a new place and another local culinary experience to move on to.
Rating: Would Wear a Free Shirt.