3ten shared this video of our renovation of our flagship Doo-Dah Diner in Downtown Wichita. Expected to reopen July 2019. 206 E Kellogg.
We were happy to hear our friends at ESPN love them some Doo-Dah Diner! Listen as Tom Crean shouts us out on ESPN!
Richard, Issue #9
The new east Doo-Dah Diner appears to be doing well. There is considerably more seating room, but it is still smart to call ahead to get your name on the list. You may not park any closer to the door, but there is plenty of parking space. The Counter is a bit cozier, but, along with good conversation, it still affords a front-row seat for observing the cooking. The window between The Counter and the kitchen has a distinct advantage over the old one. You can see the faces of the cooks, so it is no longer necessary to learn to recognize them by their arms. Nor do you have to wait until one leans forward to flash one of your beautiful smiles and say “Hi.” You can time it to when he or she is looking his or her busiest and needs a break.
The air force member on the counter stool to my right was flying back to San Jose, California that evening after spending the week working with a computer server at the air base. He showed me a picture of him and his wife and three children, who were, in chorus, savoring the word “cheese.” While I was thinking how lucky he was, he was bemoaning how unlucky it was that he had not discovered the Doo-Dah Diner earlier in the week.
He says his decisions in evaluating commercial buildings are subjective. That is how he makes his living. He came half way across the country to attend a property-tax convention. He was here three years ago for the same reason, and he was happy to have a chance to eat at the Doo-Dah Diner again. His subjectivity may be allowing him to eat, but it seems to me that it has a serious flaw. It takes me ten minutes to get to the Doo-Dah Diner, and I get to go almost every day.
He lives in Dallas, where he got his college degree in electrical engineering a couple of years ago. The FAA pays him to travel around the country helping airports to keep their electrical systems up to date. Before trying his first meal at the Doo-Dah Diner Counter, that was his main reason for being in Wichita for about six weeks.
The forty-year-old was driving from Chicago to her home in Las Vegas. Her brother lives in the Windy City, so she makes the trip quite often and brings in some money as an electrician while she is there. She enjoys taking different routes, and this was her first time at the Doo-Dah Diner. She plans to come this way more often. The food was good, and she was pleased when the waitress, realizing what had happened, offered to put her leftovers into boxes for later. We had a very enjoyable conversation, so when she said she hoped to see me next time she comes through, I gave her my email address. If you are there, I’ll introduce you. You will like her.
The young man was taking advantage of the opportunity to sit on the warm counter stool next to the kitchen before its disappearance during the remodeling. The Counter will stay, but the north end of it will make way for another passageway for the servers. After attending public school in Cunningham, which is 60 miles west of Wichita, he trained to become a fireman. A back injury ended that plan, so he went to Newman University and became a history teacher at a magnet school in Wichita. His fire-fighting education did not go to waste, however. He teaches a class in it at the school. As long as he moves around while he is standing, his back behaves itself. It complains if he sits too long. I later met a fire fighter at The Counter who said he worked with a former student of the teacher.
Smile, say “Good morning,” and start asking questions. You’ll be glad.
Richard, Issue 8
My niece and her cousin joined me for breakfast at The Doo-Dah Diner, where they experienced the pleasure of meeting some of the interesting people who find their way to The Counter. The endearing young couple next to us, who ordered Tanya’s Benny and Chicken and Waffles, were married one year ago at the ages of 31 and 28. That seems pretty young to be taking such a step, but they appeared to be mature for their age. He started life as an Okie, and she as a Texan. They have been living recently in Montana, where he was a fire fighter. She, after teaching seventh grade for a while, worked more recently as a nanny for the owners of the fire-fighting company. They had become acquainted with the Doo-Dah earlier when he was helping to build the Quik Trip on the other side of the freeway. When they are in Wichita, that is where they eat. Why look any further? The waitress remembered not only them, but what they liked to eat, as well. They were on their way to Stuart, Florida for a wedding. She was looking forward to the Florida sunshine after living in Montana. They own a sailboat in which they will live while they go on to Bermuda, and then south through the Caribbean Sea. They have adopted a life style of wandering wherever life takes them next. They live simply and work and save, when they must, to support it. They say it is not as expensive living on a boat as you might think. I don’t mind sharing my envy with you.
The man on my left was about to drive his rental car to the airport, where he would take off for his home in Indianapolis. He was here visiting relatives, one being a toddler whom he had addressed that morning by her first name followed by the syllables “Doo-Dah.” He is a Director of Christian Development in Asia, and he enjoys finding locally-owned restaurants when he is traveling. When his search on the internet found one named “Doo-Dah Diner,” it was like a divine message. Not only did he hit the jackpot, but he got the “Scrumptious Sunday Buffet” and a seat at The Counter to boot.
He came from Virginia to run in the Prairie Fire Marathon Race the next morning at 7:30, October 14. The timing was just right for having the extra fun of doing it in the rain which was forecast along with mid-forties temperatures. He planned to take advantage of a beautiful sunny afternoon for walking to shop for a poncho to wear before the race. He said he would not need it once he started running. When I suggested that he forget the whole thing and wait for nicer weather, he pointed out that he could not do that after traveling halfway across the country for the event. His goal is to run in every state of the union. His age is 37, and this is his 37th state. He must have started at a very early age. As a business consultant, he was going to make a trip to Dallas while he was in the vicinity. His college training was in engineering, and he is retired from the air force. He wolfed down a whole Triple D breakfast (half orders of Tanya’s Benny, Banana Bread French Toast, and Crispy Corned Beef Hash) plus a biscuit with sausage gravy, which gave him away at first glance as a likely first timer at the Doo-Dah Diner. That should have given him enough energy to participate in two or three marathons.
As she pointed out, when she heard that my birthday was coming up, she is exactly ½ century and ½ year younger than I. I can hardly wait for her to catch up. You would have fallen in love with her; I did. She plays cello in the Wichita Symphony. She makes the third Wichita Symphony cellist with whom I have become acquainted over the years. She says the symphony practices around 10 hours during the week preceding a concert. She teaches 30 cello students, mostly of middle and high school age. She has a couple younger and a couple older ones. She had a 15-year-old student who was accepted in the Wichita Symphony. She loves her work. She grew up in Montana and has lived in Wichita for about 14 years. She got her college education in Appleton, Wisconsin and Wichita State University. She sits at The Counter when she comes to the Doo-Dah Diner alone. How lucky I am that she does; she is a beautiful person and a delight to converse with.
Smile, say “Good morning,” and start asking questions. You’ll be glad.
Richard, Issue #7
It was about a year ago that the forty-year-old man scooted down from the other end of The Counter to comment on the first Counter Chat, which he had just read. Whatever he said must have been encouraging, because this is the seventh issue. It makes my day if I happen to see a grin break out on the face of someone reading one. I never did know quite what to call the blurbs until Timirie recently came up with “Counter Chats.” It seems to fit, and I like it. In the ensuing conversation he let it be known that he designed computer software for Wichita State University and for other contracted projects. He was considering giving up the university work, because he could earn considerably more money elsewhere, and he was concerned about preparing for a possible family and for retirement. For altruistic reasons, though, he really did not want to discontinue the work he was doing at the university. We talked until after closing time, and when we left, he took a spin around the parking lot on my 24-speed Terratrike. I thought he rode quite well for a youngster.
This was the third time at the Doo-Dah for the young fellow next to me. He was wearing one of those stylish baseball caps with the bill in the back. I wish they made them like that for older people, but I haven’t seen any. It would make it much easier to look up. He has been driving a delivery truck at night for six years for Casey’s General Store. Casey’s has four locations in Wichita and six in our suburbs. They tend to build stores in small towns. It may surprise you to learn that, nation-wide, they have about three times as many stores as there are Quik Trips. Along with gasoline and groceries, they specialize in selling pizza. My new friend was having the “bat out of hell” meat loaf, which he thought was even better than his former favorite in one of the more expensive restaurants on the east side. I was trying the chicken fried chicken, which was recently added to the menu. You will like it.
A couple of weeks later, I got a spot at The Counter next to the Kwik Shop District Manager for the state of Kansas. He verified the information about Casey’s in the preceding paragraph.
This was my second time for having the pleasure of chatting with the 62-year-old woman who is retired from 33 years as Postmaster of Colwich (a portmanteau [use the word three times and it’s yours] derived from the Colorado and Wichita Railroad). Centered around 53rd St. North and 167th St. West, Colwich is a Wichita suburb which covers about 1.31 square miles, has approximately 1310 residents, and is 131 years old. She has spent the past year working with her sister to sell homes. Her contacts are mainly people who know her.
I talked to a young fellow who was leaving for his home in Las Vegas the next day. He was here as a mechanic on the F-16 Falcon Fighters being flown in the air show. I heard two or three of the planes flying over my house later and wanted to run out to take a look, but my 87-year-old legs have retired from running, and F-16s, which can fly at twice the speed of sound, are unable to wait around for walking. They had to settle for being listened to, which worked out fine for everybody.
It was Tuesday. His two older sisters, ages 6 and 8, were in school. Their daddy, who loves to whistle at work and away, was working on the roof or siding of someone’s home. The 4-year-old and his mother were holding down the north end of The Doo-Dah Counter. He goes to pre-school three hours a day, so in order to be with him, she recently resigned from her job at Coleman, where she was involved in selling large amounts of products to Latin American countries. It was obvious that he came from a happy family. He brightened The Counter. You should have been there. When his two huge pancakes came, garnished with blueberries, his mother mentioned that blueberries, which he loves, were helpful with his asthma. Both his and her eyes lit up when the waitress brought him a cup of them. As you might guess, most of his breakfast went home with them in a supper box. His mother had figured out how, with little effort, to keep him happy for two or three more meals.
Richard, Issue #6
The Doo-Dah Counter is well made. If it is only half filled, with everyone sitting toward one end, it does not tilt. Baffling as this may be to anyone who has sat on a teeter-totter, it may be explained by the same magnetism that draws only interesting people to its stools. These interesting people, along with the famous Doo-Dah meals, are what make The Counter so special. To take advantage, just smile, say, “Good morning,” and start asking questions. You’ll be glad. So will they.
When I thought I heard a giggle from the man on my left, I checked, and, sure enough, there was a grin to go with it. It made my day. He was reading one of my Counter Chats. I learned that he was here from the Seattle area to coach a team made up of exceptional players from around the state of Washington. They were here to compete in the National Baseball Congress, which is located, for the 84th and last time, at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. He had requested fried onions on his bologna and egg sandwich. It brought back memories of his childhood, and you could tell by the look on his face that they were pleasant ones. He arranged to bring about ten more people with him to the Doo-Dah the next day.
I met a young man from Houston. He sells seismic data to gas and oil companies and comes to town three or four times a year. He has a son who is almost two years old and another baby on the way. He wishes he had brought his wife and son along on this trip before the boy reaches two years old and has to pay air fare. One of his customers is Murfin Drilling, Inc., the president of which I met at the Doo- Dah counter recently. I introduced that president to the teenager on my right who was in town from Kansas City for a baseball camp. While I leaned back out of their way, trying not to fall off the stool, the two of them had fun getting acquainted. (over)
The charming woman who was dodging my left elbow, as she plucked at her chicken-fried steak, manages three non-profit funds which award scholarships to top law students at Washburn, Notre Dame, and Kansas Universities. The purpose of the funds is to make it easier for graduates who would like to practice in the state of Kansas to do so. Thanks to the financial aid, they do not have to accept higher-paying work elsewhere in order to repay school loans. A recipient must have lived in Kansas ten years. This seems to be the criterion for having learned to enjoy the feel of the winds of the plains. She says the program has been quite successful, with 87% of the participants having settled here. You will not be surprised to hear that, after surveying restaurants within a 60-mile radius of Wichita, she declares the chicken-fried steak at the Doo-Dah Diner to be the best. The seasoning is just right, but the ratio of the breading to the meat was the cinching factor.
The person on my left owned a company which designs airplane interiors. On the right was a man who was in charge of fabricating Grasshopper Mowers. I didn’t know such a thing existed. They range in price from about 5,000 to 52,000 dollars.
The likable 30-year-old had tattoos even on his fingers. After having lived in Seattle, California, and Mexico, he now works at a health food store in Wichita, where he has family. He talked as if he had been through some hard times.
There are not as many birds as there used to be below the dam south of the Lincoln Street bridge on the river. That’s all right. It is worth the four-minute drive from the Doo-Dah Diner to observe even a few egrets, ducks, pigeons, gulls, geese, or maybe a blue heron or two, while listening to the roar of the waterfall. Drive south a half mile to Lincoln Street, head west a few blocks, turn south at the east end of the bridge, hook a right at the tracks, and you will find a place to park by the river. Next to the ramp on which kayaks and fish can change levels, there are two no-fishing signs which demark a favorite fishing area for both egrets and humans. If you are lucky, you may even get to count the cars on a train crossing the railroad bridge. It’s a relaxing spot to loll as dessert after savoring The Doo-Dah Counter.
Richard, Issue #5
The woman on my right showed some interest when I told her that I have the privilege of writing the diary which is spread around the Doo-Dah Counter. She writes about education for The Wichita Eagle. I mentioned the last item of the first issue, because it is about Matt Bogart, the star of Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Century II Concert Hall last year. He is back for Guys and Dolls this week (the end of June.) While she and I were conversing, Matt came up from his table to greet me. It was a pleasure to learn that he remembered me from last year. It was an even greater delight when he invited me to join him at The Counter for breakfast the next morning. Both the reporter and the server Laura, who drives The Doo-Dah Counter, took a picture of the two of us and sent me a copy. It was an unfair photo, because, although his face is that of a musical star, it is unable to boast the lines of maturity which mine has acquired in an additional 40 years. There was a rather long line waiting outside the door when The Diner opened Saturday morning at 8 o’clock, but seating was immediate for everyone.
We sat at The Counter where, thanks to my pokey eating habits, we got acquainted with two different young men who took turns sitting to my right. Both were here from faraway places on aircraft business, and both seemed to enjoy being a part of the conversation. I learned that, along with being a star on Broadway and off, Matt has participated in two dozen musicals in Wichita. In my ignorance, I did not know at first that Matt was a star on the stage. I took to him, as you would, because he is one of these people whom you cannot help but like.
The 28-year-old at The Counter works for Universal in Florida. He is in Wichita to coordinate with Chance Manufacturing on the creation of a ride to be used in a new amusement park in China. It is his job to see that the park gets built. He has previously lived in California and worked for Disney. When asked what kind of ride Chance was making, his only response was that it was “awesome.” He apparently wants to surprise us. (over)
The husky New Mexican who sported a big black cowboy hat, no longer rides bulls. That is for younger people whose bones knit more quickly. He owns and manages the bull-riding show which was to take place at the Intrust Bank Arena that evening. It has been seen in 32 states and in countries as far away as Brazil and Australia. He provides the bulls for the contestants. His North Carolinian lunch companion with the baseball cap is the announcer for the shows. Their Triple D fare, half orders of three of the most popular breakfast items, Banana Bread French Toast, Crispy Corned Beef Hash, and Tanya's Benny, plus a biscuit with sausage gravy, gave them away as probable first-timers at The Doo-Dah Counter. Their hotel had sent them there.
It was her second time at the Doo-Dah Diner Counter, and she was able to relish the second half of a breakfast burrito, but she had to ask for a to-go box for the first half. She will spend two more weeks in Wichita to complete residency in her family-medicine training, which has taken eleven years. She chose family practice because of the variety. Her plans are to specialize in hospitalized adult patients in Oklahoma City. Having been interested in artistic painting all her life, she made her first attempt at doing one herself last night. I was so impressed with the result, that she gave the picture to me. I felt quite honored. When I suggested that she might have to forget about being a doctor and become an artist, she explained how she could do both. As a doctor in a hospital, she will work just every other week. That gives her twenty-six weeks a year to paint if she wants to.
Have you ever had breakfast with the city manager of Wakeeney, Ks, population 1800? Well, I have. I timed it just right at The Doo-Dah Counter one day. He was eating a waffle with chicken and chocolate syrup. He came to Wichita with his wife, who, as a member of the Wakeeney school board, was attending a conference at Century II. He was looking forward to bringing her to the Doo-Dah buffet the next day. For 21 years he has enjoyed the variety of problems that present themselves to a city manager.
Smile, say, “Good morning,” and start asking questions. You’ll be glad.
Richard, Issue #4
The charming woman on my right was sitting at The Counter next to her son, who is in Wichita for four months as a TV cameraman. He lives in Los Angeles. She lives in North Carolina, where she is retired from teaching small homeless children. Since Wichita is only half as far as Los Angeles, she had to take the short hop to see her son. When you are driving an RV, you can not afford to pass up the savings on gasoline for 2500 miles. The man on my left moved four years ago from his native France to Harlem, where he teaches French. He is in Wichita as part of an extended tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. He is such a fan of the well-known American architect of the last century, that he gave the impression that that was the reason he moved to the USA. I introduced my three Counter companions, and I’m glad they enjoyed each other, but have you ever tried eating while leaning back on a backless stool so that the people on both sides of you can carry on a conversation?
The man at The Counter greeted me when I sat down between him and the couple on my left, with whom he was conversing. He asked my age, and I told him to guess. He politely guessed three years too low. Then he asked me to guess his age. Whatever age he was, he was slender and was holding it well. Thinking that he must be several years older than he looked, I guessed 72. He was 70. Aargh! Well, it was encouraging to see again that I am not too old to learn, or at least to be reminded to think before opening my mouth. His hometown is St. John, Ks., which is about half way between Pratt and Great Bend. He moved to the west side of Wichita in 1981, where he has been working as a financial adviser. This was his first time at the Doo-Dah, and he plans to come back. He brightened The Counter for those around him. The man on my left was also there for the first time, but the woman with him had been there a time or two before. His eyes lit up when I told him about the Sunday buffet.
Don’t you love it when you find someone who can bring out your best in a conversation? My sister-in-law in California, with whom I communicate by email, is one of those people. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will ever have the pleasure of running into her at the Doo-Dah Counter, so I gave her an imaginary invitation to the Sunday buffet. I suspect that she just cannot imagine how good that Doo-Dah pork belly is. She changed the subject after only a dozen ensuing short emails:
“Top of the morning to you! Looks as if Friday was a beautiful day in Wichita.” “Top o' the morning to you, too. Do you want to go to the Doo-Dah buffet this morning?” “Sure!” “How did you like the pork belly and grits?” “Awful, but coffee was good! 🤪” “You're joking, aren't you? I've never known anyone who tasted the pork belly at the Doo-Dah Diner and didn't like it.” “Now you do!!” “Could it possibly have been those good grits that you didn't like? Did you taste the pork belly separate from the grits?” “Yep - NASTY” “Everyone else with whom I have discussed the pork belly thinks it is TASTY. Was it the fat that bothered you, or did you actually not like the taste?” “Both! Btw have you tried it?” “Yes, I savor a slice from the buffet every Sunday. You would really like it if you really tried it. Just delete the word ‘belly’ from your mind and think ‘pork.’ ”
Richard, Issue #3
Beam one of your radiant smiles, say “Hi” to your neighbor, and start asking questions. You may never sit away from The Doo-Dah Counter again.
When the apparent 25-year-old boy on my right turned out to be 46, I began to wonder if my advanced age was making everyone else seem young. It was a relief when he informed me that his youthful looks fooled lots of people. He has worked the last couple of years at a plastics company which hires 300 people and makes hundreds of products. He is one of a dozen inspectors who check samples to make sure they are the correct size, shape, and quality. If you buy one of those samples, you should be reasonably sure of not having any problems with it. We were both glad that we had ordered the blackened-chicken hash special. He was looking forward to taking his full stomach home for a nap during the only half-day that he gets off work throughout the week. He is putting in almost as many hours as I do at my job, which I have thoroughly enjoyed for 24 years. I am a retiree.
The youngster on my left, who may have been as old as the one on my right, but didn’t seem like it, lives in Switzerland where, as a native, he has developed a cool accent. Have you noticed that Kansas is the only place in the world where most people do not speak with an accent? Although he is here for some training at Cessna this time, he accompanies aviation customers to Wichita several times a year. He likes the people here and at The Doo-Dah Counter, which he frequents whenever he has a chance. I had the good fortune of getting the stool next to his at The Counter again the next day. (over)
The young septuagenarian holding down the next stool at The Counter had done occasional accounting work over the years, but her main career was making a home for her family. When they moved to Wichita in 1980, they settled on the west side, because her husband had a job at Learjet. He works on the other side of town at Spirit now, but they are not moving. Their three grown children all live in the Wichita area, and they enjoy being able to visit their childhood home. Besides, how can they move without discarding the things which their children have left behind? And how can they throw those things away? This was her first meal at the Doo-Dah Diner. She tried coming once before on a Monday and learned that the Doo-Dah weekend fell on Monday and Tuesday. I was not that fast a learner. When I started, I came on both Monday and Tuesday before I wised up. I see that the Doo-Dah is open Tuesday through Sunday now. Hot diggity!
Many people from the downtown hotels wend their way to The Doo-Dah Counter. The woman from Atlanta was quick to smile and had a captivating aura which is difficult to acquire before the age of sixty. She was here to give one of the lectures on communication disorders which she provides to several universities. Her husband is retired and plays golf. They spend part of each week together.
Last year I sat next to a 35-year-old man with a large book of music spread in front of him. I asked if he was going to sing us a song, which got the conversation started. He turned out to be Lucas Meachem, who had come from New York to sing the title role of the William Tell Opera at Century II. Upon googling him later, I learned that he was singing lead roles not only around the country, but around the world. One article called him America’s best baritone. We got acquainted and ate together several times. When he learned that I was going to be out of town at a bridge tournament the night of the opera, he invited me to the dress rehearsal. It was quite an experience having the auditorium almost to myself. After the rehearsal, we made arrangements to have lunch at the Doo-Dah on his last day here. Karla Burns, a local singer who has also made a name for herself around the world, plays bridge at the Wichita Bridge Center where I play. I called and invited her to join us, thinking they would enjoy each other. They did. If you look for them on youtube.com, you will, too.
Richard, Issue #2
Your neighbors at The Doo-Dah Counter are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. Don’t miss the opportunity. Give them one of your beautiful smiles, along with a Good Morning or Hi or Howdy, and start asking questions. You will be glad you did, and it is almost certain that they will too. If, however, you happen to scare someone, and he bites you, call the server and ask to have his breakfast put on your bill. It will be far more effective (and safer) than biting him back.
When a 40-year-old woman sat down next to me the other day, I put on one of my prettiest smiles and greeted her with a Good Morning. Durned if her smile wasn’t even prettier than mine! If she hadn’t been so charming, it might have made me mad. With a degree in mathematics, she used to work in Finance at Learjet. She said she likes her current position as Dean of Academics at a local high school even better, because she can sing and dance without being deemed weird. I asked her what a Dean of Academics does. Her response was that she gets to tell the teachers what to do. That young woman got my day off to a beautiful start, and I think I made a difference in hers, too.
At a Sunday buffet, a father showed me a photo of his two children and confided that marital problems keep him from seeing them as often as he would like. He seemed more cheerful when he left The Doo-Dah Counter. Another man, a biomedical engineer, was accompanied at The Counter by one of his 12 children, ages 8-18, 9 of them adopted. Marital problems do not seem to be one of his options.
My home, which was built several years before WWI, was bought by my daddy during WWII. I learned long ago that its nocturnal creaks and knocks are just ghosts, so I normally ignore them. However, one recent night, when it sounded as if they were getting a head start on Halloween, I decided to do some checking. All I found was a deceased cricket stuck to a mouse glue trap. When my computer finally gave me permission to go to bed, I happened to glance at the thirteen-inch-high empty plastic waste basket in the bedroom. Upon picking it up to examine the dark gray spot in the bottom, I spied a pair of small eyes pleading with mine. It was then that I learned a fact that I thought might interest you. A mouse can jump surprisingly high, about nine or ten inches, but thirteen is beyond its capabilities. I dressed and carried the basket with leaping mouse to the street. The neighbor on the other side had a trash barrel on the curb ready for pickup, so I dumped it in with her trash and closed the lid. Hopefully, it was hauled to the landfill, but if it escaped, I felt reasonably safe that it would no longer be my house that served as its home. You may wonder what this has to do with The Doo-Dah Counter. Nothing, but aren’t you glad to learn how high a mouse can jump?