3700 E Douglas #78
Written by Britt Shoffner
Since the arrival of Dempsey's Pub, getting a parking spot in Clifton Square has been a tight squeeze. The vitality of new businesses have brought a crowd the area hasn't seen in years. You can find most anything one could be craving such as pizza, ice cream, and coffee. But the American classic is epitomized at Dempsey's: the Burger. Known for their high-line burgers, this little pub is one of a growing number of locations whose origins began in Lawrence, Kansas.
Fresh off their win in the "gourmet" and "inventive" categories at the ICT Burger Battle, the accolades have been piling alongside being voted the "Best Burger" by the Wichita Eagle's Readers' Choice Awards. Sebastian Gordon oversees daily operations of the restaurant and bar, while Dillon Narcisi takes the reign in the kitchen. With a young, fresher perspective and diverse talents, it's easy to see why things are always poppin' at the shop. Twelve craft beer taps, a porch deck patio, and a dinky kitchen grill line, Dempsey's is a seemingly unassuming neighborhood eatery.
See, I've been haunting Dempsey's for some time now, and it's clear to see why they are so successful. Dempsey's provides hand-crafted cocktails, a constant rotation of microbrews (some local, even), and a menu that can please even the pickiest of eaters. Burgers are the main draw for most, but some solid options exist to vegetarians and non-red meat eaters.
Chef Narcisi (who admittedly hates being called "Chef") keeps a close eye on his kitchen staff, making sure his crew is qualified to fire a patty to the correct temperature without flinching. In my experience, my burger has almost always been cooked to the correct specification asked, which is often medium rare. And for those who need clarification: medium rare is a hot red center, medium is a hot pink, and well done is a hot hockey puck. Choose wisely. If your burger doesn't come out to your specification, Chef Narcisi will make it right. And possibly ridicule the cook who made it wrong.
The fries are immaculately crispy and crunchy, and run very high in my rankings around town with a clear use of the double-fry method at play. I also love how they offer their fries with various seasonings, giving the customer the opportunity to play with burger/fry combos. I'm a personal fan of the "Fire Fries," which are doused in red chiles. Take your pick: duck fat fries, truffle fries, and queso fries; the options are unlimited.
Every week, Chef Narcisi comes up with a weekly special drawing inspiration from classic recipes to spotlighting trendy ingredients. Even the names can get creative. An example being the "Demigorgonzola," a blue cheese burger and a nod for fans of the Netflix series Stranger Things. To switch things up the special sometimes will be fried chicken as opposed to a burger, making it easy for regulars to try new creations frequently. The latest concoction is the Boneshaker Espresso Burger featuring a rub made from local coffee roaster, Reverie, and local greens from KanGrow.
I also need to mention the chocolate-caramel tart. If you can't take advice from a pastry chef/sugar fiend that this is one of the best housemade desserts you will come across in Wichita, then I can't help you. I've even written about it before, here.
With as busy as this place can be, make sure to make your next visit to Dempsey's without rush. I've had an overall positive experience when it comes to service as the entire staff is very young and fairly earnest. I've had occasions where it took no time to get a beer, order food quickly, pay the check, and head out the door. However, on other occasions I've been the last to be seated in the dining room for a dinner rush. Ultimately, that situation will always extend the amount of time spent here. I usually go to have a great time with friends, regardless if it takes half-an-hour to an hour-and-a-half to accomplish the same task.
What's clear is that Dempsey's gives off a sense of camaraderie the same as the spirit a futbol league may possess. Operations manager Sebastian Gordon, shares his secrets to their success: staying relevant to the community, being humble, care and thought in product and execution, and pride in staff. There is a family-friendly aspect as well. I love that I can take my whole clan there dog included! My 110-pound mutt loves a plain slider on the patio after a short walk from our house in College Hill. Even as the days grow colder, football games must be watched with a good brew and a great burger!
Learn more about Dempsey's Pub by visiting their website at dempseyswichita.com.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Britt Shoffner has helped many newer restaurants and bakeries find their footing with her expertise. Known as the "Avid Snacker" (@avidsnacker), she writes with an aim to highlight Wichita's food culture. Read more of Britt's writings on her blog, avidsnacker.wordpress.com.