Timirie Shibley is a huge fan of her husband's cooking, but even she worries that he sometimes goes too far at the Doo-Dah Diner.
Take Patrick Shibley's chicken and waffles special: Two strips of hand-battered and fried chicken strips on a homemade waffle, topped with rich sausage gravy and a slice of maple bacon that's been dipped in dark chocolate.
After asking about a hundred customers their opinion, Timirie only found two that didn't heartily embrace the combination.
"His style of cooking has always been over the top," Timirie said. "It kind of blows people out of the water."
That's not just a proud wife talking. Since opening 15 months ago, the Shibleys have turned a former black hole of a restaurant space at the corner of Main and Kellogg into one of the city's most beloved eateries.
Big parties have been known to wait 45 minutes or longer for a table in the 60-seat restaurant. If there's been a complaint about the Doo-Dah, it's that it's difficult to get a seat.
In reality, Timirie said the full parking lot out front can be deceptive. Parties of one or two can usually be seated within five minutes, even on busy weekends. Significant weekday lunch and breakfast waits are unusual. There's additional parking behind the restaurant.
"I'd rather be a wanted quantity than have empty space," Patrick said. Adding more might well alter "the energy of the place."
That vibe was obvious even as business wound down a few minutes before the 2 p.m. closing time on a recent Saturday. Several big parties finished orders of fresh-baked biscuits and gravy, Banana Bread French Toast (a gluten-free offering) and corned beef hash, topped (among other things) with Patrick's signature green chili sauce. Somebody else ordered the Outside In Burger – nearly two thirds of a pound of beef stuffed with cheese and jalapeno bacon and served on a pretzel bun.
Timirie's daughter, Maci Morgan, 16, and several of her friends bussed tables (another daughter, 14-year-old Abbey, also works there). Her mother, Karen VanDam, emerged from a back room with silverware she'd rolled in napkins. Patrick, who'd started the day around 3 a.m. beating egg yolks to make hollandaise sauce, looked exhausted.
Timirie is the out-going half of the couple who handles the front of the house. She loves telling stories about the restaurant and how it's evolved during its relatively short life. "That's a popular seat for regulars," she said, pointing to two counter seats that overlook the kitchen. It was there that a diner custom-ordered the dish that eventually joined the menu as "The Brutus": A tower of hash browns, caramelized onions, chicken fried steak, sausage gravy and two eggs.
"We're a from-scratch kitchen, so we can make special orders," she said. "If it's good enough, we might put it on the menu and name it for you." On one wall is a shirt autographed by the English cast of "Batman Live." Many traveling theatrical casts make the diner, which is across from their hotel in the WaterWalk, a home away from home.
The redeemable "Doo-Dah Dollars" and caricature of the Shibleys that adorn their menu came courtesy of Bryan Pulliam, owner of Postal Presort and one of several downtown business people who've "adopted" the place, Timirie said.
The Doo-Dah is Timirie's first venture in the restaurant business after a lifetime in sales. "This is the easiest thing I've ever had to sell in my life," she said. "I've never sold anything with such instant gratification."
Patrick Shibley, on the other hand, is a restaurant lifer with a background at such fine dining establishments as Yia Yia's and the Gaslamp Grille. He's happily traded the late hours those places demand for the early hours that come with running a breakfast and lunch place where the attention to detail is different and yet much the same.
"It just comes down to if you serve good food, they'll come," he said.
Teachers and other employees of USD 259 get a 10-percent discount at the Doo-Dah Diner, thanks to part-owner Timirie Shibley's fondness for Wichita public schools.
"Seniors get a discount everywhere," Shibley explained of the unusual policy. "We tell seniors that we give teachers a discount, and we've never had a complaint."
Doo-Dah Diner | 206 E. Kellogg Ave. | doodahdiner.com | 316-265-7011 | Wed.–Fri. 7 a.m. — 2 p.m. & Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m. — 2 p.m.