By Ken Locke
They had us at Dr. Pepper clocks.
I’m normally pretty “décor-challenged,” but even I got a rush of nostalgia this day; from the clocks, the western art, the Indian murals (Clearwater Indians, you know), the wagon wheel chandeliers, the wood paneling, the classic diner booths – in royal blue.
We wandered into an atmosphere that let us reminisce about the good times. We could breathe easier, somehow. Imagine stretching out your legs, crossing your hands behind your head, smiling at your companions, and having a fully crossed-out chore list. That’s what Walt’s felt like.
Walt’s in Clearwater is one of the original of what is now a chain of diners in the area surrounding and including Wichita. Walt’s is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (but open longer during their summer period). They are closed Sunday. Call them at 620-584-2727. The address is 800 E. Ross Street, Clearwater. Drive straight south on 135th Street West to Ross Street. It is on the northeast corner of that intersection.
We were excited to have a “guest eater” with us this day. Our great friend from North Carolina, Cindy, had flown out to visit for a few days. She agreed to come with us, both to try the legendary Walt’s Diner (her husband is named Walt – so she promised she could enjoy lunch on his behalf, too).
This Saturday lunch took place on one of our first crisp fall days, and the drive took us out of west Wichita, through fields, and back into the small town feel that we love. We stopped at the Public Library (just like last time) and had a good time looking through their used book cart.
The menu is on a large board posted high up on the wall. Burgers are one of the staples – and boy, are they great! You can order cheese, mushrooms, jalapenos, bacon, tomato, lettuce, or pickles in any combination for the burgers. Sides include onion rings (a “must-get”), fries, salads, or even fried okra. There is a range of sandwiches available, and dinners that include combinations of chicken, fish, shrimp, chili, and potatoes. There is a whole menu panel of Mexican food options. Their signature Mexican dish is the “Dossienda” – a fancy tostada-like dish, which is named after the owners. It’s a fun story; ask them for it when you go in.
They always have a special chalked on the “special board” when you walk in. The special this day was a Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburger (oh, yes, I ordered it; how could I not?). Once you’ve finished your meal, top the whole thing off with ice cream. They have a ton of ice cream options ranging from plain old vanilla to amazing concoctions with fudge, chocolate, nuts, and fruit.
“The food is perfectly seasoned, flavorful, and moist, but not greasy. Obviously fresh seasoning on the meat of the taco salad,” said Cindy, our guest. “Comfort food, but not heavy comfort food, if you know what I mean,” Angie agreed. My mouth was too full to do more than nod.
We appreciated talking with the three employees there. They happily described the dishes and what went into preparing them. Raelene Miller, Sharla Rose, and Courtney Dugan all stayed busy with orders both in person and over the phone. Still, they told us all about the place – especially the “flow” of the crowds coming in before and after school activities.
Angie took a bunch of pictures, which, somehow, is a very bonding and disarming activity, no matter where you go. Try it sometime. We say thanks to Walt’s (for being there and staying open) and to Raelene, Sharla, and Courtney for looking after us so well. When you go, tell ‘em “hi” from us.