Recently called one of the best restaurants in Wichita, Kan., 37 West is the upscale employee restaurant on the Koch Industries campus. It opened two years ago when the company built a new building on the northwest side of campus, a quarter of a mile away from the main cafeteria, Café Koch.
The company needed a new dining option for that part of the campus, and they wanted to alleviate some of the long lines at Café Koch, which enjoys 80 percent participation for upwards of 3,500 employees. “We also wanted to make sure the new café was its own destination, not just a copy of Café Koch,” says Holly Whitmore, resident district manager with Eurest Dining, which manages Koch’s foodservice. “We wanted 37 West, named so because it’s on the west side of 37th street, to be really trendy, attract millennials and be inspired by California foodie culture.”
On 37 West's menu are soup, Nashville hot chicken and bibimbap.
The team even flew out to California to do research, eventually implementing details down to the kind of straw used in 37 West’s smoothies. They hired chef Bill Crites, who had been making waves in the Austin, Texas, and Wichita culinary scenes. Now, two years later, 37 West is undergoing a transition of its executive chef, but the food continues to expand its reputation among foodies.
Whitmore says the menu is driven by West Coast fare and emphasizes the story behind the food. Breakfast is served 7 to 9 a.m. with selections like breakfast tacos and buttermilk pancakes. Other fare is available through 5 p.m. The deli station serves corn and fennel bisque, curried tomato with garlic, three bean chicken chili, and other creatives soups made from scratch daily as well as sandwiches such as roast beef with crispy onion. There is a salad bar serving housemade dressings such as sherry Dijon and creamy dill, and an afternoon smoothie bar that only uses fresh fruit. Meanwhile an entrée station dishes out choice fare from seared salmon with herbed potatoes and burre rose to prosciutto wrapped chicken with couscous, dried fruit and nuts. Lastly, the grill station features more casual choices like pulled pork tortas and salmon burgers.
“Our signature 37 West burger with cheddar cheese and housemade bacon jam is very popular as is our Nashville hot chicken, a half hen braised in buttermilk, dropped briefly into hot oil to fry crisp, then coated with spicy blend of clarified butter, habanero and ghost chili powder as well as garlic and brown sugar,” says Whitmore. Another 37 West favorite is a bibimbap (Korean rice bowl) that can include an impressive variety of ingredients: kimchi, daikon, scallions, pickled cucumbers with chilies and radish, sesame carrots, miso-marinated cucumbers spiced with gochugaru, soy and butter-glazed shiitake mushrooms, spinach, sunny-side sesame egg, bulgogi (marinated slices of beef or pork), chicken and shiso (Japanese basil).
Koch Industries employees can opt to eat on 37 West's patio.
“We also started 37 street tacos on Friday that are hugely popular with lines out the door. The tortillas are made from scratch in house or by a local tortilla factory. We rotate two proteins every week with everything from lingua, fish and chicken, and we make our own habanero sauce that we call Instant Karma,” says Whitmore.
Whereas the main dining space, Café Koch, which was last renovated in 2012, is a large hall with seating for 576 and 10 food stations, 37 West seats just 92. “For this location, we wanted a modern, bright, light and clean feel with both indoor and outdoor seating for our employees,” says Tammie VanLeeuwen, managed services manager at Koch Business Solutions, adding that the company provides low-cost dining at campus locations as an employee benefit.
“With 37 West, Eurest has partnered with Koch to make sure we’re being thoughtful about what equipment we’re putting in, right down to the custom uniforms,” says Whitmore. “We built out the whole concept from the ground up. Being on the same page and having open communication has been huge to the success of this location.”