Sports Burger, located on the east side of Hillside between Douglas and 1st Street may be one of the best-kept secrets in Wichita. Or it may not be a secret at all, judging by the long line of cars you’ll find waiting for the popular lunch spots at 11 a.m. opening.
It’s the kind of place you might have driven by and missed, or looked at and questioned. The restaurant is located in one of the city’s only remaining Valentine dinner’s. They are a prefab diner concept that originated in Kansas in the 1930s. They were constructed as eight-to-ten-seat diners that one or two people could operate. During their heyday, Valentines could be found along major highways to attract travelers, in industrial areas to attract workers, and in small towns where they might be one of the only (if not the only) restaurants available.
During the pandemic, Sports Burger began functioning as a drive-up operation.
"The valentine model really was one of our saving graces during the pandemic because we had already been doing it for so long that we already knew how to move people along, work with a small staff, and work to be as efficient as possible," said Kristel Collins, Sports Burger’s Chief Operating Officer and daughter of Sports Burger founders.
So what’s all the hype about? It’s definitely the restaurants always freshly made to order hamburgers. These aren’t manufactured, perfectly round, look-a-like burgers. All of their burgers are lovingly hand-prepped and grilled.
The bun's edges have a nice crisp, and the fries are cooked well and coated nicely with salt. They offer a wide variety of sides and toppings to go along with their great-tasting burgers. Grilled onions are a given on all burgers unless you request yours without them. Other burgers add ons include, jalapenos, bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
It’s the simplicity of the burger that makes it so good. You can tell you’re tasting real meat without a ton of additives. The affordable price is another attractor. At Sports Burger, you can get a ¼ pound cheeseburger, with a hefty-sized order of fries and a drink for just $5.49. You can get that combo with a ½ pound cheeseburger for just $6.89, making it one of the better value meals in Wichita.
In addition to its famous burgers, the menu includes a number of sandwiches including grilled cheese, polish sausage, chicken, and BLT. Also popular on the menu are the restaurant's hand-dipped onion rings. You can upgrade any basic order from fries to onion rings for just $.99 more.
"Sports Burger is one of my favorite places for lunch, you can taste how fresh their ingredients are, and although the line is long, they move people through pretty fast, so I don't mind the wait," said Shaquira Martin, a Sports Burger regular.
When you get to the front of the line, Martin says you’re always greeted with a smile and the employees are knowledgeable and attentive.
"We believe in customer service. That seems to be a lost art, and it's not actually the norm anymore, and now it's the exception," said Collins. "Sometimes people just need us to listen to them when they come through; they've already waited in line for our food, so we greet them with a smile and a kind word, which can go a long way."
For 20 plus years, Sports Burger has been locally-owned and operated by the Williams Family,
After Collins' father was laid off in 1998 from Raytheon Aircraft Company, he and his wife decided to take a leap of faith and open the family business. The two had an extensive history as cooks and wanted to provide great-tasting food without cutting corners like they saw their competition does.
Sports Burger's name comes from the family's long lineage of athletes. Collin's parents and siblings were all track, basketball, and baseball athletes; Collins herself ran track at Kansas State.
Sports Burger prides itself on being a Christian organization and believes its business has thrived because of God's unmerited favor upon them. Collins hopes that over time Sports Burger can develop a walk-up window system as well as a dining area outside for people to enjoy their food onsite.
Address: 134 N. Hillside, Wichita
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Closed on Sunday & Monday
Word of advice: Go after 2 p.m. when the lunch rush is over to avoid the lines.
To see more of Sports Burger click here: https://sites.google.com/view/sport-burger-drive-in/home?authuser=0