Tonight, Ed and I ate a brand new restaurant in Mishawaka, Indiana called Flat Top Grill; a create-your-own stir fry restaurant. We didn't know it was new, we just happened upon it when we were heading over to Five Guys. Ed said, "Hey - wanna try this place?" Of course I said yes.
As soon as we sat down, we saw these bowls at each place setting. There is a pamphlet on the table instructing how to create your own stir fry and also instructions on the wall above the grill. They say the following:
1. Write your name on the wooden stick.
2. Grab a bowl caddy.
3. Top it off.
4. Choose a stick. (lettuce wrap, soups, roti bread, shrimp, egg, etc.)
5. We'll bring it to you.
Ed was immediately displeased. He hates to make his own food in a restaurant. He's okay with a buffet on occasion, but if we go to a nice restaurant and the only option for salad is a salad bar, he refuses to go up and get it. His thought is that if he's paying for a good meal, he doesn't want to have to make any part of it. He wants to be served. In the case of a steakhouse with a salad bar, because I know he likes salad, I will go get it for him.
But here? He was visibly uncomfortable. If you're a reader of my blog, you know that Ed never complains about anything, that's my job. But as we stood in line, he was muttering "I hate this." and "I really want to leave." I told him we couldn't leave, we already ordered drinks and an appetizer, and we were almost at the ingredients bar. So he gently stomped his foot and stayed in line with me. It cracks me up because this is a man who will eat a sandwich out of a vending machine, yet he won't stand in line to fill up his own stir fry bowl.
The choices were abundant when we get to the ingredient bar. First, you chose rice (white or brown) or lo mein noodles. Then, veggies (scallions, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, celery, red and green peppers, snow peas, etc.). After the veggies, you choose your sauce; they had at least fifteen sauces to choose from; hoison, korean bbq, garlic water, soy, etc.). Last, you choose your protein (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, tofu). The last stop are the "sticks"; each stick is a different color and coordinates with an ingredient or process; make it a lettuce wrap, a soup, add egg or shrimp, or serve it with Roti Prata bread, the blue stick. By the way, Roti Bread is the most delicious thing I think I've ever tasted.
You then place your bowls on the counter near the kitchen and they cook it on, you guessed it, a flat top grill. One they're done stir-frying everything, they bring it to your table, with your original wooden stick in it, identifying who it belongs to.
I thought the meal was pretty freakin' delicious. I made some great choices with my vegetables and didn't really know what I was doing with my sauce choices, but they turned out great. I think it was the extra garlic I added. Ed liked his meal too, but I don't think we'll be returning anytime soon since he practically broke out in hives having to endure the whole create-your-own-meal deal.
But that shouldn't stop you from trying it! There are other places like this across the country (we once went to a Mongolian BBQ in New York with my cousins that had the same set up), but if you want Flat Top Grill, they're located in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Don't forget to try the Roti bread!
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