When a restaurant sends you a coupon for a free meal, no matter what kind of food or if it’s a chain, you go. No questions asked. That’s how I ended up at FlatTop Grill in Lombard the other night. They send free birthday-meal coupons if you register, which is how my brother got one, and why I went with him for some stir-fry. (Plus, I really didn’t want a certain horrible dining experience to be my latest restaurant memory for too long. I’m nothing if not a try-again eater.)
FlatTop, if you’ve never heard of it, revolves around a concept that’s not especially new: essentially, it’s make-your-own stirfry, where you fill a bowl with your choice of veggies, sauces, meat and give it to the strong men around the grill, who fry it all up for you. It’s a lot like Mongolian Barbeque, if that’s more familiar, but with a few changes.
1) Stir-fry only.
Other menu options, beyond drinks, are just appetizers and desserts. So if you go to FlatTop, you’ll be eating from the create-your-own bar. At the Lombard location, for dinner, this means $12 or $13, depending on if you want seconds/thirds.
2) Go soup/salad, add bread?
The other big difference between FlatTop and Mongolian barbeque is in the additions FlatTop provides. At the end of the buffet, you pick from colored skewers labeled with extras: tofu, scallops, bread (pita). There are even options to turn your mixture into a soup or salad, as well as skewers to signify you have allergies and need your food far away from anything else on the grill. Though it’s not technically required, I’d say you really ought to get the roti prata bread. I loved watching the pitas heat up on the grill, puffing high into doughy, flavorful pillows. And the taste! Flaky, buttery, delicious.
While we were waiting to be seated, I had a clear view of the cooking process, so I watched to see a very organized system at work: bowls on counter, bowls dumped onto grill in rows with their corresponding bowls below, meat/veggie combos poured out, wait—begin with second batch of bowls on other side of grill counter. The guys knew exactly when to turn the pitas and the stir-fry, and they never—not once—burned themselves on the hot surface. That, I’m quite sure, is hard work.
Flat-Top Grill, Lombard
305 Yorktown Center
Lombard, IL 60148
Other locations here.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
6 thoughts on “Foodie Travels: Flat-Top Grill in Lombard, IL”
Oh how I love places like that. But I can never make up my mind on the meat and veggies, so I end up with this crazy hodgepodge of foods that my eyes love but my tummy doesn’t. Oh well. I’m sure I can grow up and make choices. It’s just so HARD!! 🙂 Glad you ventured out again. Conquer the food world again, my friend!
Is it weird that I kind of want one of those big flat top grills in my home? And not just like a small one. I want an entire counter that is just a big hot piece of metal. So I can realllly spread stuff out.
If I ever win one of those Ultimate Kitchen Renovations I will include that.
That photo is awesome.
MFK: Oh, trust me, I so understand. Decisions ARE hard! This time, I went with teriyaki sauce, right before seeing a sweet & sour that I think I’d have liked more. What are ya gonna do?
Nick: LOL. That’s awesome. It’d be crazy cool for big parties. I would be TERRIFIED of burning myself, though. OH. my. gosh. Those guys were amazing.
How does it compare to Stir Crazy?
I have to say, I’m kind of sad that there are Mongolian barbeque-esque chains now. I miss the little vinyl-booth hole in the wall place (Great Wall on Broadway in Vancouver!) that I used to go to when I was a kid. But yeah. So delicious. And the grill guy has the same mad skillz you talk about here.
Jennifer: SC has more options but less entertainment. All in all, I’d prefer SC (have you had their orange chicken? YUM), but FlatTop is fun to try.
Camille: I could not agree more. Mom-and-pop places are my favorite picks, no question.