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.