Flat Top Grill (Restaurant, Multiple Locations)
312.829.4800, West Loop
312.787.7676, Old Town/Near North
Cuisine: Make-Your-Own Stir Fry
I love things born in Chicago that spread to the rest of the country, especially delicious things. Flat Top Grills can now be found in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, but they started their choose your own adventure right here in the Windy City in 1995. At Flat Top Grill, you are the head chef; you pick the ingredients and then the underpaid, but more talented, sous chef puts the dish together. I should say bowl, because that is the required portion size at Flat Top Grill. You get a bowl and fill it with whatever your heart, and mouth, desires. You get a base, either rice or noodles, add some veggies, choose from their dizzying array of sauces, and select a meat. Or two, and maybe a mix of sauces, because it’s your bowl, for chili’s sake, and no one will raise an eyebrow at your mixture. No matter how odd the combination of flavors in your bowl, there will be someone else in line concocting something twice as unusual.
At the end of the line there are colored sticks you can put into your bowl. These let the chef know a little something about you, such as particular allergies, or you would like a little something extra, like a skewer or shrimp, or their delicious naan flatbread as a topping. After handing over your bowl you are free to go back to your table and wait. Flat Top is perfect for parties or smaller gatherings of friends, as the server will bring your finished product directly to you. They do this by giving everyone a wooden post on which you write your name to be included in every bowl you make. You can use your own name, but this may be the perfect time to try out some of your alter egos who never see the light of day. I am known at Flat Top Grill as Seabass, pronounced SAY-bus, of course. Jackie and her aunt are regulars known as Thelma & Louise. As with the bowls, there will always be someone at the next table over with a moniker that puts yours to shame.
Flat top has four locations in Chicago and several in the outlying suburbs. There is also a user friendly website (www.flattopgrill.com) that contains all sorts of goodies. Some of these are more for entertainment, such as the virtual bowl maker, and others are quite helpful such as the nutritional facts and potential allergen lists. For those who don’t find animals delicious, there are plenty of ways to stay vegan at Flat Top. Their meats are optional, and the nutritional facts online list which of their sauces are vegan. Spoiler alert: nearly all of them. So everyone, have some Flat Top Grill. Vegans can get their veg on. Meat eaters will get their veg on, too, but in the sense of totally vegging out because they chose the as-many-bowls-as-you-can-eat-for-one-price option. I like to call it “All You Can Meat”.
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