If you like concept restaurants, you might find that Flat Top Grill piques your interest. This restaurant allows you to create your own stir-fry dish, and it’s pretty simple.
When seated, you write your name on the stick at your table, and then bring that and your bowl up to the counter where you can make your own stir-fry, aka you pick the portions, you can mix-and-match sauces if you so desire.
If a protein (say, chicken or pork) is desired, then you grab a few ladle-fulls of raw protein, some of which have been marinated, and put it in a separate bowl.
Some locations offer seasonal items to mix into your stir-fry, like asparagus and quinoa in the summer!
You can also choose side items or extra additions to your bowl, including tofu, eggs, cheese, shrimp, or their famous roti prata bread, which, by the way, is actually quite on-point.
Then you bring your bowl to the flat top grill that’s visible from the restaurant’s window and wait for them to bring your food to you!
I have little complaint about the food itself. Nothing was under-done or over-cooked. The prata bread was crispy yet chewy and I seemed to have added the perfect amount of sauce (3 ladles). If you want a more soupy consistency, add another scoop, but beware of all that sodium and sugar!
The red bowls are meant to increase appetite. Smart move, Flat Top. Maybe we’ll all upgrade to the buffet-style meal for $4.
A few setbacks:
I went with my parents on a Sunday evening. The wait for the food itself was around 30 minutes, though the restaurant was pretty busy, it being the night before move-in day. Seems to go against the concept of stir-fry, which is meant to be speedy quick.
It’s also quite loud. But you should expect this, as Flat Top is a popular go-to restaurant for Northwestern students. Make-your-own-anything is appealing, and when the meal at hand is stir-fry, you know the place will be filled with rowdy young people.
Don’t order any appetizers. Though they may taste good, they are so ridiculously overpriced that nothing is worth it. ($5 for 4 dumplings?!)
The whole ordeal seems like a disaster waiting to happen if you have severe allergies. Even though they attempt to prevent this issue by cooking your meal separately if you indicate you have allergies, it still seems very likely that their sauce bar could get messy, very quickly. Or the table that everyone’s bowls are placed upon could easily suffer a mix-up.
As it pertains to authenticity, Flat Top seems to take a fusion-like approach to Asian cuisine. Their website concedes that the strongest Asian influence is “Asian style” and “Asian-inspired”…
The final verdict: every Northwestern student should try this place out at least once in their time here. Go with a small group of people for the best experience, and go for lunch. The lunch option is $10 (limited time only!) on weekdays, while the dinner costs $13, which is nothing different. You might consider upgrading to unlimited food, but if you are strategic, you can fill your stomach up easily if you pack your bowl well enough.
Flat Top has multiple locations in Illinois, as well as in Indiana and Wisconsin.
707 Church Street
Evanston, IL 60201