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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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In Dining Blogs

If you don't like your lunch, it's your fault, since you're picking the ingredients, after all.

In Dining Blogs

The moo-shoo option wraps your Asian food up in less sloppy burritos.

Tosa's Flat Top set to stir up suburban dining scene


My business partner, Jeff, has been lobbying the Flat Top Grill franchise for years, in hopes that the restaurant would come to Milwaukee. The Chicago chain came close -- it's opening today in Wauwatosa at 2751 N. Mayfair Rd. -- but we nonetheless jumped on the chance to attend a media preview lunch on Friday.

The verdict? It was pretty good, and we all left stuffed beyond belief. The price for an unlimited stir-fry lunch is just $8.99, which is quite a bargain for that much food. And, if you like the concept of the "create your own stir-fry," a la the Mongolian barbecue, you won't be disappointed.

If you are, it's your fault, since you're picking the ingredients, after all.

In many ways, the Flat Top reminded me of Bayshore's BD's Mongolian Barbecue, with a few exceptions. The Flat Top is quite a bit smaller, cramped even, when it's crowded -- which I fully expect to be the case most of the time. Also, you don't stand around watching your food get cooked; it's brought to your table, which prolongs the process somewhat. And finally, you're left to make up your own recipe, although the waitstaff is nearby and eager to help out.

With an expansive selection of more than 25 sauces, veggies and meats (and lots of tofu and seitan choices, too), it's easy to go a little nuts. You can also request a moo shoo/Asian wrap or a piece of Indian roti bread on your plate.

On our pre-opening lunch, the dishes took quite a while to arrive, though in the restaurant's defense, the place was packed. The service, however, was astounding for a buffet restaurant. Our waitress not only carefully explained the concept, but refilled our drinks about a dozen times.

The restaurant has an upscale, but still "chainy" feel to it, much like a Chin's Asia Fresh or Noodles & Company, which isn't bad by any stretch -- though it doesn't feel like the original Chicago locations, Jeff tells me.

It's the kind of place that will do very well, given its location, and it's very possible to have a fresh, healthy meal that's completely different every time you visit. The four of us went back to the buffet twice, and we thorough enjoyed all eight of our dishes.

Honestly, if Flat Top put this restaurant Downtown, I'd visit regularly, though I don't think I'll drive out to Tosa just for lunch or dinner. When I'm at Mayfair, though, I'll stop back again, and the build-your-own breakfast looks intriguing.

Generally speaking, I don't go to restaurants to prepare my own food (I can do that at home). But Flat Top is a fresh look at a fun concept, and I'm happy it's come to town.


Talkbacks

mattie | May 11, 2009 at 9:14 a.m. (report)

Mongolian BBQ - used to love them - until I went in and tried to add green onions to my food only to find a flock of fruit flies living in the green onions. If that is happening I'm scared to see how they prep their food.

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Jamba Juice | March 2, 2009 at 3:35 p.m. (report)

Wife and i decided to give the place a shot since we live close by. Started off great, the selections were nice and staff was helpful in creating a dish/sauce blend. However i strongly encourage that even if you dont have an allergy you use the allergy stick. My wife does not eat red meat and got a chunk of my steak in her bowl and didnt discover it until it was too late. Honest mistake and easy to do when cooking on a large surface like they do. In my bowl i had a strange piece of plastic. Odd that it survived the cook top. The flat bread was GREAT. The manager was very apologetic and comped our whole meal, even though we didnt ask for it or cause much of a fuss. Both were simple mistakes and will give the place another chance once they have had time to work out the kinks.

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mitchgat | March 1, 2009 at 8:55 p.m. (report)

dvm: You're right...elitist isnt the proper term snob is. I DONT say that to be mean or snide, but that is exactly how you sound. That is your choice; just as its an individuals choice to frequent a chain or not. Obviously youre intelligent but I havent met anyone yet that has convinced me that chains are as evil as they seem to think they are. Nice try though. ; - )

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hotboys | Feb. 27, 2009 at 1:02 p.m. (report)

Thank you for posting this, mitchgat. I couldn't have said it any better!

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mitchgat | Feb. 27, 2009 at 9:29 a.m. (report)

dvm - Interesting perspective.... my responses below.... 1) There are some basic commodities that are traded (and have been traded) on major Commodity Exchanges all over the world for years. Soybeans, sugar, salt, wheat are some of the (food) big hitters. I don't understand your point that "chains make food supply and many other goods into commodities." They already are. What people and entities can't buy in bulk portions? Actually, MOST restaurants use big distributors to get their basic products. Restaurants certainly don't fail because they can't by in bulk; they usually fail because they don't have a sound business plan or, as we're seeing now, the economy takes a turn for the worse and causes them to fail. "Raising the prices of differentiated products disproportionately." How? Actually... huh? 2) That's the glass half empty approach. People who work in the local chain restaurants import their profits into the local economy in the form of buying goods and services from other local businesses. Furthermore, these chains DO pay taxes AND there are plenty of chains (Outback, Applebee's. Perkins and McDonald's just to name a few) that DO give back to the local community via a wide arrange of charity work. Just because you don't like chains, please don't assume that they don't do anything for the communities that they reside in. 3) C'mon, are you serious? MOST things are an attempt to capture a fad and then it runs it's course (fashion, music, art, literature, etc.). Chi Chi's went out of business (in the US) because the service and the food got bad, poor management AND because of a hepatitis A outbreak back in '03 or '04 that caused them to file bankruptcy, resulting from poor management and the resulting lawsuit from the hep outbreak. The Ground Round is still around... 3 in Wisconsin alone. 4) Now I do agree that when someone is in an exotic locale, you should try the local food. I do. BUT your first sentence, that to me is the beauty of a chain. As a parent, it was always nice to see an Applebee's or Ground Round. The familiarity is nice and I didn't have to guess if the food was going to be decent. It may be boring but familiarity, in this case, is comforting. 5) Really? I worked in a chain restaurant for 9 years. It helped me pay for my car, rent, college, etc. Generally, chains offer training, opportunities that allow you to move to different cities and advancement opportunities that you may not have in a local operation. Furthermore, McDonald's, arguably "the chain" that started it all, has SEVERAL "lifers" on their payrolls... "lifers", as in they started in High School, worked their way up and are still there. Nothing wrong with that. 6) Really? I would argue that generally the service is based on the management, not solely the individual waiting on you. Ergo, if the manager hasn't set good customer service expectations, the service (could) be potentially, equally crappy at Burger King as The Pasta Tree. 7) I can't argue with your last point... well stated actually. I HATE WalMart!!!!! The only thing I can say is that there are some good, quality chains out there that DO make an effort to offer healthy options.

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