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Lunch With (Almost) Oprah! Flat Top Grill

After hosting a little breakfast for customers, we headed back down to chicago, proper, to grab some lunch. T decided to take us to Flat Top Grill, which happens to be smack dab across the street from Harpo Studios. I was sold! Flat Top Grill is a chain that is basically a create-your-own-stir-fry kind of joint (mongolian grill-like), only with tons more choices and options. Here’s what I ended up with at the ¬†end.

So you grab a bowl and fill it up with whatever you want. There’s rice and various noodles. There’s veggies up the wazoo. Then you sauce it up. They recommend you to put in 5 ladles of sauces. Not only are there asian sauces (teriyaki, sesame garlic, pad thai, etc.) there are indian sauces as well so you can really create whatever type of crazy stir-fry you want. Just make it up! Then you take a little bowl and put in your meat of choice. They have beef, chicken, etc, and even calamari.

Here’s where it starts getting interesting. Next, you start sticking these colored wands into your bowl of what you want. If you want your bowl made into a soup, stick that stick in. If you want lettuce wraps, then use the green stick. If you want mu-shu, which is basically an asian burrito, then the stick is clear. Adding tofu requires a stick. So does a shrimp skewer, which costs extra. Start sticking!

I went with rice noodles, a bunch of veggies, calamari, random sauces, and added sticks for eggs and roti prata bread. By the way, the roti prata bread is like beyond awesome. More on how awesome later.

Then they’ll throw your bowls on the grill, stir-fry it up for you, and then deliver your bowl to your table. Whee!

They also have some random other items on the menu that do not involve you creating your own edible masterpiece. We got this shrimp spring roll appetizer. It was pretty good, but you could tell it was made awhile back, as the rice wrapper had gotten hard. Hard and crunchy rice wrapper on a spring roll is not pleasant! But the innards were quite fine.

J was still sick, so he decided to get his creation made into a soup. Look how great that looks! It’s a great big noodley soup bowl. Yum!

So if you want, you can get a piece of the roti bread with your food. It’s really freakin good. So good that I asked them if they could make me a roti grilled cheese, and they totally did! Two pieces of this delicious roti with ooey gooey cheese in between. I was lovin it! My arteries probably were not, but who cares! This was a fun lunch. It’s great for those people who are extremely picky and want complete control of what is in their food.

Also, after the lunch, we walked across the street to see if we could sneak into Harpo Studios. Well, we ended up being in the audience for the Nate Berkus show! No sneaking was necessary! I mean, that wouldn’t have been possible anyway. The place is like fort knox. Oprah wasn’t at the studio that day, but heck, I was still in the very studio where she tapes! It was glorious!
Flat Top Grill on Urbanspoon

Bubba Gump’s Orlando

After the company event, we did need to have a proper dinner. So we walked over to the Bubba Gump at Universal CityWalk. Yes, it’s a chain. Yes, it’s based on Forrest Gump. Yes, it’s a tourist trap. It’s decorated with all types of Forrest Gump related kitsch, and they even play the movie on tv’s.

Some restaurants have a green side / red side system. Some have buzzers. Bubba Gump has these little “Run Forrest Run” and “Stop Forrest Stop” signs if you need to fetch a server for any reason. It works!

Ok, so there were a bunch of us there and we were still waiting for more, but didn’t want to wait. So we ordered up a bunch of appetizers. Shrimp cocktail! Who doesn’t love shrimp cocktail? Well, people that don’t like shrimp, I suppose. Boo to those people! Oh, and I had a strawberry lemonade, which was delicious!

A freakin tower of onion rings! Yes, I can see how this would definitely be fun, especially for kids. Lucky for Bubba Gump, they taste pretty good too! I like onion rings in general, but I prefer to eat the onion, with very little of the batter. But it was hard to remove the batter with these ones.

Cajun shrimp! These little suckers were sauteed in a spicy cajun butter sauce. These are deceptively spicy! They were very good.

This is a shrimp restaurant so we really did stick with shrimp dishes. We got 3/4 lb of the Shrimper’s Net Catch Garlic Spice peel-n-eat and another 3/4 lb in Cajun Spice. These were so good! If you don’t like peeling your own shrimp, then obviously, avoid these. But these were quite good. Both the garlic ones and the cajun ones were good. It was actually best to mix the two together. After everyone else showed up, we did also order the steamed shellfish, which was a mix of mix of steamed mussels, clams, snow crab, lobster claw, and shrimp. It was also served with jasmine rice, cole slaw, and garlic bread. I immediately absconded the rice and cole slaw. M was nice enough to peel me some random things and give them to me, so I didn’t even have to do any work! Thanks M!

So you know I avoid chains as much as possible. But there are times it’s unavoidable. I enjoyed my meal here, I know, it’s surprising. But it was fun. So now I know that I can always have Bubba Gump’s in my back pocket as a decent chain option. Thanks Forrest Thanks!
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co Restaurant & Market on Urbanspoon

Chickie’s & Pete’s

H/A wanted to go to Chickie’s & Pete’s to try the lobster cheesesteak. If you ask me to go here, I will. Not because I want to be in a giant warehouse full of drunken strangers with loud ass tv’s and terrible music. But I like the food here. It’s as simple as that. We were at the south philly one again. Man, is this place crowded on a weekend night. It’s maddening how crowded this place is. And even more crazy because of how humongous it is, and it’s still beyond packed! We had to wait about half an hour for a table. And even after we sat, we waited much longer to actually get waited on. Our waitress sucked. And she had a sucky ass sourpuss look on her face the whole time. Miserable much?
At least their food makes up for the waitress suckery. The infamous crab fries. Their fries are crunchy and not soggy or greasy at all. And their cheese sauce (who the hell knows what’s actually in this) is lovely and mild. It’s a nice contrast to the savory crab dusting.
R and her chowder. She always orders this, and she always barely eats any of it. But that’s fine, because H/A and I got to eat all the mussels and clams she ignored. It’s good soup folks, it’s good soup.
R and I got the king crab legs. That’s what you do when you come here.

There’s no dainty way to try to eat these. Don’t even try to not get dirty. Just go in full force with your hands and get to cracking. You’ll get the delicious red mess all over yourself. It will fly hither to and fro. But who cares, because you’re rewarded with zesty big pieces of succulent crab flesh. It’s worth the work.

And you’ll remember it for days because your hands will stink of crab. Their menu calls them “gloriously messy” and they are indeed.

So H/A came for the lobster cheesesteak, and that’s what he had. This is a cheesesteak, with lobster meat and the cheese sauce on top. Before it came out, we were debating amongst ourselves on how to dress this thing. What condiments do you use on a cheesesteak with lobster on it? Ketchup? Butter? Then R suggested cocktail sauce. Ooh, I liked the sound of that. But they didn’t bring any out, and we didn’t ask for any. So what is a lobster cheesesteak like? Well, it tastes just like a cheesesteak. And it’s a good cheesesteak. Even though you can clearly see the lobster, you can’t taste it at all. The taste of the lobster is clearly overshadowed by the meat. So while it’s a delicious cheesesteak, what’s the point of having lobster on it when you can’t taste the lobster? So you’re just paying for something that you can’t even notice. I say just get a regular cheesesteak here instead.
Chickie's & Pete's on Urbanspoon

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