Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bloomington/Normal Day 1: Flat Top

For work, I was sent to Bloomington with my family.  This meant that while my wife had meetings, I was allowed to take our two kids someplace and keep them busy.  The last time I had gone to Bloomington, was about last year or so for the same reasons.  Anyhow, on the first day, we were looking for dinner and decided to try out the restaurant right next door to our hotel, on Tonawanda Avenue.  The restaurant was called Destihl and we walked in, asked for a seat for 5 and then the hostess asked if we had a reservation.  I had said "no" and then she told me that they only take reservations and without a reservation it would be about an hour till we could have a table. 

A personal peeve of mine, is when a restaurant hostess or seater tells me that there is a wait and then you look around yourself and see 3 or 4 booths open that could sit 2-4 each, and a large table/booth against the wall that could seat 6.  We will call that table/booth combo "Spot A", because it will become important later on.  So, we left and walked just across the street to a place that looks like a steak house, called FlatTop.

FlatTop is an interesting place.  It is so interesting that it could work in other cities, like Saint Louis.  You walk in, get a table and then order.  Their special item is a food bowl, prepared on a giant flat top and then delivered to your table. 

So, what happens is that you grab a long wooden sign on a post and write your name on the sign.  Then you go up to the very large bar where they have all kinds of rices, noodles, vegetables and meats and pick your stuff that goes into your bowl.

Not only did they have everything labeled nicely, but behind this bar, on the wall, they had a whole sign describing the calories of each prepared item or sauce along with the spicy level.  So, you fill your bowl up and then take it to the bar surrounding the cooks.  There you can make any last minute changes, like turn your bowl into a soup or a salad.  Whichever change you make, you place a colored plastic stick into your food, so that the cooks know how you want it prepared.  So, they cook it, and get it to you just as you had ordered it.

I would give the place, atmosphere, food and everything else a 3 out of 5 stars.  The only issue we had with it was that since the flat top cooking area was a certain size and they have a lot of vegetables and things that appear to be raw, it takes a lot of time to get everything cooked.  Since it is the only cooking method of the food there, it is possible that you may have your bowl at the cook's bar, ready to be cooked, fr as much as 5-15 minutes before there is a space on the cook-top to cook it.  I went back for seconds after the first bowl was finished within 2-3 minutes.  The second bowl sat there, waiting and waiting and after it was delivered to me, the rest of my table had eaten and was ready to go. I would give the service as far as the cooking is concerned, maybe a 2 and 1/2 stars out of 5.  Someone has to know that this is a problem and they need to be thinking of solutions.

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