In many ways, the creation of the buffet has been a godsend for the modern American. Such a fast-paced society cannot abide long waits for slow-cooked cuisines, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to stand for mediocre sized portions. While Big Boy and Old Country Buffet used to corner the market on all-you-can-eat restaurants once upon a time, Ann Arbor’s Mongolian BBQ takes the reins this year, adding style and novelty to America’s time-honored custom.

Though the concept of a buffet sometimes carries with it stereotypes of day-old salads and strange cold cuts, Mongolian BBQ serves a wide array of vegetables, pastas and meats, all cooked to perfection right before your eyes. Many of the foods seem to be the same garden-variety products that appear in most restaurants, but it is the quantity of choices that make this place special. From chicken to sausage, shrimp to tofu, Mongolian caters to meat lovers, seafood buffs and vegetarians all in one table of ingredients.

Of course, the food would not be complete without a trip to the sauce and herb section. Mongolian’s plethora of flavors stems from this area alone. A ladle of wine and tomato oils makes an interesting Italian influenced meal; whereas, black bean and Mongolian’s signature BBQ sauces put a spicy kick into any mesh. A giant placard on the wall lists some ideas for those who are not brave enough to try their own mix yet.

Once the bowl is filled, the customer encounters one of the best aspects of Mongolian’s charm: the grillers. On a lively night, the “grill warriors lead will lead you into battle,” as their sign instructs. If they’re not singing along (usually off key) to whatever tune is on the radio, they’re chatting up the herd of people surrounding their grill station. They are usually more than willing to embarrass someone’s family member by belting out happy birthday sentiments, and they are always amusing to watch.

Because of its popularity, Mongolian BBQ has both pros and cons for large groups. The music and banter from other tables produces a relaxed atmosphere; there are no worries about having to tone it down. But, it’s typically packed at night, especially on the weekend, so bigger parties become harder to seat.

With desserts and drinks to match the variety inherent in the main course, Mongolian BBQ is one of the most well rounded restaurants in town.

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