Our mom-and-kid team visits the Arena District's BD's Mongolian Barbecue.
The Mom Says:
The concept is simple and fun: You load up a bowl from a buffet of raw proteins like meat, seafood and tofu, and add veggies from the next bar. Then you fill a small ramekin with the sauce of your choice (I recommend using pieces of shredded carrot to dip into the sauces so you can taste-test them).
Finally you take everything over to a large, circular grill where machete-wielding grillers cook it up. (FYI: You are asked to self-identify if you're vegetarian or have food allergies; they also have gluten-free sauces.) The jovial grillers swinging their huge knives are a big part of the restaurant's schtick and, needless to say, kids love it.
I was more interested in figuring out if BD's Mongolian Barbecue is a good candidate for a somewhat nutritious family dinner before a Blue Jackets game. Bottom line: It's a fine alternative to an arena concession meal, but it's not an outstanding dining experience.
Our waiter was friendly, but he powered through his explanation of how one gathers a bowl of food at warp speed. The appetizer arrived late and we got white rice instead of the brown we ordered. And though it was early on a Sunday evening and the place was half full, the sauce bar was out of ramekins. One of the grillers ended up fetching some small plastic cups for the waiting customers.
All that said, it's still an entertaining way to get a meal, and not too expensive ($13 for an one-bowl dinner which includes tortilla wraps and rice, plus unlimited trips to the soup and salad bar).
Not knowing what the end result will taste like adds an element of fun, and I've found that kids tend to eat most of what they pick out, no matter how bizarre. I ate all of my strange mix of pork, pineapple, bean sprouts, mushrooms, onions, udon noodles and cilantro. (Don't be afraid to load up your bowl, because the food cooks down quite a bit.)
We also tried the potstickers appetizer (four for $6): They had a tasty and generous ground-pork and veggies filling, but the preparation was curious. They seemed to have been steamed first then baked, resulting in a puffy, fluffy potsticker.
I wish we had noticed the $2 mini-desserts before ordering the full-sized ones. However, the Mongolian Mud Pie ($6) that my husband and I shared was good but very rich, and our daughter slogged her way through a gooey ice-cream sundae ($4) with a mother lode of chocolate sauce on the bottom.
The bathrooms were large and modern; the women's side had a diaper-changing station, but the toilets on both sides (per my and my husband's inspections) needed a good cleaning and the paper-towel trash was overflowing.
I asked the host for his pre-game seating recommendations. He said that, for a 7 p.m. Blue Jackets game, BD's gets hopping around 5:30 p.m. They offer call-ahead seating; he said that will cut wait time down to 15 minutes for most people.
On this not overly busy Sunday evening, we were in and out within an hour. We also combined dinner with a movie at the nearby Arena Grand Theater. It's a good combo because you can get $1 parking through the theater, but no parking-rate reduction is available at BD's.
The Kid Says:
I liked that you get to watch your food being grilled. I thought it was really fun to pick out the meats and vegetables you want. I picked out shrimp and sausage with lettuce, udon noodles and basil. I thought it would taste good together and that experiment was a success.
I didn't get any spices or sauce because I'm not a big fan of sauces that much. I liked that you could put it in a tortilla. I thought the gong that they rang when you put a tip in the jar was funny but it definitely surprised me.
The dessert was great. I had the caramel apple cobbler ($4) except I didn't like the whipped cream, but that's just my opinion. The potstickers were delicious, especially the sauce. For a drink I got lemonade ($2.49 with free refills) and it was delicious.
I think the restaurant looked cool and casual. It had that historical side mixed in with a casual today kind of thing. I don't know what the girl getting escorted out of the restaurant by the paramedics was about, though. I was thinking maybe because of too many spices.
The bathrooms were very clean and organized. Of course they had music in them. The waiters and waitresses were very nice.
Next time I would definitely get the smaller dessert instead of the big one. I might switch it up with the meats and I might try a sauce or a spice.
I would say both genders would like it a lot because it's just a fun place to be at.