David Lee said he thought briefly about looking for a new location after his restaurant, The Flame Broiler, was destroyed by the August 2017 tornado that caused considerable damage on 41st Street between Yale Avenue and Sheridan Road.
“I had been here five years, and most of my customers were from around here, so I decided to rebuild,” he said recently. “Maybe some day I will look for a second location in another part of town or in a nearby town, but I wanted to stay here with the original. This is home.”
Four businesses were destroyed, 10 were condemned and 129 damaged along the corridor of the EF2 tornado. Among those sustaining the most damage were The Flame Broiler, Top That! Pizza and TGI Fridays, all in the South Roads Village strip center; Panera Bread in Highland Plaza and Whataburger on the south side of 41st Street.
TGI Fridays is the only one that did not rebuild. Top That! Pizza, which specializes in custom-ordered personal pizzas, reopened last April and The Flame Broiler last July just a few steps down the sidewalk from each other.
“We didn’t know what would happen for a while between us, the landlord and the insurance companies, but I never gave up on the idea of coming back,” said Mukta Kishore, owner of Top That! Pizza. “It did take a long time.”
Lee, too, was surprised by the time it took to get back in business.
“I thought maybe it would take six months, but it took almost two full years,” he said. “There were a lot of delays.”
We recently went by The Flame Broiler for dinner. If you have much trouble making up your mind about what to order at The Flame Broiler, then you might have some personal issues. It is about as simple and uncomplicated as any eatery in town.
1. Choose the size you want — 3-ounce mini bowl, 5-ounce regular bowl or 7-ounce plate. In addition to the larger size, the plate also is served with a cabbage and carrot salad and a piece of fruit.
2. Choose the base — white or brown rice, veggies (steamed cabbage, carrots and broccoli), rice and veggies or cabbage and carrot salad.
3. Choose a protein — all-natural chicken, Angus beef, chicken and beef combo or organic tofu.
The bowls come out of the kitchen lickety-split. The customer then heads to the self-serve station where he or she can go wild with Magic sauce, hot sauce, double hot sauce, triple hot sauce, Magic salad dressing, soy sauce and jalapeno slices.
Many fans of The Flame Broiler love the Korean-inspired Magic sauce. It is a thick brown sauce that is more sweet than spicy (except for the hot and hotter, of course). It includes mirin, a type of rice wine similar to sake but with less alcohol and higher sugar, along with soy sauce, sugar and ginger.
The Magic dressing is made with vinegar, soybean oil, sesame oil, sugar and salt. It has a vinegary edge but not as much as a traditional vinaigrette.
All I can say is try them. If you like neither, there always is the soy sauce or no sauce at all.
Three ounces doesn’t sound like much, but we found the mini bowls enough for a light dinner. We ordered chicken with white rice and beef with veggies. The bowls may be topped with chopped green onion for free upon request, and a chunk of avocado can be added for $1.50. We did both.
We liked both dinners fine. The meats and veggies were tender and tasty. For a quick and relatively healthful lunch or dinner, The Flame Broiler is a good choice.
The mini bowls are less than $6, the regular bowls $7 to $8 and the plates $9 to $11. Lee said the regular bowls are by far the most popular selection.
Lee is a franchisee in The Flame Broiler chain, which counts more than 180 restaurants scattered across California, Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma. It was founded in Orange County, California, in 1995.
“I did not find out until later, but I had customers call and send letters to the corporation wanting me to reopen,” Lee said. “I have to give many thanks to my customers. I really appreciate them.”