Chao's Mongolian Grill – “Home Of The Empty Bowl”

Sunday, January 13, 2013 - by Willie Mae

It was suggested I try a restaurant on Brainerd Road called Chao's Mongolian Grill. Mongolian! I didn’t even know what that was! And with the name Chao's, I was sure that it had to be some sort of nightclub or lounge in a bad part of the neighborhood.

But no matter what my initial thoughts were, I was game. I knew there would be a story in that one somewhere!

It was in a great location close to the old Lanhams’ Bible Bookstore and easy to park. When I went in, it was bright and cheery and very clean. I was greeted, seated and given a menu.

I went at an odd time so it was not busy, but the few people there looked to be business executives and one artsy model-looking gentleman.

The kind girl pointed toward the bar and said I could help myself, but I had a menu and wanted to look at everything. I asked if I could order from the menu and she said I could. They had many things listed, but I would not have known what I was ordering and I wanted to see what was at the bar so I chose that. It wasn’t like the Chinese bars that have pans of all kinds of fried glop just sitting out.

The girl knew I was a beginner and instructed me to get a silver bowl for my meat and then I could add spices, vegetables and sauces. I thanked her, grabbed a bowl and went to the meat counter. The meat was raw.

No, I don’t mean sushi… it had raw chicken! Raw steak! Raw pork! Was I supposed to EAT that?! The girl saw me looking perplexed and she came to my rescue. She told me that the chef would ‘cook it up’ for me and I was to put whatever meat I wanted in the metal bowl. I liked the look of the shrimp. It was pure white. I chose fish with my shrimp.

I asked her (she was still standing there) if the calamari was imitation or real. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before. She said it was real calamari. It was shaped funny and also pure white. It actually looked fresh and nothing pickled, canned or fried so I was willing to try it.

Then I added my own spices. I chose a little garlic, red crushed pepper, black pepper and onion flakes. I asked if I needed to get another bowl for my vegetables and she said no… so I took my raw dish of meat to the vegetable counter and added broccoli, flat carrot pieces, water chestnuts, celery and  a lot of ‘pok choi’.

When she saw that I hadn’t added much meat, she told me to go back and get more. I only added a couple of veggies with the pok choi. I wondered what the price would be if she insisted I get my money’s worth. It was only $10 for the meal.

Next it was time for my sauce. My little friend was still standing by to walk me through. I needed the help.

She showed me the ‘taster spoons’ and said to try the sauces before choosing one. I must have looked confused because I paused. I was really thinking of how many people stick a taster spoon into the sauces and if they used the same spoon to taste other sauces. I guess after it heats up on the grill, any germs would be cooked if someone did!

The sweet girl grabbed the taster spoons for me. I was about to just pass on this part of the experiment, but then she brought one to my mouth and I quickly opened up my mouth and tried it! The Mongolian house sauce was first. It was good and I was ready to choose that one, but then she grabbed another spoon, dipped it in a sauce and continued to feed me like a baby!

I thought I would get tickled and spill it when she put it to my mouth, but I was too embarrassed and just tried to play it cool. I liked the Teriyaki sauce and told her I wanted that one. She heard me say that I liked ‘spicy’ so she suggested mixing it with some chili sauce.

I thought she had babysat me enough so I dipped the ladle into the sauce and put it in the sauce bowl they gave me. I ended up dipping out a sauce that I didn’t taste and she said, “That’s not the Teriyaki.” I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

She showed me that I chose the Bourbon sauce… if I had seen it, I might have just tasted that one… a few times!

She got me a fresh sauce bowl and dipped out the Teriyaki sauce for me. I had never felt so helpless, but she was sure to make my experience a good one. I would not leave there without knowing what to do next time!

I chose steamed rice to go with the meal that I put together and a man in the back cooked it up while I sat down.

I was brought a clear broth with ‘crunchies’. I didn’t like those cracker noodles in the broth so I just sipped my plain soup. After a little banging and clanging, my meal was brought to me in a big red bowl along with a bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. Perfect!

I always noticed whenever I am with my friend Lois and she likes something a lot, she makes yummy noises. I thought I was going to make them now! The flavors of fresh foods that I chose blended so nicely, and I think that is a lot of the appeal. You choose your own ingredients and ‘you’ are the chef! Willie Mae loves Mongolian now. You must try it!

I wanted to make my whole dining experience last, but all of a sudden I looked down at an empty bowl.


Rebecca Barron Named Executive Chef, Kenny Burnap Sous-Chef At St. John's Restaurant And Meeting Place

St John's Restaurant and Meeting Place announced today the appointment of Rebecca Barron as Executive Chef and Kenny Burnap as Sous-Chef. "Rebecca and Kenny have a combined 10 years experience in our kitchens, working as an integral part of the creative process at both St. John's and the Meeting Place," said St. John's owner Josh Carter. "As Chef Lindley gave up day to day ... (click for more)

Chef Daniel Lindley Sells Interest In St. John’s Restaurant And Meeting Place

St. John’s Restaurant and Meeting Place chef-owner Daniel Lindley has sold his majority interest to minority partner, Josh Carter, effective immediately. Chef Lindley began his work at St. John’s Restaurant two weeks before opening in September of 2000. As executive chef, he earned five semi-finalist nominations for Best Chef: Southeast from the James Beard Foundation. Meeting ... (click for more)

Catoosa Man Convicted Of Sexual Abuse Of 5 Young Girls Gets Life Plus 250 Years

A Catoosa County man convicted of the sexual abuse of five young girls and possession of child pornography has been sentenced to life plus 250 years. James Martin Ferris, 34, was found guilty after a recent trial. The day after his conviction, Judge Ralph Van Pelt set the sentence. Ferris on June 5, 2013, was indicted by the Catoosa County Grand Jury on 46 counts.   ... (click for more)

Rev. Jesse Jackson To Be Guest Speaker At City-Wide Peace And Love Rally On Friday

Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the speaker at the City Wide Peace and Love Rally at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 East ML King Blvd.,  on Friday, from 5:15-7 p.m. Rev. Jackson is the founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Cedric Pendleton, actor and humanitarian with Have and Have Nots/House of Payne/Fantasia Story, will be the special guest. (click for more)

Use The Current Rail System Already In Place - And Response

Why spend $20 million or more on an unproven system to run from the Southside of Chattanooga when we already have the beginnings of a system?  The question apparently has surfaced of why the Choo Choo City doesn't have a rail line. We do have a rail line with the Tennessee Valley RR Museum and their hardware. And they already make runs from the Southside to close to Enterprise ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UAW Voices In Detroit

Today we are going to eavesdrop on somewhat of an open conversation that was held far to the north after the United Auto Workers surprisingly dropped a legal challenge with the National Labor Relations Board in Chattanooga the first thing on Monday morning. The NLRB judge certified the VW workers’ February vote to turn away the UAW at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen manufacturing plant ... (click for more)