Stir-fry is one of my favorite food items to prepare, but I also really enjoy finding good restaurants that serve it as well. One of the things I enjoy most about restaurants such as Flattop, Mongolian Grille, or Stir Crazy is that you can choose a healthy and filling meal that won’t cost you a ton of calories or money.
301Mongolia is a brand new restaurant that opened on 301 North Neil Street a few weeks ago. Advertising itself as a ‘create your own bowl’ restaurant, it is located right in the middle of the downtown Champaign area (right next to Desthil and across the street from Kofusion). The restaurant is very similar to any other ‘create your own stir-fry’ restaurants. After putting your name on a card, you create your own stir-fry bowl (with various veggies, rice, noodles, and protein options) that the cooks sauté and bring out to you.
301 had the most vegetable and protein options that I have seen available at any ‘create your own stir-fry’ restaurants. They had all the basics (chicken, beef), plus many other options such as: salmon, lobster, shrimp, tofu and turkey. Although there were many protein and vegetables options, one thing the restaurant lacked was a variety of sauces. I was also disappointed that they didn’t have the nutritional information of the sauces available, like I have seen at other stir-fry eateries.
Another downfall of the menu was that there weren’t any dietary considerations listed on the actual menu (no gluten free, dairy free, or vegetarian). I asked about some gluten free options and our server told me that ten sauces were gluten free and four weren’t. I was excited that there was big variety of GF sauce options, but was also frustrated that I had to ask for this information. 301 also lacks an online menu, which makes it difficult to scout out the restaurant.
I got chicken and turkey with a big bowl of veggies, sans the rice. I topped my meal with garlic water, and a little bit of teriyaki. Not only was it a super healthy meal, but it also tasted delicious. I also added a bunch of seasoning for extra kick, but my meal here was better than the stir-fry dishes I have gotten at Flattop or Stir Crazy. The meat was tender and the vegetables were crisp, grilled to perfection. The meal was also very light and not overwhelmingly filling. The bowl size was about similar to the size at Flattop, which is a pretty hefty portion for lunch and dinner.
When we went for dinner, the prices were too steep for the average college student. The one-bowl options for dinner were $13.95, while the unlimited was $15.95 (The price at Flattop is $10.99 for a one-bowl dinner and $12.99 for unlimited, but these are the student discount prices). There was no student discount available, which made the prices way too high. Most of the other menu options (drinks, desserts, and appetizers) were anywhere from $3.00-$11.00, which wasn’t terrible. 301 Mongolia is more expensive than other stir-fry restaurants I have seen, but hopefully they will make a student discount available soon.
The restaurant was very spacious and inviting. The warm, red decorations made me feel comfortable at the table. The atmosphere was pretty laid back, which is a nice change from many other restaurants on or near campus. However, there wasn’t a ton of seating, which could mean that you may have to wait a while on Friday and Saturday nights.
I wasn’t impressed with the service. Not only did it take a long time for our meal to arrive, (there weren’t that many people in the restaurant) but our server struggled to check up on our table.
If you are looking for a new place to try off campus that is healthy and offers a relaxed ambiance, then 301Mongolia is your spot. But, if you are looking for a quick and cheap meal, this is not your ‘go to’ restaurant.