Photo | Shane Rice
The idea of a “build your own meal” assembly line style of restaurant is by no means a new concept. We’ve spent decades eyeing green-shirted workers doing our bidding, towering veggies on sandwiches under our watchful eyes before wrapping them in paper clearly marked, “Subway.”
The benefit of this concept is that they can’t screw up your order if you’re standing there telling them what to add. Other than sandwiches, though, it took awhile for this to catch on.
We saw it work with Moe’s Southwest Grill. “Welcome to Moe’s!” they would shout, and in a minute you’d have a burrito the size of a half grown cat. That lasted us a while. I don’t know if Mobile is behind the times, but it wasn’t until the past year or so that the “better than fast food” assembly line-style of dining finally took off. Simple Greek landed us in pita heaven on Old Shell Road. MOD Pizza brought the concept to the pizza world at McGregor Avenue and Airport Boulevard. Now West Mobile has a chance to celebrate on-demand cooking with Flipped Out Kitchen.
On Airport near Schillinger, Flipped Out Kitchen, at its core, is a build your own bowl eatery. When I say bowl, I mean veggies and proteins over pasta or rice (or more veggies) tossed around in a skillet. That’s the flip part. It’s a family friendly affair with lots of options. Mid-diet, I knew I could find something that suited my restrictions, but for the sake of sampling more, I brought along my old friend T’carson. He’s a barrister of sorts who recently got on a health kick, and totally approved of our choice of restaurants.
The setup at Flipped Out Kitchen is a touch odd. You stand in front of a giant menu of cleverly named combinations put together by the staff. Then you turn to order and see another menu that shows your options for built-to-order bowls. Then you turn back to the first menu to make sure there isn’t anything that already meets your needs, then you ponder building your own bowl again.
It’s no big deal, but a little troubling when people are behind you in line. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the menu before you get there. Also keep in mind that if you’re in the mood for a drink, you won’t find it here.
I noticed they had a soup of the day. Broccoli and cheddar soup ($5.95 per bowl) seemed like a good way to start the evening. I’m pretty certain this is made fresh daily. Brightly colored soup cresting the generous bowl was topped with croutons, and although the flavor was there I must admit the broccoli was a bit underdone. In the end I found I prefer a little crunch of a floret over the usual mush you’d find in most restaurant soup pots.
T’carson and I were deserving of at least one appetizer. Basically what they offer are chips with flavored sour cream. I hadn’t had a chip in a month, so I was more than game. N’awlins Nice ($4.95) was the flavor we chose out of the three on the menu. It was fine, nothing too memorable, but also nothing for which I would detract points. I’d love to see this next to the Cajun Friends and Pork Belly flavors to see how much of a difference there is.
T’carson was feeling a love for Asian, so he ordered the South Pacific ($10.95) daring to add wasabi and Hot Asian sauce. They were out of wasabi, but were glad to add the Hot Asian sauce after warning him it was extremely hot. With a stir fried rice base, the yellow squash, yellow onions and mushrooms performed beautifully with his choice of sirloin over chicken. I was afforded a forkful or two, concurring with his assessment that it was indeed not very hot. Still, I say it’s a good dish.
I was doing my best to stick to my diet and ended up with a Low Carb Lean ($9.95) add shrimp ($2.00). Free from any rice or pasta, the carrots, bell peppers, yellow squash and mushrooms were filling on their own. I found the shrimp to be properly cooked and tasty. I think this is a pretty good option for those counting carbs, especially if you’re tired of bacon cheeseburgers without the buns.
Poor Katie was home on baby duty, so we had to bring her something. Seaside ($11.95) was as low, if not lower, carb than mine. Yellow squash, carrots, grape tomatoes, yellow onions, mushrooms and spinach were the bed for a well-cooked piece of salmon. The spinach really made this, almost as a binder for the loose vegetables. I think this was the better of the three entrees. I also got her a bottle of Big Easy Bucha ($4.95), a satsuma infused kombucha just to add to the hippie factor of it all.
What kind of review would this be without dessert? I had to break the diet a little by ordering a slice of carrot cake ($3.25). This seems like a fairly healthy place to dine, so I wasn’t sure how good they would be at sweets. The carrot cake here was spectacular. Moist, firm and two layered with super sweet icing, I really enjoyed this a couple of hours after dinner, and polished it off the next day. Turns out they do desserts pretty good for a build-a-bowl.
So here’s the skinny. It’s a bit of a drive for me, but West Mobilians should find this place to be refreshing. Any hiccups in our visit were small enough to be ignored. I say try it. T’carson and I were happy enough with our visit that, though we wouldn’t make a special trip out there, we would recommend it if you’re in the neighborhood.
I wouldn’t mind trying some of their pastas and sauces, plus I haven’t had the chance to build my own bowl. Maybe that’s your calling. Maybe you have the game changing idea. One thing is certain when building your own, whether it’s sandwiches, pizzas, Greek pitas or Mongolian grills, if you don’t like it then there’s only one person to blame.
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