Remember when Mongolian barbecue was going to be the Next Big Thing? Years ago, I was at a party when some pretty young thing raved about the company for which she was launching a PR campaign. A national chain (which I won’t mention) was intent on making its Mongolian barbecue the next Panda Express, and she boasted about all the outlets they would open in Southern California. I laughed and predicted failure. Mongolian barbecue is too simple a meal to exotify into a multimillion-dollar concept and too exotic a concept to attract yahoos, I argued. She didn’t give me her phone number, but I won: The company currently exists only in the Midwest and other fountains of ignorance.
Our relationship with Mongolian barbecue is unique—it’s not an industry upon which you can launch new fortunes, but it is one that can sustain you for years. OC’s reigning kings of the genre—Great Wall in La Habra, Costa Mesa’s Pan Asian, and Genghis Khan, just down the road from Cal State Fullerton—aren’t in danger of closing. Their clientele are loyal; they need no new customers. Similarly, MAD WOLF MONGOLIAN BBQ has been around for years, carving its little fiefdom in North Orange County. It’s not much different from its competitors, yet it warrants a trip for folks looking for meaty comfort.
You know the drill: pick a meat—beef, chicken, pork, turkey—and a waiter returns with a bowl of the frozen shavings of your choice (at dinner, you do the selection from a buffet). Go to a buffet, where you pile on veggies such as cabbage, green or white onions, and carrot slivers. Mix and match sauces—mild, hot, curry and more. Then hand it over to a cook, who stir-fries your creation on top of a massive cast-iron stone.
It’s impossible to find bad Mongolian barbecue, but Mad Wolf is particularly tasty—follow the instructions when it comes to applying sauces, and you can enjoy a meat experience ranging from gourmet to spicy to even sweet. Even better are the deals. A barbecue bowl during lunch comes with soup, rice, fried shrimp and an egg roll for $5.55 (before tax). The dinner prices increase only slighty. You can barely find a sandwich anymore that costs less than $7, for chrissakes. Mad Wolf’s might not be the most exciting meal and maybe can’t launch fortunes, but it’s delicious and comes with a side of hot mustard—and in these trying times, isn’t that the most we should ask for?
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Mad Wolf Mongolian BBQ, 4110 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 879-6651.