I’m a pretty hands-on kind of guy. This is probably why I enjoy restaurants that involve me in the cooking process. Here are my 3 favorite places that require you to play with your food.

1) Mongolian Grills

The concept is simple. Prepare a bowl of Asian-inspired ingredients, then let a man with a sword cook it on a huge iron disk. What more could you want?

There are 2 fun parts to this. The first is stacking. The more chicken and snap peas you can stack, the more food you get for the price of your bowl. Part 2 involves sauce choosing. There are usually a dozen or more and you mix several in your bowl. This ensures you’ll almost never taste the same meal twice, which is good if you visit frequently.

I’m fond of the BD’s chain of mongolian grills, but there are many others around the U.S. (Just make sure the one you pick doesn’t put out frozen vegetables or you’ll end up with a weak, tasteless meal.)

2) Cook Your Own Steak

This may be my favorite restaurant in the country. It’s The Strip Club in San Diego, CA and they provide you with a grill right next to your table! They bring you a raw steak and you do the rest.

(I’ll warn you now that you have to be 21 to get into this place. The combination of live fire and a large collection of Alberto Vargas paintings is apparently too much for the teens in your life.)

Perhaps it’s just me, but the combination of fine dining and backyard grilling is one I can’t resist. I love this restaurant and highly recommend it. The side dishes are fantastic too. If you aren’t excited by these photos (and if you’re not a vegetarian) then there may be something wrong with you. (Click any photo twice to see it full screen.)

Unlike the other 2 restaurants on my list, this one is not a chain. I am unaware of other restaurants that let you cook a steak like this but I’m sure they must be out there. If anyone knows of one, I’d love to hear it. I don’t get out to San Diego very often.

3) The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is a chain of fondue restaurants where you cook and dip foods into a heated bowl right at your own table. Prepare some time for this one. Spending over 2 hours on dinner is not unusual.

The most common fear I hear from newcomers is “Well, what if I’m still hungry?”

Fear not! After dipping bread into cheese, meat into bouillon soup, and cheesecake into chocolate, you will be stuffed! And that’s just a fraction of the dipping items they’ll bring to your table. The Melting Pot is the kind of dinner you’ll want to skip lunch to prepare for.

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If you’ve never tried any of these I highly suggest trying them out. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play with your food!

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