Kids’ Concoctions Are Kid-Approved

. August 10, 2012.


Big Buddha’s
Cast Iron Grill
6725 W. Central Ave. (at McCord Rd.)
Sun. – Thur. 11am-10pm
Fri. – Sat. 11am-11pm


We’ve all been there.  Polite children who gladly ate everything put in front of them become picky eaters who no longer like “mamma’s cookin.’” When venturing out to eat, at times my children refuse to step out of their “chicken nugget comfort zone.” But during a recent dinner out with my family, I became a true believer of the claim that children are more likely to eat food they helped prepare.

Keeping it simple

Before opening Big Buddha’s Cast Iron Grill in January, Toledoan Anthony Varwig and his business partners knew they wanted to keep things simple. Though the menu is simple, the possibilities are endless. “The beauty of this concept is that it can be as healthy as you want it to be,” said Mr. Varwig. You purchase a lunch bowl and unlimited salad bar for $7.99, or a dinner bowl and unlimited salad bar for $12.99 ($5.99 for kids). What goes in that bowl is solely up to you.   

If you are unfamiliar with Mongolian barbeque, it is basically stir-fried food, with the ingredients selected by the diner. The array of fresh ingredients at Big Buddha is almost overwhelming at first.  A staff member is nearby to answer any questions and to offer ideas or suggestions if you just can’t decide for yourself. They are adamant at Big Buddha’s that you start at the vegetables, work your way through the various meats, and end with the shellfish to avoid any cross contamination. Varwig said he regularly gets comments on the cleanliness and full food offerings at Big Buddha’s. “You have to be consistent, consistent, consistent with the food and  the service,” said Varwig.

When you have filled your bowl with all your favorites, hand it over to a sword-wielding cook to finish the process. You can choose to have your stir-fry served over pasta, white rice, brown rice, or in a tortilla. The food is placed on top of a giant, round, metal flat-top grill, and it’s quickly done cooking. They have a process in place for grilling for those with food allergies, and you may also choose to forgo making your own selections, choosing a predetermined combination of ingredients prepared for you. “We adapt every day to what customers want and need,” said Varwig,  pointing out that flexibility and adaptability is an advantage of being locally owned.

Endless possibilities

The open design of the restaurant made it easy to keep an eye on my youngest as he happily colored at the table while we prepared our bowls. The waitress even stopped by to give him Goldfish crackers while he waited.

Rarely getting hot dogs at home, my youngest was ecstatic to have the mini hot dogs from the kids’ menu. My older two were excited to try their culinary skills in making up their very own bowls. They enjoyed watching their bowls transform into masterpieces of their own design atop the 600 degree iron grill. When I initially glanced at my son’s bowl of red skin potatoes, shredded carrots, and pepperoni served without sauce over white rice, I was sure he would never eat it, let alone finish it.  And that was when I had my “ah-ha moment.” As I watched in disbelief, my son who designed his own dinner bowl ate every morsel. Children will indeed clean their plate when they had a hand in preparing the food served on it!   

If you like to experiment, the options are endless. My husband and I can’t wait to return and try something completely different.  I’m pondering a seafood stir-fry for next time.

Kids eat free on Monday

Kids’ meals for those 10 and under include applesauce and a drink for $5.99. If your young one isn’t a fan of stir fry, they also offer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, and mini hot dogs.

Big Buddha’s offers a variety of specials and entertainment during the week as well. My family stopped by on a Monday evening when one kid eats free off the children’s menu with each adult dinner bowl purchase. Our favorite magician, Andrew Martin, was also there from 6 to 8 pm, performing intriguing tableside magic and making delightful balloon creations. He left us shaking our heads and wondering “How’d he do that?” Monday night hasn’t been this fun in a long time.   

Bottom Line:  Big Buddha’s offers stir-fry like you’ve never had it before. Your kids will enjoy concocting their very own meal and so will you! Standard kid faves are still available for the less adventurous among us. Stop by on Mondays when kids eat free and Andrew Martin the magician is on hand to entertain.

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH.  She can be reached in c/o