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Fresh cut at Mantecas GK Mongolian Barbecue
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Brothers Guillermo and Christian Lopez, the chefs at the GK Mongolian Barbecue in Manteca, are shown at work during lunch hour. Food is cooked on the metal-top Mongolian stove. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The 209

“Eat your vegetables!” This is the message that greets diners at the door to the GK Mongolian Barbecue on South Main Street in Manteca.

The giant poster shows a cornucopia of vegetables – red, yellow and green bell peppers, lettuce, broccoli, sugar peas, garlic, cauliflower and others – looking so crisp and fresh they look like they are about to jump out of their one-dimensional photographic nest. The poster message further informs dining guests that all vegetables offered are “fresh-cut daily.”

The food is served smorgasbord-style, with a little twist. You don’t sit down and wait for your menu selection to be served to you already cooked. On the contrary, you personally select the fresh ingredients that you want to incorporate into your meal. These fresh ingredients are lined up at a counter, just like in a self-serve salad bar, where diners pick and choose the vegetables they want, packing up as much as you can pile into a white bowl. A selection of about a dozen sauces, including ginger and garlic, are likewise available to choose from, and you can season your vegetables to your taste, if you so desire. The restaurant does not use any MSG (monosodium glutamate), a food additive which causes allergic reaction to some people.

The main dining attraction at GK Mongolian Barbecue is the cooking process. After handing your bowl to a chef behind the counter, you can watch as your meal is cooked on a giant circular metal cook top called a Mongolian stove – hence, the name of the restaurant. The chef dumps everything you placed onto the cook top and cooks your food by using what looks like a giant chopstick. He stirs the food on the cook top with the chopsticks, walking around it while doing so.

While vegetables are the main ingredients offered, diners have the option of incorporating some meat into their meal. Thin slices of turkey, pork and beef are the choices offered. Fresh noodles are also included among the ingredient selections. Shrimp can also be added for $2.99.

Lunch costs $7.49, one serving only and does not include drinks. Dinner is all-you-can-eat at $9.75 per person ($8.45 for seniors 65 and older), drinks also excluded. In addition to soda, the restaurant has a selection of beer, juice, and wine (white and merlot).

Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 3.25 p.m. for lunch Monday to Thursday, and Friday and Saturday. Dinner Monday to Thursday is from 3:30 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday hours are noon to 3:25 p.m. for lunch, and 3:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner.

GK Mongolian Barbecue is located in the shopping center at the southwest corner of South Main Street and Mission Ridge Avenue in Manteca. It’s one of six barbecue restaurants owned and operated by GK Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., and More BBQ, Inc., since 1983. The branch in Manteca opened about two years ago. The others are located in Tracy, Modesto, Roseville, and Stockton with locations  at Grand Canal off March Lane, and on West Lane.

The Manteca restaurant is easily accessible from the Highway 120 Bypass.