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[whitespace] Cheap Eats

By Jeff Kearns

Colonel Lee's Mongolian Barbecue
304 Castro St., Mountain View
Lunch 11am-2pm daily (except Thu), dinner 5-9.30pm daily

Tucked in--almost hidden--among all the Asian restaurants on Mountain View's Castro Street is one that's a perfect place to grab a quick, healthy lunch for cheap: Colonel Lee's Mongolian Barbecue. For the uninitiated, Mongolian barbecue works like this: fill your bowl with cold meat and vegetables, then give it to the guy at the big round grill. Less than a minute later, you're holding a steaming bowl of lunch.

Colonel Lee's, a less than flashy place, follows the same formula. Don't eat meat? Stick to noodles and veggies. You get a bowl, and you're welcome to fill it as much as you want. At the buffet-style bar next to the grill, there are frozen, thinly sliced strips of meat (steak, chicken, pork, lamb), plus plenty of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, celery) and, of course, noodles. Don't forget to ladle a couple spoonfuls of sauce on top (sweet and sour, curry, garlic and, for something spicier, chili).

The restaurant is an old-fashioned place that's refreshingly unadorned, harkening back to the Mountain View of a decade ago, when the Colonel's was founded by--that's right--a guy named Lee, who served as a colonel in the Taiwanese army. It's a reminder of the days Mountain Viewers remember, before the city fancied up downtown, when Castro Street was a noisy four-lane thoroughfare and Tap Plastics (next door) was packed with Lockheed engineers and Navy types. For just $6.95, you get a bowl and as many trips to the barbecue as you want, plus rice and soup. It goes well with a bottle of Tsingtao beer.

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From the June 20-26, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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