This fast food can’t be ordered from a drive-through window, and it’s certainly much healthier than the grease-covered fare you’d get from most chain restaurants.
Tucked away in a strip mall near Bi-Lo off U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach is Empire Fire Mongolian Grill. The location is unassuming, but the décor and flavors will transport you to another part of the world.
The Mongolian grilling tradition dates back to ancient times, when Genghis Khan was expanding his empire. After a long day of battle, he and his warriors set up tents and then built a campfire on which they prepared dinner. Because they did not have cooking utensils, the men used their weapons to thinly slice meat. The food was then grilled on the warrior’s upturned shields, which were placed over the campfire.
Empire Fire Mongolian Grill’s cold bar features a wide selection of ingredients you can use to craft your original culinary creation. The meat and vegetables are uncooked at the buffet but will be cooked by the chefs at the grill.
Empire Fire has a large selection of sauces to add to your meal as well. Choose from Mongolian sauce, oyster sauce, ginger sauce, chili sauce, sugar water, garlic water, lemon water, oil or wine, or create a custom mix of your own.
On a recent visit, I piled up my dish with chicken, beef, sausage, shrimp, pineapple, broccoli, yellow squash and carrots. I let my chef blend all the sauces together for a unique Mongolian flavor. Even though there was a long line of diners in front of me at the grill, my meal was finished within minutes and cooked to perfection.
All meals are served with your choice of white or fried rice.
Even though the restaurant is buffet-style, the friendly wait staff is attentive to diners’ needs, stopping by often to clear plates and offer drink refills. The chefs do work quickly, but they serve with smiles and make sure you get the meal you prepared with a blend of sauces that is right for you.
By creating your dish yourself, you can tailor your meal to your own needs. Vegetarian? Simply omit meat. On a low-carb diet? Avoid those off-limit additions. If there’s something on the cold bar you don’t like, leave it out. You no longer have to leave scraps on your plate or pick through a dish to take out those ingredients you don’t enjoy eating.
In addition to dishes cooked on the Mongolian grill, Empire Fire offers a salad bar, pizza and appetizer bar, sushi bar, steak and rib bar, and desserts, including ice cream. It’s all included in the lunch or dinner meal price, and you can try as much as you like (or that your stomach can handle).
The sushi is divine and a great value, considering you’d pay around $6 for one roll at a sushi restaurant.
Tiramisu squares, cream puffs, carrot cake and brownies fill the dessert bar. Try a few treats at the end of your meal to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Since the restaurant is an all-you-can-eat buffet, diners can go back for more as many times as they’d like.
Lunch is $7.50 for adults and less than $5 for kids 12 and under. Dinner is $12 for adults and under $7 for kids 12 and under. Soft drinks, beer and wine cost an additional fee. Carry out orders are priced by weight with lunch at $5.15 a pound and dinner at $6.15 a pound.
Empire Fire Mongolian Grill is located at 4036 U.S. 17 South in North Myrtle Beach. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 843-663-3808 or visit empirefire.com.