Uptown Butte will soon have the sears and sizzles of a Mongolian Grill, where patrons pick out their own meats and vegetables and they’re cooked in the open in a few minutes.
Tom and Kristi Cronnelly’s OMG! Mongolian Grill is going in next to the M&M Café at 17 N. Main St. where Richards & Rochelle Men’s Store was located before closing several years ago. They’re shooting to open by April 1.
Why OMG as the name?
“I was telling people we wanted to open a Mongolian restaurant and they would say, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Tom Cronnelly said.
Tom grew up in Butte and moved back to town two years ago from Bigfork. He lived in the Seattle area for many years, where Mongolian Grills are popular and plentiful, and he thinks Butte will eat one up, too.
“It’s healthy, it's fast and it's fresh,” he said Tuesday, just before Butte’s Urban Revitalization Agency board gave the couple a $34,800 grant to help pay for needed upgrades, including plumbing and electrical work.
The Cronnellys thought about locating the restaurant on the Flat but decided on the Hill instead.
“The character of Butte is Uptown and the heart of Butte is Park and Main,” Tom told The Montana Standard during a quick tour of the place later Tuesday.
It’s mostly empty now but wall and interior frame work is being done toward the back, where a hallway and exit to the alley is needed to meet fire code.
The ceiling has been painted — China red, Tom said — and he’d eventually like to open up two former skylights. The building required all new plumbing and the electrical needs including the basics.
“I don’t know how they did it but there are no electrical outlets in that building,” Cronnelly told the URA board. He’s getting power through extension cords.
Mongolian grills are typically large, circular, solid-iron griddles with cooking temperatures up to 570 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw meats are sliced thin and those and vegetables are cooked quickly, retaining their color and shape.
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“This is a ‘You decide what you want to eat’ place,” Cronnelly said. “If you don’t want water chestnuts, you don’t have to get them.”
Cronnelly said his kitchen will be used mostly for slicing meats and cooking rice and soups. Most everything else will be cooked on the grill for anyone to see.
He plans to make the entry-way mostly glass so passers-by can see the food being cooked. The lunch crowd will get a bowl then head to a buffet to pick out chicken or beef plus vegetables, which will then be put on the grill.
They will only need about four minutes to cook.
If people want, they can take their meals to go so they can return to work or eat elsewhere, he said. He wants to create a patio area out front so folks can eat just outside during warmer months.
“We will be able to get people in and out quickly for lunch,” he said.
There will be wait staff during dinner hours and shrimp will be added to the choice of meats. He might seek a beer and wine license and if he gets one, serve a Chinese beer.
“I don’t want to be a bar,” he said. “We want it to be family friendly.”
URA grants only cover 25 percent of eligible costs. That means the $34,800 one awarded Tuesday is a quarter of $139,200 in repair and renovation costs eligible for grant assistance.
Cronnelly said the grant is less than 10 percent of what he’s spending on the project but it will be a big help. The proximity of NorthWestern Energy and the new parking garage should help with business, he said.
URA board member Bob Brown told Cronnelly that there are a few Asian restaurants in Butte but no Mongolian Grill and that makes him more hopeful it will be a success.