Five to Try: Interactive Meals

Most of us love to get our hands dirty -- participate, get involved, jump right in -- even where food is concerned. Perhaps that explains our love of fajita builds, Bloody Mary bars, and all-you-eat buffets. Here are a few options for interactive meals around town: places that get you involved in the action. Got any favorites that we missed? Fill us in!

5. Meat Service at Nelore Churrascuria

There are various South American rotisseries around town, but our favorite is Nelore. Once seated, simply turn your place card to the green side, and knife-wielding, gaucho-clad servers converge, offering small cuts off various meat skewers for you to pick-and-choose what you'd like. Once you've had your fill of garlic beef, bottom sirloin, filet mignon, leg of lamb, and chicken hearts, flip your card back to the red side and take a break. It's not cheap, but as long as you don't fill up on the tantalizing salad bar or heaven-sent popovers, you can certainly get your money's worth in meat.

4. Japanese Teppanyaki at Benihana

OK, so maybe you haven't been to one of these kitsch places where dinner is theatrically prepared at a teppanyaki table in recent years, but that's ok. It hasn't changed a bit -- from the knife-twirling chefs to the exceptional fried rice. Even the number one menu item remains: Rocky's Choice, the steak and chicken mixed grill offering. Get yours with a side of Kirin Ichiban, the Japanese equivalent of a 40 oz. This probably won't be the dinner of your dreams, but it's still as entertaining as ever.

3. The Salad Bar at Central Market

We love places like Salata and Bowl, but sometimes the artist inside us yearns to make our own salads. That way we can stack up all the baby corn we like, and no one can judge us when we use iceberg lettuce, pile on extra beets, or sprinkle on that fake bacon at the end. The Central Market salad bar is the pinnacle, with dozens of toppings that are as fresh as sunshine itself, plus fabulous dressings to boot. Beware of those heavy hearts of palm, though -- salads are priced by weight.

2. Hot Pot at Sichuan Cuisine

At a basic level, hot pot is Chinese fondue. You order a hot pot of broth, which is kept simmering on your table, plus various meats and vegetables to cook inside. Hot pot is definitely a skill for multitaskers: order up a round of meats, fish, noodles, tofu, or vegetables -- and then perfect the craft of simmering your food while you try to maintain a conversation. No doubt you'll score the ideal cook time right as you run out of your favorite item. Blast! But hot pot is pretty easy on the wallet, so it won't cost you a fortune to order another round.

1. Fondue at The Melting Pot

The success of fondue restaurants is based on the ever important principle that you could cover crushed glass in melted cheese, and we'd tilt our heads back and beg for more. Fortunately, the array at The Melting Pot is much more civilized. The cheese fondue comes with breads and veggies, the broth fondue features fish and meats, and the chocolate fondue has a virtual rainbow of options. It's expensive, yes, but it's a full evening of feast, fun, and friends.

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Ruthie Johnson
Contact: Ruthie Johnson