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PETE TITTL: Sold on sauce, spice of Teriyaki Madness

Regular readers of this column know how big a fan I am of Flame Broiler, a once small chain founded in 1984 that we first encountered in visits to Orange County. Thankfully, some smart entrepreneur brought the healthy-eating fast-food restaurant to Bakersfield and we visit their outlets around town regularly.

Founder Young Lee founded the chain in Orange County after graduating from UCLA and finding few restaurants serving healthy food. The chain has grown to 180 restaurants in California, Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma, with a simple menu of beef, chicken or tofu with or without rice and blanched vegetables.

Now the northeast has a similar chain restaurant, Teriyaki Madness, which opened near Lowe’s on Columbus Street, right next door to the busy new Dutch Bros. coffee place. I haven’t been to Dutch Bros. yet, but my companion looked up the menu online while we were dealing with our Madness up here and found it full of sugary coffee drinks. No wonder there’s a line at the drive-thru, even at night.

Teriyaki Madness has a founding story similar to Flame Broiler, originating in 2003 in Seattle, where this kind of food is pretty common. The Teriyaki Madness menu is more versatile than Flame Broiler, with spicy chicken and orange chicken as options as well as teriyaki salmon and chicken katsu, and appetizers such as chicken pot stickers, edamame, crab Rangoon and chicken egg rolls. They brag that the teriyaki sauce is house-made and the poultry is hand-trimmed and never frozen.

Like Flame Broiler, it has only limited seating and most get the food to go. If you order it on the app, you can get it delivered.

My companion selected the spicy chicken bowl ($10.99 for a large) and I chose the steak teriyaki ($12.49 for a large) and we also got pot stickers ($4.69) and two chicken egg rolls ($1.99 each).

By far the best item we sampled on the menu was the spicy chicken bowl, which in my view had the perfect kick, cut into these chunks tinged with red spicy sauce. The poster near the counter said it was addicting and I believe it. My companion thought it all too salty, but I did not agree.

The power bowl can be customized to include only the veggies, which is what she got, but you can also get it with white rice, brown rice or noodles, and even yakisoba style, with the protein, noodles and vegetables tossed together in a wok. Next time.

I was less impressed with my steak teriyaki, because the beef had a steamy sort of taste and texture and didn’t have the lively punch of the beef we’ve enjoyed at Flame Broiler. Perhaps I was put off by the vegetables being overcooked. Very limp, though I did like the variety (broccoli, onions, zucchini, cabbage, julienne carrot strips). The rice was perfect, and the whole bowl did taste better after being doused with that house-made sauce.

The pot stickers and egg rolls were a bit limp and not as impressive as the spicy chicken. In future visits we will be trying the chicken katsu and the teriyaki salmon, probably in a yakisoba-style bowl.

Food is made to order so be sure to bring your patience. Although dining indoors was allowed on the night we visited, it didn’t seem like anyone was planning to eat their meal there.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: @pftittl.