COLUMBUS — Yun Lee decided it was time for a culinary change in Columbus.

The owner of Golden Dragon Buffet closed her business and changed everything, from the interior design to the way food is prepared. She even changed the name.

Ninja Mongolian Grill opened Dec. 5, replacing the Chinese restaurant at 3015 23rd St.

The new eatery allows customers to choose from a variety of fresh foods on the buffet, which are then prepared on a grill by employees.

“I know there are a lot of fast-food places here, so I wanted to have something fresh, hot and healthy in town so people don’t have to go to Omaha or Lincoln in order to get it," Lee said.

While many things at the restaurant changed, some remain the same.

“Mom said she hears kids say there isn’t anything to eat in town,” said Lee's 15-year-old daughter Rachael Liu. "There is already a Chinese restaurant here, but this isn’t Chinese at all. We do have it on the menu because some people like to have it, but we can do so much more here.”

Customers have the option of creating their own dishes while picking from 12 different sauces to boost the flavor.

Although the restaurant is new for Lee, the business isn't.

“I’ve worked in the business for about 20 years, so I have seen a lot of different ways restaurants can be managed and cooking can be done," she said. "I used all that knowledge to get us where we are today."

What sets Ninja Mongolian Grill apart from other restaurants, Lee said, is it's a family-owned business, not part of a chain.

The name is also unique.

"I was watching TV with my sister one day and we were trying to figure out what to call this place,” Lee said. “Then this cute little ninja popped up in one of our Chinese movies. I thought ninja would be a good and different idea.”

So far, business has been steady at the new joint, which kept many of the regulars from Golden Dragon Buffet.

“We know almost all of our customers already,” Lee said. “After some time, we see their faces so often and they’re all such nice people. They just become family to us. It’s one of the things we love about Columbus — everyone is just so wonderful here.”

Ninja Mongolian Grill is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The business, which is closed on Mondays, can be reached at 402-563-2088.

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