Urban Hot Pot at the Mall in Columbia opens at noon today. Both indoor and outdoor seating will be available. The new restaurant was on the verge of opening in March before the pandemic hit. Now, 4 months later, opening day is finally here. Way back in late February, the owners of Urban Hot Pot were nice enough to invite me into their restaurant to answer some questions and let me snap some photos. So, at long last, I can publish my (now-updated) preview piece!
Urban Hot Pot offers an all-you-can eat selection of meats, seafood, noodles, vegetables, and sauces all served in a broth of your choice within your very own personal hotpot. It's a family-friendly, high-tech, dining experience that utilizes ipads, conveyor belts, and a working train to delivery an unlimited, fully customizable meal to your table.
The meat, veggie, noodle, and seafood options are immense with tons of choices in each category, and include many familiar items like sliced beef or chicken, potatoes, broccoli, and shrimp, though there are some more exotic options for adventurous eaters like cow throat, pork intestine, and fish tofu. Hey, it's all-you-can-eat, so you might as well try something new knowing you can just get something else if you don't like it, amirite? In addition to food, Urban Hot Pot will offer made-to-order bubble tea and milk tea.
There is an ipad at every table that you use to order. If you sit at the tables along a walls or windows, then a waiter will deliver your orders to you. But, if you sit at one of the tables in the center of the restaurant, you are right next to a conveyor belt with a rotating selection of commonly ordered items that you can simply grab to add to your hot pot. If you want something that isn't on the belt or one of the specialty items like crab legs or scallops (which are not included in the all-you-can-eat price), it will be delivered to your table from the kitchen via train. Yes, an actual large plastic train with cargo space for dishes that zips back and forth along a track between the kitchen and tables. Needless to say, Urban Hot Pot is going to be a massive hit with the children of Columbia.
Hot Pot can only be enjoyed while dining at the restaurant given the interactive all-you-can eat nature of the meal, but Urban Hot Pot has added a special Cajun seafood menu available for carry-out and delivery. This menu includes a selection of shrimp, clams, crawfish, crabs, mussels, and scallops with a variety of specialty sauces. You can order appetizers, fried seafood or chicken baskets, or soups from the to-go menu.
Urban Hot Cost costs $19/adult for a weekday lunch or $27/adult on weekends and for dinner. Kids under 10 eat for half the price of an adult. The restaurant will be open 12 PM - 9 PM Sunday through Thursday, and 12 PM to 10 PM on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are highly recommended for in-person dining due to space limitations and social distancing requirements put in place. Reservation information and online order information can be found on the restaurant's website.
Check out all the interior pictures (including train picture!) of the inside and menu below. Can you tell, I'm excited about the train!?