The Best Hot Pot Restaurants In Chicago guide image

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The Best Hot Pot Restaurants In Chicago

Whether you want Chongqing-style spicy broth, all-you-can-eat hot pot, or skewers dunked in soup, check out these spots.

Cooking meat, vegetables, and tofu skin in a vat of boiling broth is undeniably fun, and luckily there are a lot of hot pot options in Chicago. We have large chains, and small family-owned spots. Some are all-you-can-eat, and others are perfect for when you want to spend a large amount of money on high-quality meat. Whether you’re interested in Chongqing-style spicy broth, Chengdu hot pot, or over-the-top places with robot servers that somehow manage to be cute, not creepy, check out one of these 10 places.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Qiao Lin Hotpot review image
8.1

Qiao Lin Hotpot

$$$$

2105 S Jefferson St Suite A, Chicago, IL 60616, Chicago
Earn 3X Points

We’re big fans of this hot pot spot on the border of Chinatown and Pilsen. For one thing, this restaurant in the 88 Marketplace building has tables designed for just two people, which is nice. And the menu has suggested cooking times, which is not only helpful, but can help avoid potential arguments about how long you should leave the fish balls in the spicy broth (five minutes, by the way). They have a robust condiment station, where you can mix your own hot pot sauce with ingredients like chili oil, garlic, vinegar, sesame paste, and more. Plus, you can order pots with either one, two, or three-way broth dividers, and they’re all delicious. Come here on a date or with a small group, and plan to try everything.

Liuyishou is one of the many Chinese hot pot chains that have opened in Chicago recently. What we really like about this particular spot is that their Chongqing soup base is very spicy—to the point where servers warn every table. They’re not exaggerating. The cute bear-shaped broth block that melts into the pot is foreshadowing. But the non-spicy broths, like the wild mushroom, are also flavorful. Our strategy is to get a two-flavor pot and take turns cooking in both. The large dining room is pretty minimal, with TVs and booths good for groups of all sizes.

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This is a futuristic hot pot restaurant in the South Loop. What makes The X Pot futuristic? Robot servers, along with elaborate light projections and thematic soundscapes. So yes, this place is a rather absurd production, but it's also fun and the hot pot is good. The pots are served individually (each seat has its own burner) and you get your choice of soup. We like the medium spicy Szechuan, which has a nice amount of spice and goes great with the wagyu ribeye, lamb shoulder, and ox aorta. While the robots might bring you your selection of ingredients, humans are on hand to take orders. And, presumably, to rescue you from the robots should they gain sentience and revolt.

Happy Lamb Hot Pot is a large restaurant whose hot pot is made with flavorful broths (get the combo of original and spicy Szechuan) and high-quality meat, seafood, and vegetables. You can go AYCE for $27, but we prefer ordering a la carte because the menu is longer. This place gets incredibly busy and only takes reservations for 10 or more, so you can expect a long wait. Luckily they have a self-serve ice cream machine and free bags of chips to help.

It’s been scientifically proven that things on a stick taste better, but the hot pot at Friend BBQ in Chinatown would be great even without the skewer. This small spot in Chinatown has a long menu of various items like fatty beef, lamb, and tendon that you order by the piece, then dunk into a vat of boiling broth. It’s reasonably priced enough that you can try lots of different pieces, and they stay open till 2am.

Known in other cities as Xiao Long Kan, Shoo Loong Kan is a popular, international hot pot chain. Like its other locations, Chicago's has an ornately designed dining room full of carved wooden paneling, red lanterns, and large stone tables perfect for groups. Each party can order up to three different broths, like mushroom, pork bone, and their spicy house chili that opens up sinuses even at the lowest spice level. Flavorwise, the broths are a bit mild, but develop more depth as ingredients like A5 wagyu, shrimp paste, and enoki mushrooms (all of which are ordered via iPad) are cooked in them. The dipping sauce station is an extra charge, but comes with appetizers like beef tripe in chili oil, and some refreshing fruit.

Lao Jiu Men has a relatively short menu, charges extra for dipping sauce, and has a two-broth maximum. But this place is great because (unlike the more popular spots where we can wait up to two hours) we’re seated here immediately. Their dining room is sleek, and decorated with carved wooden dividers, paper lanterns, and scroll artwork. The broths are flavorful, with classics like spicy Szechwan and harder-to-find options like fish maw with shredded chicken. And while they don’t have premium cuts like wagyu or kobe, the meat, seafood, and vegetables are still good quality. They also have an AYCE option—but you might be stuffing beancurd rolls in your pockets to try and avoid the 15% leftover charge.

Haidilao in the South Loop is a chain famous for its robot servers and noodle dancers. And while robots beep-booping around the dining room and servers whipping long, fresh noodles around the table are neat, they’re not the main reason you should come here. That would be the food, which is quite good. Haidilao has an extensive menu, with nine soup bases to choose from—and you can get up to four. There’s also a long list of options like shrimp paste stuffed with salted duck egg, omasum, boneless duck feet, and various other fun things that are begging to be dunked into boiling broth. Unsurprisingly, the condiment bar is equally robust. It has snacks like little fruit leathers that act as great palate cleansers between spicy bits. Also worth noting is that Haidilao accepts reservations, and will give you free soft serve at the end of your meal.

This is a family-owned hot pot spot in Pilsen, and it’s a relaxed alternative to Chicago’s big, crowded hot pot chains. YY is quiet, there’s never a wait, and the dipping sauce station is just a little cart in the back with peanut butter, garlic, chili oil, and vinegar. The menu is short and all-you-can-eat (AYCE) for $26.99. It doesn’t include any flashy ingredients, but what’s on it, like head-on shrimp and thinly sliced fatty lamb, is quality. The broths are flavorful, with your choice of up to two of either spicy marrow, original, or tomato. Plus, if you’re lucky, one of the owners will give you a nougat candy full of peanuts when you leave.

Mrs. Gu’s is a hot pot chain that’s been in China since the ‘80s and Chicago since 2020. The plot twist here is that all the ingredients are on skewers you grab from coolers in the back of the restaurant, which cost 45 cents a piece. They have five broths to choose from, and the best combo is the spicy and the original. While there are places with higher-quality ingredients and more interesting dipping stations, Mrs. Gu is useful if you’re looking for an affordable option. You can control how much you order (head to the back and grab a few more if you’re still hungry) and the server counts them up at the end of the meal. Plus, this place has a full bar and lots of TVs playing sports.

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