When Flat Top Grill on campus closed last year, the number of stir fry restaurants in Champaign-Urbana, by my count, was reduced by 50 percent.
So when HuHot Mongolian Grill opened May 1 at 902 Meijer Drive (adjacent to AMC Champaign 13), it joined 301 Mongolia in downtown Champaign as the stir fry specialists.
HuHot is a national chain with restaurants in 17 states. It has lined up a primo location — does anyone not want to be on North Prospect? — and figures to get every opportunity to succeed.
Whether it will depends largely on your own tastes.
I’m no stir fry expert but I was a fan of Flat Top, which fit my needs well. I’m not one who mixes an exotic bowl of ingredients that’s piled 18 inches high. (My friend Bob would describe me as a “plain-a-tarian.”) So while I’m not a connoisseur, I can share some experiences during my visit a few days after HuHot’s opening.
HuHot generally runs like many stir fry places: You grab a bowl, fill it with meats, rice or noodles and/or veggies, drop it off with the chef and wait a few minutes for it to be prepared. At HuHot, the menu seems varied enough to satisfy many.
I chose the beef — a bit disappointing, and I’ll likely choose differently next time — but otherwise the food was fine. HuHot does not mix in the rice at the grill; it brings a bowl of rice to your table so you can add it yourself. The sauce I chose (one of the hottest on the menu) was good. And you’ll have no trouble with portions — HuHot allows unlimited trips.
What stood out the most was the service. Keeping in mind that I was there during opening week, when service no doubt received special emphasis from the management, my experience was exceptional. I spotted no less than 12 servers and five chefs during an early lunch period. No fewer than four people asked me how I was doing during my trip to and from the grill. A manager stopped at my table to inquire about my experience. He also mentioned that trips were unlimited. When I responded, “Oh, really?”, he apparently took that as a cue to immediately inform my server that she had failed to mention that fact to me. Moments later, the server was at my table, apologizing profusely for failing to bring that to my attention.
Hey, no biggie.
Whether the service remains so diligent as time goes by … we’ll see.
I finished my meal with the cheesecake rangoons — fine, but unremarkable — and sipped on my Coke (HuHot features Coke Freestyle; shouldn’t every Coke vendor have one of these by now?)
Weekday lunch is $9.99. Weekend and holiday lunch is $11.99. Dinner is $14.29 (featuring greater options for proteins, according to the website).
Have you been to HuHot? What do you think?