Hot pot experience
Boiling Avenue943 Howe Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
Boiling Avenue can be difficult to find on a cold, dark and stormy night (the perfect night for a hot pot), with its lack of lighted signs. Walking into the small restaurant, you might think you’re entering a trendy Instagrammable coffee shop: a gigantic mirror accessorized with photos of happy hot potters, a chalkboard ceiling and Picasso-like shelves cutely displaying its beer and wine selection.
On a Tuesday night, every table is taken with a big group celebrating a birthday, smaller families with infants or kids, businessmen, a pair of girlfriends and a few couples.
Boiling Avenue is a hot pot restaurant where patrons cook their own food in a communal boiling broth in the middle of the table. Normally with cook-it-yourself restaurants, it takes time to figure out the perfect amount of raw meat and veggies to put in the pot. It can be clumsy and laborious, but Boiling Avenue makes it easier by serving all of the ingredients inside the hot pot. It’s a fun performance when your server precariously tiptoes the bowl to your table and then lights the flame underneath.
Our server gave us his tips on how to order: The menu specifies the basic flavor, amount of spiciness and ingredients. You also can substitute anything out of the pot. He checked on us several times throughout our experience to fill our pot with more broth or hot sauce. Hot potting could be intimidating, but the service here makes it seamless.
The hot pots are generous and should be shared such as the House Special Hot Pot ($16.99), which has two pieces of several items, including beef, shrimp and fish balls. The broth is very flavorful: dark, pungent and robust. Boiling Avenue kicks up its soups with a habanero-based hot sauce that adds spice with a hint of smokiness.
The Korean Kimchi Hot Pot ($15.99) has a cioppino aroma with a gochujang-flavored broth. Delicious, but it does have its complications. It comes with an awkward, puck-sized corn on the cob that I chopsticked around. Also, it’s served with instant ramen, which overwhelms the dish. Eventually, it soaks up most of the broth and you’re left with a noodle plate.
The Popcorn Chicken small bites ($5.99) came out hot and fresh from the fryer. While they look and smell like fast-food popcorn chicken, they have their own unique explosion of flavor: on the salty side, jalapeño-spicy and with a garlicky bite.
Boiling Avenue is just small and homey enough for regulars to revisit. But it’s also well staffed to handle a full house without missing a beat. It’s unique enough to take your folks from out of town for experience dining, but relatable enough for the pickiest eaters. At the very least, it’s certainly worth trying at least once—especially on a cold, dark and stormy night.