We had many questions about Chubby Cattle, a Plano restaurant that boasts “conveyor belt-based hot pot.” How does conveyor belt hot pot work? Does the broth come in a little train tanker car? Do meat platters arrive in a cascade of tiny little dishes rolling along the belt? Is it true, as the website says, that the conveyor belt plays Star Wars music? How adorable is a chubby cow, anyway?
There was only one thing to do. On a recent weekend, I headed to Plano with some friends to find out everything we could about Chubby Cattle, which opened a year ago in a strip mall at Coit Road and Park Boulevard.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The “conveyor belt” part of the equation is a total non-factor. Neither hot pots of broth nor meats or veggies to dunk in them arrive via conveyor belt. The only things on the belt during our visit were a couple of sad-looking plates of buns and taro; the same neglected dishes came back around again and again.
“Receive food to your specific table via train system (that may or may not play Star Wars music),” Chubby Cattle’s website says. I’ll cut the suspense: It doesn’t play Star Wars music — or any other kind of music.
Now here’s the good news: The hot pot experience at Chubby Cattle is pretty terrific. Rather than sharing one big pot in the middle of the table, every guest gets their own smaller station. Bring friends and order different broth options: the “original” broth, a vegan-friendly version loaded with mushrooms, “hellishly hot” spicy broth or one loaded up with lip-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. I went with the Sichuan pot; my friends went with mushroom and “medium hellish.”
With a paper menu and a pen, we ordered a variety of meats, beef tendon meatballs, vegetables, premade dumplings and noodles. In order to ensure they cook in a boiling pot without falling apart, the dumplings are served just barely frozen. Pricing is reasonable, by the way: The pots themselves are only $5 or $6, with meat and veggie platters that get a lot more economical if you share with a bigger group. The $17 beef rib-eye and leg of lamb combo would knock one person out for the afternoon, but for our party of five, it was perfect.
My favorite combination proved to be $2 ramen noodles in the Sichuan broth — dunk a big tangle of noodles for a few seconds, then drop them in a bowl for gently spiced slurping. But I also liked the thicker, flavored noodles, including tomato noodles, which are served in an old-fashioned cornucopia bowl (get a combo of three varieties for $7).
It’s a fun hot pot experience, with a tremendous amount of variety on the menu. Although we rejected everything that came by on the conveyor belt, we did try one item that didn’t involve a hot pot. The grilled lamb skewers, $1.50 each, were gamy and redolent of charcoal and flame. Simple, but perfect.
Chubby Cattle, 2001 Coit Road, Plano