KPot brings a unique dining experience and atmosphere to the UP Mall in Mishawaka

It took more than three years for University Park Mall to fill the space at The Villages lifestyle center that had been occupied by Bar Louie until its move to the nearby Grandview development.

But the mall seems to have hit a winner with the new KPot Korean BBQ and Hot Pot that recently opened after a lengthy renovation that required more or less a complete cleanup of the old restaurant space.

Among other things, the new restaurant required a wide hood and ventilation system in the 180-seat dining room, because all the cooking is done at the restaurant’s customers’ tables.

Local KPot is locally owned by four friends – Michelle and Jack Zhu, Jen Zang and Aaron Zheng – who wanted to bring the franchise to the region, especially since there are no traditional hot pot restaurants nearby and a small number of Korean BBQ restaurants .

Hot pot or BBQ lunches are $20.99 Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m., and $30.99 for all-you-can-eat dinners on nights and weekends. Prices are half off or more for children, depending on their age, and customers can opt to enjoy the hot pot and BBQ for an additional $5.

As orders are placed on tablets at the table, it may take a visit to understand how the new concept works, but staff are willing to help guide the uninitiated and will even cook meals at the table for first-timers. they don’t feel comfortable. idea, says Chris Mersch, regional manager for KPot.

“But most people like to cook their own food,” says Mersch. “It’s kind of a social activity.”

Those who choose a hot pot have a variety of broth bases to choose from and can then add whatever meat, seafood, tofu, vegetables and noodles they want to cook in a cool-to-the-touch induction pot at any location.

Those who choose BBQ choose from a wide variety of proteins and vegetables, which are then cooked on a hot electric grill in the center of the table. A handy chart on each table shows how long each item should be cooked.

There’s also a sauce bar where diners can choose what they want for dipping or build to order.

About the only restriction at KPot is that at least one person at each party must be 21, Mersch says, adding that there is no limit on how much a person can eat, but there is a two-hour time limit in the restaurant. . .

There are also no leftover containers, which means you only cook what you can eat, and management can impose a penalty on those who unnecessarily waste food – in other words, cooking far more than they can eat .

KPot opened in 2017, and the Mishawaka restaurant is its 66th location, but its first in Indiana with additional locations opening soon in Merrillville and Lafayette.

With a clean, modern atmosphere and neon lights, KPot has a kind of club feel, but an old-fashioned aim to create a space where groups of friends and families can gather together for two hours to enjoy cooking. and eating together.

“We’re the exact opposite of fast food,” says Mersch. “It’s a two-hour experience.”

What used to serve as a patio at the former Bar Louie location will probably be converted into a restaurant waiting space because it would be difficult to move tableside cooking outside.

Hours are noon to 10:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and noon to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with the last seating always one hour before closing.

Although Mersch says KPot generally attracts a mixed demographic, the Mishawaka restaurant seemed to be attracting a somewhat younger clientele during its first few days of operation.

That would be good for the mall because some of those diners might stick around to visit other retailers.

“There was a lot of anticipation around Kpot,” says Christian Carlson, director of marketing and business development at UP Mall. “We were getting calls every day about its opening.”

With that space now occupied, leasing personnel for the mall have shifted their focus to the nearby Granite City space, which has been vacant since the restaurant’s sudden closure in 2019.

Carlson says the prospective tenant is a regional restaurant operator. And although he couldn’t provide additional details, the restaurant would bring something new to the market, he says.

“Ideally, we’d like it to be a bit more of a destination,” he says.

Have you heard

A new Culver’s restaurant opened March 18 at 12561 McKinley Highway near Penn High School. The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to midnight seven days a week and is owned by Mark Nowak, a longtime teacher who was persuaded to join the business several years ago by Keith Remington, a regional restaurant owner of Culver’s. Nowak, who also owns the location at 5520 N. Main St., Mishawaka, says he’s still using his teaching skills by guiding new employees at two restaurants. “Culver’s is like the most wonderful family-oriented company you can imagine,” he says.

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