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Spicy Turnaround: Chinese Hot Pot Steams into Former Smokestack BBQ Spot!

WORCESTER — Exciting changes are cooking up at the former Canal District site of Smokestack Urban Barbecue. The iconic building at 139 Green St. has been acquired by the owners of LaMei Hot Pot, who also operate popular locations in Providence and Brookline. This transition marks a significant shift in the property’s future and adds a new flavor to Worcester's vibrant culinary scene.

Originally earmarked for a 375-unit apartment project, the site was part of a larger redevelopment plan around the historic Table Talk Pies factory at 120 Washington St. This ambitious plan, known as "Phase III" of the redevelopment, included an eight-story mixed-use apartment complex, approximately 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail or restaurant space, and a seven-story shared parking garage with about 560 spaces. However, plans shifted when LaMei Hot Pot's operators, Dong Pan, and Junhua Liu, purchased the property for $680,000 on June 13, as recorded by the Worcester District Registry of Deeds.

Mark Johns and Drew Higgins facilitated the acquisition process from the Worcester-based real estate firm Kelleher & Sadowsky Associates. They revealed that the new owners are set to transform the space into a vibrant Chinese hot pot restaurant, with plans for a liquor license and a potential opening this fall.

LaMei Hot Pot, known for its interactive dining experience, allows guests to cook raw meats, seafood, and vegetables in simmering broths at their tables. This unique culinary style first gained popularity in China and has been enthusiastically embraced in LaMei’s Providence location, which opened in 2016, and their Brookline establishment. The Worcester location will be their third, joining Chuan Shabu on Park Ave. in bringing the hot pot tradition to the city.

Previously owned by restaurant entrepreneurs Richard Romaine and Peter Rano, the Smokestack property had seen plans for an extensive mixed-use development. However, costs and other challenges led to a pivot in development strategy. Despite these changes, the spirit of Smokestack Urban Barbecue lives on through a mobile trailer operating at Romaine's Wood Grill and Bar in Northborough.

The redevelopment of the former Table Talk Pies site continues under Boston Capital Development. The project, known as "Phase I" of the redevelopment plan, involves constructing a multistory apartment complex at the former factory site. Earlier this year, a law firm representing Boston Capital informed the city that the project was facing financing issues and was in search of a new developer. The city Planning Board granted a one-year extension of the project's preliminary site plan to Feb. 1, 2025, allowing the project to keep its current zoning in place.

Mark Johns noted that associated costs and other variables impacted the housing project, leading to the previous transaction agreement being in place for a significant amount of time. "We decided to go another route and identified these buyers to take over," Johns said. This decision paved the way for LaMei Hot Pot to bring its culinary expertise to Worcester.

As Worcester’s dining scene evolves, the arrival of LaMei Hot Pot promises to add a fresh and flavorful experience to the Canal District. Known for its high-quality ingredients and engaging dining atmosphere, LaMei Hot Pot is expected to attract food enthusiasts and curious newcomers alike. The owners are already developing plans for the site, including acquiring a liquor license and customizing the space to fit the needs of their hot pot restaurant.

The introduction of LaMei Hot Pot to Worcester is part of a broader trend of culinary diversification in the city. With its interactive dining concept, LaMei Hot Pot offers a unique experience that encourages social dining and communal eating, making it a perfect addition to the Canal District's dynamic food scene.

As the fall opening approaches, anticipation is building among residents and food lovers. LaMei Hot Pot’s commitment to providing an authentic and enjoyable dining experience is sure to make it a standout destination in Worcester. The transformation of the former Smokestack Urban Barbecue site into a bustling hot pot restaurant symbolizes the city's ongoing growth and its embrace of diverse cultural influences.

Stay tuned for the grand opening announcement and prepare to indulge in this delicious new chapter in Worcester’s culinary story. With LaMei Hot Pot’s arrival, the city is set to experience a flavorful infusion of Chinese cuisine that promises to delight the taste buds and create memorable dining experiences for all. Source:


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