When planning a group celebration — be it a birthday party or a post-exam unwind — one key task is to find a venue that checks all the boxes: a variety of flavors, reasonable costs, generous dish portions and, most importantly, the right atmosphere. Given their emphasis on harmony and family, East Asian cuisines often make great choices for social events. In this article, I've curated a list of five restaurants within a 40-minute drive from Homewood, perfect for those heartwarming moments with friends.
New Generation in Towson is an ideal choice for those seeking to balance proximity, flavor and cost. Each meal costs $25.99 and includes an individual hot pot. While no single dish stands out by itself, the combination of varied ingredients promises satisfaction. Moreover, their sesame paste earned high praise from my roommate from Beijing, where sesame paste is a fundamental condiment. In addition to the standard choices of sliced beef and lamb, I recommend shrimp, octopus and blue crab. For a retreat from the grease of the meat, there’s the tong ho and lotus roots. The stir-fried bean curd rolls are also amazing, introducing a layered texture into the experience. For carbs, the soup-soaked rice cake and the savory seafood pancake perfectly round off the meal. Post-meal, head to the restaurant's desert cooler, which offers a selection of ice creams, providing a sweet conclusion to this boiling feast.
COURTESY OF YUYU HUANG
Another hot pot destination offering even more flexibility is Hot Pot King in Catonsville. Lunch is priced at $31.99 per person, and dinner at $39.99. Beyond individual pots, customers have the freedom to source their preferred ingredients from a solid array of hot pot constants: cattle tripe, enoki mushroom, fish balls of all sizes and more. I remember, during the final week of my freshman year, taking a 30-minute Lyft ride with three friends to this place. We engaged in conversation from 2 p.m. to well past 5 p.m., sampling almost every option available until our server, astonished by our appetite and chatter, suggested it was time to check out. Surrounded by the vivid hues of food, the freshness of tapioca pudding and grass jelly, and the comfort of my friends' company, I managed to shake off the stress of finals. Notably, Hot Pot King isn't just about the hot pot experience; it is part of The Hub, an Asian food hall. Among the stalls in the food court, Taiwanese Bubble Tea and Korean Fried Chicken vie for visitors' attention, offering tempting takeaway options that make the 30-minute trip from Homewood worthwhile.
If you're in search of exceptional hot pot soup base flavors, then Hot Pot Hero in Ellicott City has got you covered. During weekdays, lunch per person is $24.95, while dinner is $33.95. On weekends and holidays, it's an all-day rate of $34.95. Keep in mind that some premium items are only available during dinner. Besides individual pots, you can opt for a Yin Yang pot, which accommodates two flavors and enriches the joy of communal dining. Feel free to add golden cubes of beef tallow to the spicy broth. As they melt, they coat each ingredient in a rich, luxurious fat, taking their flavors to an extraordinary level. Enhance your hot pot experience by exploring the sauce station, with their famous in-house chili oil. A drizzle of this into your dipping sauce can elevate the flavors of your hot pot dishes to a whole new level. For those who aren't big fans of spicy Mala flavors, try their non-spicy and equally delicious options like the mushroom pot. Among the all-you-can-eat offerings, some must-tries include the specified beef, quail eggs and wide vermicelli. Also, to refresh your palate, be sure to try a bowl of Bingfen, a glistening crystal jelly dessert that's topped with brown sugar syrup, crushed salty peanuts and dried grapes.
COURTESY OF YUYU HUANG
In the realm of party hosting, the appeal of hot pot steam is only paralleled by the sizzle of meat on a barbecue grill. In the same plaza as Hot Pot Hero, Honey Pig, a Korean barbecue spot, draws in its own line of diners. With the widespread popularity of Korean barbecue, you're probably well-versed in savoring a lavish spread of meats, ranging from bulgogi and pork belly to ribeye steak and beef tongue. To complement your meal, choose from ready-to-eat sides like Korean pancakes and noodles served in a crisp cold broth.The classic banchan assortment, featuring kimchi, seasoned soybean sprouts and mashed potatoes is also readily available. We visited to celebrate a friend's birthday. The feast, with its meats rich in toasty Maillard flavors and accompanied by an array of textured side dishes, served as a lively drumroll throughout the party, highlighting the restaurant as a prime hub for social gatherings.
If you're the type who struggles with decisions and craves not only genuine Korean flavors but also a broader variety, Seoul Pub Sushi Chicken & Beer in Ellicott City is your go-to spot. True to its name, this place offers the full package, from Korean classics like seafood pancakes and tofu soup to Japanese delights such as succulent sashimi and marinated karaage. When we ordered, the owner advised us that the portions might be too large, and indeed, as the dishes arrived, we realized he was right. The generous sizes exceeded both the price and our appetites. However, affordability didn't compromise the taste. The pancakes were loaded with shrimp and set on a flavorful starch base; the karaage, available in both seasoned and original versions, was crunchy on the outside and juicy within, creating a burst of flavors. The fresh and mellow sashimi enveloped the palate like a faux fur throw blanket. This is the place to enjoy East Asian cuisine and sip soju with close companions, perfect for warming up on a quiet night.
Amid your academic and career pursuits, it's essential to make time to catch up with friends and treat yourselves to some delightful cuisine. The next time you're planning a get-together, let this list be your starting point for crafting unforgettable moments with your closest friends!