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Eat This, Riverside: Cumin-Dredged BBQ Skewers and Fiery Sichuan Hot Pot at Greedy Cat Meat Lover BBQ & Fried Chicken Kitchen

Although the vast menu can be daunting for the uninitiated, follow Seth’s ordering guidelines and you can put together a phenomenal meal at this hot-spot for hot-pot, grilled meats and dumplings.

The exterior of Greedy Cat Meat Lover BBQ and Fried Chicken Kitchen at 1400 University Ave.

I fancy myself a relatively sophisticated restaurant-goer. I’ve been to a lot of places and feel confident parsing a menu and assembling a meal almost anywhere - from haute-cuisine molecular gastronomy labs to sushi bars and backyard birria shacks. But when I first looked at the menu at University Avenue’s Greedy Cat Meat Lover BBQ and Fried Chicken Kitchen, I felt intimidated and unsure. So much so, that it took me a couple of years to work up the gumption to go in for a meal. Even the name is a handful.

The menu is vast, and if you are not a homesick expat Chinese UCR student or a veteran of the build-your-own Sichuan hot pot experience, it can feel inaccessible. Confronted with so many options (hot pot, skewers, combos, dumplings, staples, cold sides, etc.), it isn’t immediately clear how best to assemble a meal from this bounty of choices. If you’re like me, you might feel a little out of place.

Where the hot pot magic happens.

However, get over that hump of insecurity and dive in: Greedy Cat has a lot to offer!

Let’s start with the hot pot section of the menu. Hot pot comes in individual portions or scaled to share in giant sterno-fueled rectangular cauldrons. The two left-hand columns of the menu lay out the options. Broth is job one. The first fork in the road is spicy vs. not spicy. If you go spicy, choose among spice levels (confusingly named small, medium, and large) and spice styles (spicy cumin, hot & spicy, spicy sour, spicy garlic). You’ll lay down a foundation of Sichuan peppercorn-spiked oily red soup as a base for your hot pot meal. For those who prefer to keep the Scoville meter at the mild end of the spicy spectrum, you can opt for a tomato-based broth - it still has more kick than Campbell’s, but it’s friendly for more timid palates.

Then, it’s time to decide what’ll go in the pot. You can either choose your own adventure from column 2 or pick from a few pre-assembled options in column 1.

On a recent visit, we went with a 2-3 pound yellow croaker in tomato broth (which comes by default with celery and potato) and added some glass noodles, tofu, mushrooms, and bok choy - delicious!

Yellow Croaker in Tomato Broth.

On another visit, we tried the large medium spicy beef in spicy garlic broth, which comes with celery, bean sprouts, cabbage, spam (!), fish-balls (the Sichuan version of fine-ground gefilte fish) and a slick of fiery chili oil with mouth-numbing SIchuan peppercorns dotting the casserole like ma-la landmines.

The Large Spicy Beef Hot Pot.

Unlike other hot pot or shabu-shabu restaurants, the items you order at Greedy Cat are already in the pot when it arrives at your table; no need to figure out how long to cook things on your own. The large sizes can easily feed 3 people or more depending on how many extra ingredients you add.

If hot pot is not your cup of hot tea, consider putting together a meal from the BBQ skewers column of the menu. The owners of Greedy Cat are from the far northeast Dongbei region of China, where street vendors and restaurants hawking slender skewers of grilled meats and vegetables are a common sight in cities like Shenyang. Greedy Cat offers a dizzying variety of BBQ options - all sprinkled with a powerful spice mix of whole cumin seeds, chili flake, sesame, and salt. Highlights of a recent skewered meal were whole head-on prawns (eat ‘em up, shell, head and all!), snappy grilled lamb and pork belly, springy, intensely chickeny chicken hearts, grilled garlic chives and surprisingly tasty extra-long “lil’ smoky”-style sausages. If you’re not a cumin fan, look elsewhere, as that is the predominant seasoning note across all of the BBQ items.

To quote Ron Popeil, but wait, there’s more! The busy chefs in the back at Greedy Cat have a fine hand with a dumpling wrapper. I’ve enjoyed just about every dough-ball that’s emerged from the kitchen - including hand-made pork and leek dumplings, steaming hot and tender, savory beef and onion dumplings, deep-fried chicken vegetable potstickers and hand-made shrimp wontons served in broth. Still on the ever-growing dumpling to-do list: mackerel and lamb!

Finally, consider the combo. Greedy Cat offers several box-lunch-style combos, which bundle meat, veg, and rice with a sweet iced tea for a convenient, no-mental-load dining experience. I can wholeheartedly recommend the red-braised pork, tender stewed pork belly, which came when I ordered it, with white rice, a fiery slivered potato side dish, and spicy marinated tofu. The Fried Chicken Leg combo was terrific, too - a leg quarter dredged in sesame, cumin, and chili, served with spicy cabbage and tofu noodles.  I look forward to trying them all.

Even after several visits, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Greedy Cat offers. I’ll be back! Let me know if you want to join me - we can check more items off the list with a larger group. Shelley, one of the owners, who you’ll often see kibitzing with the patrons while assembling skewers in a corner booth, tells me that, in addition to their brick-and-mortar, they plan to staff a booth at an upcoming 626 Night Market in Arcadia.

Greedy Cat Meat Lover BBQ and Fried Chicken Kitchen is one of the few surviving storefronts on the ground floor of the Alight apartment complex at 1400 University Avenue, just across the street from Joe Aguilar’s Templo del Sol and the soon-to-be-opened redeveloped Farmhouse Motel food hall concept.  They’re open from noon to 10 p.m. seven days a week. There is ample parking on the ground level of the Alight lot behind the building.

What do you say, Riverside? Are you ready to parse the Greedy Cat menu with me? Shoot me an email at and maybe we’ll organize the first-ever Raincross Gazette group restaurant outing! In addition to hot-pot, I devour your hot tips on other places to cover in this space. I was remiss last time for failing to acknowledge that faithful reader (and Zurer Bread customer) Lindy Colaluca-Polling provided the suggestion to visit Kabob House, inspiring my last garlic-soaked review. Apologies and belated thank yous to Lindy!