Pros: Delightful food; unusual; wonderful service; fantastic atmosphere; relaxed; no rushing
Rating: 5 out of 5
A trip to the Melting Pot restaurant in Annapolis, Maryland is an experience to remember. The restaurant is dimly-lit (although not excessively so), filled with nooks and crannies so your booth can have a little bit of privacy to it. The true experience, however, comes with the food.
The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant. Hot plates in the tables heat up communal pots, and everyone dips their food in and cooks it to their liking. The result is a slow, relaxed, customizable dinner that encourages conversation and taking your time.
Dinner starts off with a cheese course. There are four standard cheese fondues to choose from, including a cheddar fondue and a “fiesta” fondue. These are served with raw vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, celery), bread cubes of various types, and tart Granny Smith apple chunks. Your server mixes the fondue for you at the table while you watch and then leaves you to it. If you run out of dippers, you can always request more–but save room for later!
When you choose your “entree” fondue, you choose two things separately: cooking style and dippers. There are four standard cooking styles, including a court bouillon and oil. There are three standard platters of dippers for two people, and there are also quite a few separate entree platters. You can get choice cuts of meat, vegetables, seasoned meats and vegetables in various styles, and fish and shellfish in various combinations.
Dessert fondues come in chocolate, chocolate, and… chocolate! While a number of pre-made options are presented, you can create your own as well. You can have milk, dark, or white chocolate as the base (the yin-yang fondue swirls white and dark); you can add a shot of liqueur (the Amaretto Meltdown fondue, with white chocolate and amaretto, is my favorite so far!); and various “toppings” or mix-ins are available, such as marshmallow sauce or crumbled graham crackers. Since part of the whole shtick of fondue is customizability, the servers are happy to make your dessert fondue to order.
Various alcoholic drinks are available, and there’s an extensive wine list. The selection of after-dinner coffees is impressive, and they’re quite delicious.
The menu also has a “big night out,” which is a special fondue-for-two that includes a different set of options than usual. After you’ve been to the restaurant a few times this can allow you some continued variety. You’ll often find that holidays have their own special options as well.
Quality of food
The quality of the food has been impeccable on every occasion when we’ve gone. Ingredients have been fresh and delicious. One of the interesting things about restaurant fondue is that since you’re cooking your own food, it’s going to be much harder for the restaurant to cover up sub-standard ingredients.
Quality of service
The service has ranged from very good to fantastic. This is particularly important in a fondue restaurant; since you spend so much time there and your server spends a while at your table mixing things for you, you need someone who won’t annoy you. Only once did we have a server who seemed slightly ditzy, and given that it was a particularly loud and busy night I think she can be forgiven! We’ve found the various other people (such as the host/hostess and manager) to be friendly and welcoming.
It does get a little loud in the restaurant; fondue tends to encourage conversation, and it’s often seen as a family thing.
Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time; the restaurant tends to get rather busy.
Plan to take several hours for dinner; fondue is not a quick thing!
Make sure you share some tastes with the people you go with, unless you have a large enough crowd to get a big table with multiple fondue pots. People with food allergies might want to be careful as everything gets cooked in one pot.
Make sure you’re in a mood to deal with people, since you’ll be spending some quality time with your server.
The restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere is inherently a part of its style of food, which means this is one place you can go and be assured that you won’t get rushed out the door.
The restaurant is definitely expensive. You can expect to pay in the rough neighborhood of $80 for two people, not including tip.
The Melting Pot makes a wonderful stop for birthdays and other special occasions. We try to go early on weeknights so as to avoid some of the noise and crowds, but even when crowded it’s a wonderful place to go. Even though the variety isn’t quite as good as other places over the long run, and it’s expensive, there’s just an atmosphere to it that you won’t find anywhere else.