Pros: good cheese fondue with unlimited dippers, pretty good service, chocolate fondue tasty
Cons: slow, small chocolate portion, some entree options only for couples, very difficult to get seating
I like fondue but I rarely get the chance to indulge. The good, cheap fondue restaurant in Boston closed years ago. A newer fondue restaurant opened a couple of years ago but it's not conveniently located and it's outrageously expensive making it less than attractive.
I'd been craving fondue for a while but was resigned to foregoing the pleasure until I stumbled on a Melting Pot during my recent trip to Pittsburgh. I immediately decided to have dinner there that night.
Unfortunately the Melting Pot is very popular and even on a Thursday night around 7:30 there was a 2-2.5 hour wait for a table. Even though I was starving I might have waited if I could get transportation back to my hotel that late, but faced with both a growling stomach and the thought of cabfare I left. I vowed to return, though, and two nights later I did just that.
Not surprisingly, the restaurant was even busier on a Saturday night. I'd intended to call ahead but accidentally left the card with the phone number in my hotel room that morning. Thus, I was faced with choice of waiting 3-3.5 hours and taking a cab back to my hotel or eating at the bar which, surprisingly, accommodated fondue pots. After a great deal of deliberation, I decided to eat at the bar.
I rarely do this because the high stools and chairs used for bar seating are uncomfortable and because there's no space for bags and packages. This Melting Pot was no exception; my knees hurt after two hours of sitting on their chairs and I had to place my single small plastic bag on the floor and hope for the best (surprisingly it survived). One other thing to watch for is cigarette smoke. While most states no longer allow smoking in restaurants, some states exempt the bar area. That means that in addition to any bar patrons who choose to smoke you'll be dealing with other diners who stop by between courses to sneak a puff.
Unfortunately one of the advantages of sitting at the bar - readily available drink refills - was rendered moot by the need to get iced tea from the kitchen. Despite this the two bartenders did a reasonable job keeping up with water and iced tea refills.
The service in general was pretty good although at times it was difficult to get the attention of a bartender despite there being two of them and only around a dozen folks seated at the bar. One of the two bartenders was a bit dour but he got whatever was needed in a timely fashion so I can't really say he had an attitude problem. Still, there was a marked difference between his demeanor and that of his compatriot.
Of course none of that matters much if the food isn't good. Fortunately it was. The Melting Pot offers three types of fondue: cheese, meat, and chocolate. The cheese fondue comes in five varieties: a mix of swiss cheeses, a mix of cheddar and swiss, a mix of Wisconsin cheeses, a fiesta mix with jalapenos and salsa, and a chef's special. Each includes garlic or other seasonings and most have a little bit of either beer or wine for a richer flavor.
Each of the cheese fondues comes with an unlimited supply of two types of breads, tart green apple slices, carrots, celery, and cauliflower for $14. The portion of cheese is very generous and is more than sufficient for a meal for one or an appetizer for several. I ordered the cheddar and swiss mix which was perhaps slightly too sharp but still very good.
The meat fondues are available as traditional oil fondues, with a broth base, or with a wine base (for an extra $5 fee). They come with one or more meats with choices including chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, salmon, duck, and lobster. Some are available solo and others only as part of combination plates. Many entree fondues are available for the solo diner but some require a party of two. All of these choices come with vegetables as well including potatoes, squash, mushrooms, and broccoli. Prices vary greatly depending on the selections made but generally run $20-40 per person. I can't speak to portion size or taste since I didn't order anything from this part of the menu.
The dessert fondues are all about chocolate. Available in two sizes for $14 or $28, the Melting Pot offers more than a dozen varieties of dessert fondue. You can go plain (straight milk, dark, or white chocolate) or get more creative with the addition of ingredients like peanut butter, marshmallow, crushed oreos, caramel, and more. They all come with a small plate of bite sized bits of pound cake, brownie, marshmallow, strawberry, banana, and pineapple for dipping and a tiny slice of cheesecake.
I ordered a small dark chocolate and while tasty it wasn't very large. The pot was less than 20 percent full, but even so I ran out of dippers before chocolate. I wished I'd saved some of my apples; I thought they'd be divine in the chocolate. If you want to share and want more than a bite or two you'll have to order a large.
I enjoyed my meal at the Melting Pot but I probably won't get a dessert fondue if I ever have the chance to go again. While tasty, the portion is just too small to justify the cost. I would get the cheese fondue again in a heartbeat, though, and definitely recommend it to anyone who likes fondue. Just pick a night when you aren't in any kind of rush - you're going to be there for a few hours - and make a reservation then enjoy.