When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, the location was cozy and quaint, but diners had only three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. However, as the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu selection and atmosphere. The restaurant first expanded four years later under the leadership of a Melting Pot waiter and enterprising college student named Mark Johnston, who teamed up with his brothers Mike and Bob to open a new outpost in Tallahassee. This location grew in reputation to pave the way for future franchise expansion. Today, the company—now owned by the trio of siblings—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants linked by underground tunnels. The restaurant's menu has also ballooned, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, meats, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of foodies gather around tables to nosh on signature four-course meals, from cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads to steaks and seafood cooked in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and couples can share decadent evenings at private tables, capping off meals with chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
When Chef Joseph Calabres finished he education at the Culinary Institute of America, he left with a passion for cuisine of the classic French bistro. While he honed his knife skills and sous chefery in professional kitchens, he harbored the dream to start his own sidewalk eatery. He eventually realized his goal in the form of Café Touche. His menu highlights many of the same dishes enjoyed in bistros for the last hundred years, such as fresh boullaibaise, steak frites, and classic garlic buttered escargot served in a piping hot ceramic crock. The décor evokes the same ambience of a Parisian sidewalk as the kitchen’s aromas. Textured tin ceilings abut exposed brick walls, punctuated by the warm, glowing orbs of light cast from wall sconces. The extensive wine list completes the milieu with plenty of French vintages, stored in a cellar ideal for plotting protests.
L'Eiffel Bistrot & Creperie features an elegant menu of French dishes, including a perfectly paired selection of hot and cold appetizers and a savory crepe menu. Jump-start your meal engine with passed nibbles of frog legs in garlic butter ($9.25) or the assorted French cheese plate ($11.50). Folded planes of creamed spinach, artichoke, ricotta, and parmesan cheese tempt diners in the La Popeye crepe ($9.50), while the classic La Bistrot piles on ham, Swiss, and béchamel sauce ($8.95). Entrees, such as half of a roasted duck with barley ($22.95) or grass-fed beef tenderloin ($26.95), can be paired with a glass or bottle from the extensive wine list or a cocktail from le bar, one of Chicagoland's rare absinthe habitats.
Miramar Bistro pleases patrons with a high-concept menu that straddles French, Cuban, and American sensibilities. Dive in with herb-marinated olives ($6.50) or an artichoke terrine ($9.95), or opt to start with a crab, scallop, and lobster cake ($14.50), the preferred cake of birthday parties all over Atlantis. Sandwiches include Cuban ham and cheese ($9.50) and pressed chicken pesto ($8.75), as well as croque monsieur ($8.95) and croque madame ($9.95), often called the Mork and Mindy of cuisine. Steak au poivre ($25.95) is the stuff meaty dreams are made of, while a duo of short ribs and rack of lamb ($32) means cowboys and shepherds can finally break bread without also breaking into a blistering freestyle rap battle. A lunch menu is available to quell daytime appetite insurrections, and a Sunday brunch buffet helps pack maximum pleasure into precious weekend hours.
Happenstance restaurateurs Rakesh and Sarina Chopra opened Sansaveria after a whirlwind excursion to the city of lights left them longing to bring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris back home with them. Meals commence with classic appetizers such as the baked onion soup ($5) or a French charcuterie plate, boasting a collection of cured meats, artisan cheeses, and multilingual croustades ($12). Pair plats principaux such as the garlic and herb sautéed steak Mediterranean ($27), or the wine-basted, caper-kissed sautéed tilapia carciofi ($19), with one of more than 40 wines, or choose any three by-the-glass options to sample a flight of fermented fancy. Suppers saunter toward their sugary conclusions with decadent delights including homemade bananas foster and Grand Marnier–filled crêpes ($7), or with sweet cocktails such as the creamy and indulgent choco-tini or a Sambuca Romana cordial—known for its impeccable manners.
The art of pastry baking is a careful ordeal. Each morning, long before the sun starts to shine on Lake Michigan, the team at Libanais Sweets is up making sure their specialties are crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They specialize in baked goods from around the world, including Eastern pastries such as baklava and European pastries ranging from éclairs to mille-feuille and tiramisu. In addition, the Libanais staff crafts specialties like chocolate lollipops, which are ideal for special events but can’t be used to bribe the rare bird that would prefer a broccoli pop.
The culinary artisans at Le Poulet Bistro craft crepes le poulet, beef bourguignon, and traditional French dishes in an elegant, rural French setting. Behind a white-brick façade, waiters carry dishes over dark hardwood floors and past burnt-umber walls spotted with French-themed art. Le Poulet’s European style of cooking lets meat continually baste itself through the cooking process, a feat of automation bettered only by barrels of self-linking monkeys. Sweet treats such as the crepes Mon Ami—thin French pancakes filled with fruit and vanilla whipped cream—cap off evenings alongside authentic Italian Lavazza coffee.