When Shakespeare imagined a den of witches, he saw them gathered around boiling pots, cackling and talking, casting raw morsels into their cauldrons from the ends of long, sharp sticks. Time revealed his vision to belong to something far less sinister: the bard simply foresaw the fondue restaurant. Today, hundreds of people gather at The Melting Pot’s more than 140 North American locations to cast romantic spells over one another as they share sweets, breads, vegetables, and meats doused in liquid chocolate, melted cheese, or flavored oil. They all wield double-pronged spears—or fondue forks—to suspend the tasty morsels of their choice in the ambrosial liquids before them, which are cleverly heated by stovetops built into each and every table in The Melting Pot's restaurants. The chefs prepare most platters in sizes best shared by two, making the venue ideal for date nights or reunions with twins who left 10 years ago to study the art of fondue.
At The Melting Pot of Baton Rouge, staffers use the restaurant to invest in their community as well. They host charity events, school fundraisers, and even run a program to reward straight-A students with a free fondue dinner.
Inside The Jambalaya Shoppe's Government Street eatery, diners savor dishes of smoked beef brisket, crawfish pie, slow-cooked red beans, and other mouthwatering Cajun classics. The comfortable ambiance—paper towels are a staple at each table—is enhanced with red-checkered tablecloths and a black-and-white mural depicting a classic Southern landscape. When patrons approach the counter overhung by a chalkboard menu, ordering a spread for takeout is also an option. The restaurant's cooks can pack styrofoam coolers with potato salad, gumbo, and chicken-breast dinners for patrons to take to tailgating events and picnics.
At Bourbon Bistro and Bar, chef Michael Craft, a Baton Rouge native, marries his Cajun roots with his Texan cooking experience to cast a unique spin on the classic bistro. The French influence is hidden within such Cajun dishes as étouffée hash, po' boy sandwiches, and fried catfish. Roasted poblano peppers and regional spices add their kick to the crayfish étouffée and steal the spotlight in the pulled-pork nachos and quesadillas. Each of the chef’s creations is made with fresh, local ingredients and pairs well with the casual eatery's wide selection of bourbon.
Chef Greg Picolo uses seasonal ingredients to whip up contemporary Creole cuisine with classic French and Italian touches for lunch and dinner. Evening appetizers include escargot and Louisiana crawfish bordelaise gnocchi ($15), as well as salads such as the house smoked salmon rillette topped with poached egg and toffika caviar, served with a caper remoulade ($12). Dinner entrees such as the roasted duck twirl duck confit, herb risotto, and sautéed spinach in a ballroom of seared foie gras and grilled peach jus ($36). Lunchers and brunchers can enjoy the B.L.T. salad, a melding of frisée lettuce, apple-smoked bacon, and hard-cooked egg served with a delicate creamy vinaigrette ($10 at lunch. The Bistro also boasts brunch specials on weekends and an extensive wine list to quench the palates of diners and housebroken lemurs.
Located in the Warehouse District, steps from the French Quarter's centuries-old streets, Tomas Bistro channels old-world traditions in a rustic former factory space. Chef Guy D. Sockrider's seasonal menus—which are crafted from local meats and Gulf seafood—marry classic Creole spices and French cooking techniques to create a fusion cuisine deeply rooted within New Orleans' unique history. The Zagat-rated bistro's warm walls, secluded patio, and well-stocked wine racks transcend the building's industrial origins, whisking patrons away to Parisian cafes without the stress of keeping the coat room stocked with magic carpets.
A Zagat-rated boutique restaurant named French Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in 2009, Flaming Torch swaddles palates with menus of gourmet continental French cuisine. Chefs gather fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create brunch, lunch, and dinner menus that include imported-cheese plates, fish, pasta, and crepes that change daily. Diners pair entrees with a cadre of ever-rotating American and French wines. The intimate Victorian dining room, ideal for impressing a first date or bribing a traffic cop, is flush with natural light, dark-blue walls, wood accents, and crystal chandeliers.