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.
"Bonjour!" That's what you'll hear when you walk through the doors at La France Cafe & Crepes, where energized chefs have churned out authentic French crepes since 2009. Once seated and glancing over the menu, visitors can choose from a variety of sweet and savory crepes and customize to their own individual taste. Though it's not incredibly long, the menu is divided down the middle between those two sides. Sweet crepes include fresh fruits, Nutella, and a variety of home made sauces. On the savory side, crepes are filled with everything from roasted eggplant and zucchini to saut?ed sea scallops, chicken, and braised beef. No matter which type a diner chooses, chefs will make it fresh-to-order instead of rubbing a magic lamp and waiting for a genie to appear with it.
On a summer trip to Paris, Suzette's Creperie's owner, Suzette, fell in love with the local street vendors' delicate, ultra-thin crepes. When she got back to the States, she decided to give Chicagoans a taste of the fancy fast-food eats she adored and started selling them herself out of a crepe cart.
Since those authentically French beginnings, Suzette's cart has blossomed into a full-fledged French bistro in Downtown Wheaton, though sweet and savory crepes remain the focus of the menu. One arrives stuffed with saut?ed salmon; another ensconces hot fudge and banana slices. Duck confit, wine, and other French staples complement the crepes.
The service at Suzette's is European-style, which means that the staff allows meals to unfold at a leisurely pace, rather than leaving a running stopwatch on each table. Live jazz often enhances the European atmosphere.
This full-service butcher shop and French market stocks its shelves with fine organic and artisanal goods. Grass-fed beef arrives in everything from burger-ready ground pounds ($4.95) to tenderloin cuts ($27.99 per pound), and free-range Amish chickens are available whole ($2.99 per pound), tasting like chicken, or in boneless, skinless breast fillets ($4.99 per pound). Eco-conscious pescatarians can enjoy sustainable seafood such as Atlantic salmon ($10.99 per pound) and Canadian whitefish ($7.99 per pound), and completely vegetarian gourmands can benefit from shelves of epicurean butters, fresh breads, organic produce, fragrant flowers, vibrant seasonings, and more. Groupon customers are invited to attend the grand opening celebration of Amano Boucherie on Saturday, February 19, from 11 a.m.—4 p.m.
Imagine: it's a wintry night in Lincoln Park. You're crossing the bridge over South Pond, the downtown skyline shimmering to your left, the zoo's holiday lights twinkling to your right. It's undoubtedly romantic, but, in true Chicago fashion, it's also really cold. Luckily, just beyond the groves of snow-laden trees, lies Geja's Cafe, a cozy fondue spot perpetually adored as one of Chicago's most romantic restaurants.
Looking back on Geja's nearly 50-year history, there is perhaps one story that crystallizes this reputation better than most. Owner John Davis once told the Chicago Tribune about a couple from Minnesota who traveled to Geja's for their first date, their engagement, their rehearsal dinner, and to celebrate the birth of their first baby. Small children aren't permitted inside?because of the hot fondue pots?so they jokingly asked if they could leave their baby at the coat check. The new mother working the counter happily obliged.
This anecdote lays out the qualities that have helped Geja's endure for a half-century as one of the city's most beloved dining institutions. Here's a closer look at those characteristics, starting, of course, with the ambience.
Geja's has an entire page on its website devoted to couples who have gotten engaged there. Proposers can call ahead to have management help with arrangements, or they can just let the low lighting, flickering candles, and curtained-off tables set the scene.
Geja's three-course fondue dinners make for an incredibly memorable meal. Servers fire up a cast-iron pot for each stage?first with brandy-spiked gruyere for dipping fruits and breads, then with soybean oil for cooking veggies and a choice of meats, and lastly with flaming chocolate for torching marshmallows and embarrassing diary entries.
"You get a feel of serenity when you walk in," Janice Koch, longtime neighbor of the restaurant once told the Tribune. "You're not rushed or pushed. It's all just... consistent." Guests are free to navigate meals at their own pace, also taking time to enjoy the extensive wine list (which includes three private-label varietals) and live flamenco guitar.