When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, diners had just three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. The restaurant first expanded four years later, when an enterprising waiter at the initial location opened up a new outpost in Tallahassee. Today, the company—now owned by that original waiter, Mark Johnston, and his brothers Mike and Bob—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants. The restaurant's menu has also expanded, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, entrees, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of viscous-dip-loving foodies gather around tables to nosh on cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads while cooking steaks and seafood in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and romance seekers cap decadent evenings sharing the chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
Since his grandfather opened up a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1905, A. J. "Poppy" Tusa's family has remained in the restaurant business for more than a century. Poppy continues his family's traditions of providing hospitality and authentic Louisiana flavors at Poppy's Crazy Lobster Bar and Grill, where the chef and his crew boil Cajun-style seafood by the pound, assemble towering po' boy sandwiches, and pan-sear blackened Maine lobsters.
Though the food is fresh and flavorful, the restaurant's main draw may be its seaside dining room and dockside patio. Fishermen and generous mermaids can even bring in their freshly caught fish, and the kitchen will cook it up for them. There's live music and entertainment, and the full bar's mojitos, hurricanes, and beers add to the tropical environs.
With its comfort-food menu and hospitable vibes, Brick & Spoon aims to "spread the southern mojo across the country," according to the restaurant's About Us page. If the charmed visitors who keep returning are any indication, this mojo has thoroughly caught on. Families and foodies alike tuck into crowd-pleasing dishes like beignets, po'boys, and shrimp and grits, while brunchers sip Bloody Marys filled with fresh ingredients and gourmet flavor combinations. Whether sitting down for a hearty meal, or just stopping by to put a cup of coffee under their cowboy hats for later, guests of Brick and Spoon leave satisfied.
Only a short burger flip from the Santa Rosa Sound, the red-and-yellow-checkered façade of Tops Hamburgers hints at the ample spread of ketchup and mustard one can expect to find on each of the restaurant’s burgers and dogs. Rather than overthink the menu, chefs keep things refreshingly simple with 100% beef patties and produce cut as the sun rises each morning. Cruise through the drive-thru for fried pickles or tots to go, or stop by the brick-paved dining room to challenge a server to a burger-skipping contest on the waters of the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
It’s barely an exaggeration to say that Marlin Grill is a cornerstone of the Baytowne Wharf community—it occupies a grand, two-story corner space in the sprawling Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, its curving façade giving out on a patio facing the Events Plaza. As might be expected of a resort restaurant, the menu is broad and accommodating—there’s even a children’s menu with fried lobster and crab cakes among the chicken fingers—but creative preparations add zip to the steakhouse template. Filet mignon (dry-aged certified Angus, like all Marlin’s beef) is wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and itself grilled over hickory just to show trees who’s boss, and a pair of cold-water lobster tails splash into kiwi-honey mustard sauce and mango chutney. Sides tend toward the impossibly rich, the mashed potatoes mixed with ricotta and the macaroni 'n' cheese studded with Tasso ham.
The drinks program is appropriately ambitious, covering more than 600 wines, a deep list of scotches and their allies, and fruity martinis, including a $10,000 version complete with one-carat diamond. The beer selection is a little more down to earth, centering on regional brews such as Georgia’s Sweet Water 420 Pale Ale and Florida’s Grayton Pale Ale.
Chef Quinlan draws upon his inspiration from coastal, Cajun, and Caribbean cuisines as he cooks at Poppy's Seafood Factory. His menu showcases entrees pulled from the Gulf Coast, such as lobster thermidor and fried shrimp, as well as boiled seafood feasts available by the pound?like British money or an absurd amount of American money. There are also plenty of steak and pasta dishes to go around, as well as an ample wine list.
Poppy, the owner, hails from New Orleans?a city known for both its good times and exquisite cooking. He came out of retirement to keep the good times rolling within the laidback, casual fine dining environment of his restaurant.