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.
After a few minutes inside L'Eiffel Bistrot & Creperie, visitors will be forgiven for thinking they've discovered a wormhole connecting them directly to Paris. The carefully sourced selections on the restaurant's lengthy wine list contribute to this sense of dislocation; so do special events such as wine tastings, fashion showcases, and the occasional peasant uprising.
The kitchen, however, is the biggest reason why one might unconsciously start humming the Amelie soundtrack. L'Eiffel's chefs make traditional French cuisine with organic ingredients, and those ingredients appear throughout the elegant entrees of roasted duck in orange sauce, braised beef in a Burgundy wine sauce, and fresh mussels. As for the bistro's namesake dish, crepes can land on the white tabecloths with savory country ham and swiss cheese or wine-poached salmon bundled inside.
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.
Dubbed one of the best crêpe purveyors in Chicago by Chicago magazine in 2010, La France Café & Crepes welcomes diners with a mellifluous menu of French flatcakes that sets tongues to tapping and moustaches to twirling. Chef Ben Mchabcheband and his culinary crew carefully construct each crêpe fresh to order, filling its belly with sweet or savory selections. To help you recall sweet dreams, choose warm apricots smothered in melted brie atop a sweet vanilla crêpe ($8.95) or nestle apples with cinnamon and caramel within a sweet crêpe blanket ($8.95). Crêpe forestiers envelope chicken or beef, wild mushrooms, and gruyere cheese to deliver a savory meal and epistles from the front lines of the kitchen ($12.95), while open-faced galettes expose the stomach-invading strategies of empire-driven eggs and various members of their hunger-trouncing team, such as ham, fresh tomatoes, and braised spinach ($11.95).
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.