Fondue is a ubiquitous staple of Swiss culture, matched only by neutrality, foldout fish scalers, and the world's most easily cartoonified cheese. Dip in to a mouthwatering melting pot with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of fondue and café fare at Melt! in North Beach.
Melt!'s British-born owner, Gaynor Lloyd, instills the intimate café with a European flair and a menu packed with fondue eats. Fondue is always accompanied by apple wedges, sweet grapes, and crusty bread—diners can choose to dip these comestibles into a small fondue pot ($30) that sates up to two people or a large cauldron ($40) that fills up to four stomachs or one very hungry hope chest. The classic neufchatel blends imported gruyere with white wine and cherry brandy, and the scrumpy welsh rarebit overflows with extra-sharp cheddar, English cider, and worcestershire sauce. Non-fondue delicacies can be found in Melt!'s hummus plate ($8.50) and sausage roll ($4); a more protein-packed option comes in the form of a French-style ham-and-swiss-cheese croque monsieur sandwich ($10.50). Dripping from strawberries, frozen cheesecake, cookies, and other treats, Belgian-chocolate dessert fondue ($20) gives sweet teeth encouraging pep talks.
The work of local artisans plasters Melt!'s walls as musicians from the community strum instruments in front large windows during weekly performances, which include Saturday jazz romps and classical-guitar Sundays. Let minds fall deep into competition mode while playing a game of backgammon or chess, or kick back with a cappuccino as eyes indulge in a Tuesday-night film presented by Cinema Heaven Encore.
Hailing from the British Isle of Jersey, just off the coast of Normandy, Gaynor Lloyd skipped across the pond to San Francisco, where she opened Melt! in 2004. A place where local art hangs on the walls and local musicians frequently perform, the casual and colorful café serves classic cheese fondues with rustic bread and crisp apples. Meanwhile, rich melted Belgian chocolate simmers in waiting for sweet dippers such as strawberries, cream puffs, and frozen cheesecake. French-influenced plates filled with cheeses and croque monsieur sandwiches populate intimate tables, and events nearly every night of the week light up the space—with comedians performing on select Mondays, and singer-songwriters with strobe lights on Fridays.