Melting Pot, ChicagoOnly in the land of ridiculously large portions would a restaurant chain thrive on offering steaming pots of cheese and chocolate. The Melting Pot sells fondues – that Swiss invention of dipping your dinner – and has 70 locations in the U.S.

Wandering hungry around downtown Chicago, we thought the dark wood and large wine cellar meant this was some new fancy-schmancy fusion-food jazz-bar type place.

We didn’t realize this was a chain until we got the spiel. Pick a combination meal or order a la carte – though tsk tsk that’s not the better deal. Pick a cheese fondue (mixed at your table!), pick a salad (homemade dressing!), pick a cooking style (“Coq au Vin is verrry popular!”), pick a main entree.

This would be a nightmare for people who can’t make decisions. But we are not that. We order the three-course Fondue for Two (aww!) at $54 US. Besides who’s going to start a fight over a hot burner in the middle of the table.

chicago fondueI think you have to like to talk to work here. The server mixes our Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue, explaining each ingredient with gusto. Fontina! Butterkase! Blue cheese! White wine! Sherry!

So I’m dunking hunks of bread into a big pot of melted cheese. What is there NOT to like about this?

The salads come. They’re big and good.

Despite the healthier broth fondues, we choose the Fondue Bourguignonne – basically a pot of canola oil. Our Pacific Rim plate comes with marinated sirloin, peppered duck breast, boneless chicken, pork tenderloin, shrimp and potstickers. Then there are at least 8 dipping sauces and 2 batters.

We get another spiel on how not to give yourself food poisoning, and then we’re off. We keep our fondue forks busy, spearing meat pieces and cooking them in our bubbling pot of oil. This is pretty fun and pretty tasty.

We pass on dessert, though I’m sure sweet-tooths would have a field day with the 8 different chocolate fondues.

Parts of the night sounded like an infomercial but really, the Melting Pot has simplified fondues for fine dining. It’s easy, it’s fun and I don’t have to clean up after.

The Melting Pot, various U.S. locations.