by Sally Mitani
For anyone who remembers the last fondue craze, the Melting Pot on Main Street gives off a surprisingly elegant vibe. Discard those images of thatched Alpine quaintness and 1970s retro kitsch. Instead, you’re met with glimmering bronze floor tiles and dark granite tables. Smelly cans of Sterno? Mais non! Instead there’s a magnetic convection heater built into each table to cook your food—cool to the touch until it connects with ferrous metal and zaps it with 1,000 Btus.
The Melting Pot has 160 seats, but you’d never know it—it’s crisscrossed by so many nooks and crannies that each table feels intimate and unique. And if those aren’t private enough for you, specifically request a table on “lovers’ lane”—a particularly secluded strip of small booths.
Owners Mark and Lisa Shaw fell in love thirteen years ago at a Melting Pot in Rockville, Maryland. He was a Silicon Valley lawyer and she was in finance, but about three years ago they decided to move back to Michigan to be closer to his parents, who live near Ann Arbor. They opened a Melting Pot in Grand Rapids and put in a bid for an Ann Arbor franchise.
The much-delayed debut of the Ann Arbor Melting Pot isn’t a subject the Shaws like to discuss. They reluctantly explain that the city building department seized on a particularly hard-line reading of an ambiguous section of the International Mechanical Code to insist that each table, as a functioning cooktop, should have its own ventilation hood. Rather than duking it out in a legal arena, the Shaws chose to wait for a change in the code. That came through in September and allowed them to open.
The Melting Pot kitchen does no cooking other than a little prewarming, to jump-start your tabletop experience. In addition to cheese fondue and chocolate dessert fondue, the menu features salads and fondues of seasoned broths for cooking meat and fish. Any can be ordered à la carte, but Mark Shaw says most guests opt to try them all in a whopping four-course parade called the Big Night Out. It typically takes about three hours and costs about $40 per person.
The Melting Pot, 309 South Main, 622–0055. Mon.–Thurs. 4–10 p.m., Fri. 4–11 p.m., Sat. noon–11 p.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. meltingpot.com
[Originally published in January, 2009.]
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