Is there anything more delicious-sounding than a big, bubbling cauldron of melted cheese, surrounded by lots of different accompaniments for dunking? Fondue is indeed one of the most delicious and decadent foods on earth, and we’ve tracked down the 10 best restaurants to dive into it.
Fondue is a traditional Swiss dish, but it came to American shores in a big way back in the 1960s and ‘70s as the centerpiece of countless suburban parties. But while it may come across to some as old-fashioned and plebian, it’s anything but: When properly prepared, cheese fondue can be downright gastronomic.
Fondue is actually a little more complicated to prepare then it appears (just ask anyone who’s tossed a bunch of cheese into a pot and expected anything other than a gloopy mess). To make classic Swiss fondue, a fondue pot (called a caquelon) is first rubbed with a cut garlic clove, then dry white wine is added and heated with a little cornstarch. A blend of shredded cheeses is then added (Gruyère, Emmentaler, and Appenzeller are the most traditional), and the mixture is stirred constantly until the cheese is melted; a little kirsch (cherry brandy) completes the dish. Cubes of bread are all you need for dipping, but other baigneuses (“bathers”) can include apples, fingerling potatoes, and chunks of lightly seared beef.
Of course, there are dozens (if not hundreds) or variations on cheese fondue served in Switzerland — and neighboring regions of France — alone; the cheese combinations are infinite and some recipes include chiles, tomatoes, mushrooms,cream, even truffles. Cheddar and beer are popular components in America (Tex-Mex queso, Mexican queso fundido, and British Welsh rarebit are close relatives of fondue, but are not included in our ranking).
The most visible purveyor of fondue, in a number of variations, is The Melting Pot, a Florida-based chain with more than 140 units in the US, Canada, and Mexico. These 10 non-chain restaurants all serve top-notch fondue in traditional Swiss or non-traditional styles, and are the perfect places to warm up on a cold night.