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Melting Pot Happy Hour

Name: Melting Pot
Location: Corner of SW Sixth Avenue & Main Street, Portland, OR 97204
Contact information: 503.517.8960
Web address: www.meltingpot.com
Smoke free: Yes
Happy hour: Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Features: Tap Beer $3, Drink of the Day, House Wines $4.75, Assorted Appetizers $2-$4, Assorted Fondues $10-$12
Insider tip: Fondue on the cheap(er) – stick to that and skip the other temptingly low-priced appetizers

Sure, it’s a national chain, but its a fondue chain. See, doesn’t that make it worth the visit? Plus, they’ve managed to put a restaurant totally underground. Mood lighting time, all the time!

I ventured to the Melting Pot on a Friday around 5:15. Most of the tables in the bar were reserved for dinner – at 5:15 or 5:45. I found it unusual that bar tables were reserved for dinner…especially when there were a variety of other tables. So, we hovered for a bit and passed on a few sets of bar stools as they opened up.

The bar was appropriately active, but not overflowing with people. Still, it was more than enough to keep the one server hopping…and us, of course, waiting. The waitress, Lindsey, was attentive, friendly and helpful when she finally got to pay us a visit, but I have to wonder about a place that gives a whole bar on a Friday evening to one server. It should also be noted that not one of the three reserved tables ever sat a party. Plenty of people asked, however. Again, makes me wonder…

Anyway, you know how some places put things on the menu solely for happy hour? The Melting Pot is one of those. They list a cheese and spinach dipping sauce for half off ($4), lobster/crab/shrimp in small phyllo cups for $2 (instead of $11) and smoked salmon balls for the same price. We skipped the salmon and instead went with a signature dish – this is a fondue place, after all – the Wisconsin trio.

Fondue is a fun experience – at the Melting Pot there’s a burner on the table, switched on by the server. The metal-handled pot (another stroke of, ah, genius) warms your fondue, which is prepared in front of you. We sat twirling in veggies, bread and apples while we waited for the other dishes. The seafood-in-pastries dish was rubbish – bland, without taste, and a rip-off for even $2.

The cheese and spinach dip was supposed to come in a bread bowl, but they must have been out, since ours was served in a dish. It was also supposed to come less than, oh, 45 minutes after we ordered it, but again, they were out and had to prepare more. I found it to be uninspiring.

Bottom line: poor management but good service, sub-standard food but fun fondue.