Monday, March 5, 2012

Foodie: The 4 Best Fondue Spots in NYC


The Bourgeois Pig
East Village

(122 East 7th Street between First Ave & Ave A)
Savory Cheese Fondues: $24-32, Sweet Chocolate Fondues: $24-30

Although they might not look like it at first, these fondues are so rich that one pot is sufficient for two people.  If you order two, you'll be stuffed to the point of a stomachache! However, should you still be a little hungry, order one of their small plates or split a chocolate fondue for dessert. What makes The Bourgeois Pig very special is its variety of fondue choices.  My favorites are the Rarebit Fondue (w/ beer & grains), the Lobster Bisque Fondue, and the Dark Chocolate Fondue (w/ Baileys).  All of the savory fondues are paired with really hearty dippers such as roasted veggies & potatoes, pretzels, cornichons, and toast points.  The sweet fondues are paired with cake, fruit, and other goodies to satisfy your sweet-tooth. The Bourgeois Pig is also famous for their pricey yet original drink menu.  If you're with a group of 2-4, I'd recommend getting one of the Champagne Punch Bowls ($40) which come in exciting concoctions such as "Polynesian: lillet blanc, black cherry grenadine, lime, rhubarb bitters, and champagne".  The atmosphere is a bit dark and the decor consists of "antique" velvet upholstered chairs, marble tables, etc.  It's usually a pretty busy place so walk in and put your name on the list.  Despite what they say, wait is often not longer than 15 minutes.  You can also sit at the bar and order any of the fondues.
The Bourgeois Pig - Official Site | The Bourgeois Pig on MenuPages


Upper East Side

(1648 Second Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets)
Cheese Fondue for Two: $48.95, Chocolate Fondue for Two: $23.50
Heidelberg is the last surviving restaurant of Yorkville, what used to be Manhattan's German Town.  Since 1936 it has been serving up traditional German food to a rowdy crowd of all ages.  The cheese fondue is made with the German specialty liquor Kirschwasser (a sour cherry brandy) and comes with an assortment of raw vegetables, french bread, and a garden salad. The chocolate fondue comes with an assortment of fruit and sweets.  Heidelberg's fondues are best paired with the fine selection of German beers that they have on tap at the bar.  The most popular choice is the 2L Steifel (boot) which will run you about $30 and requires a $60 deposit at the bar...but well worth it for an Oktoberfest-style night out!  Some draft favorites include Franziskaner Weissbier, Hofbrau, Spaten, and Warsteiner.  The atmosphere is reminiscent of a German chalet with wood trim around the walls, animal horns, and large oil paintings that span the width of the side walls.  The atmosphere is very cosy and perfect for a chilly autumn or spring night. Servers dress in traditional dirndls and lederhosen.  There are usually free tables even on weekend nights, so there shouldn't be a need to make advanced reservations unless you're a big group.


La Cave des Fondus at Jacques's Bistro

(20 Prince Street between Elizabeth & Mott)
Savory Fondues: $21 per person, Sweet Fondues: $9-10 per person
Walk downstairs at Jacques's Bistro in NoLita and you will find a cavernous cellar filled with long tables of fondue & wine enthusiasts.  For your entree, you'll have the choice of either La Fondue Savoyarde (cheese fondue w/ bread, sliced ham, & green salad) or La Fondue Bourguignonne (sliced hanger steak in beef bouillon w/ fries, green salad, and Bearnaise or Aurore sauce).  On Sunday-Thursday nights all fondues come with a free biberon, or portion of wine served in a baby bottle (a tradition started at Le Refuge des Fondus in Paris and usually $8).  For dessert you can order the Vahlrona Chocolate Fondue with either cream puff pastries or fresh fruit.  This space is frequently booked for private events so be sure to call ahead and make sure it is open on the night you wish to visit.  I had the misfortune of going on one of their booked nights once - so call ahead to avoid disappointment!  The long tables provide for communal seating so don't be surprised if you are seated with another group.  Sit back, sip a biberon, and make some new amis!


Cafe Select

(212 Lafayette Street at Kenmare Street)
Fondue Starters/Mains for Two: $20-23/$40-46, Raclette: $23 pp (2 or more)
Travel through Cafe Select and in the back you will find their "secret" fondue & raclette room.  This room requires a special advance reservation so be sure to call ahead.  Seatings are from 7-10pm and on weekend nights I've heard this room turns into a great party later in the night. Options include the Select House Fondue, the Fondue "South of the Alps" (w/ fresh & sun-dried tomatoes and olives), and Fondue with White Truffle Oil.  All are made with Kirsch and come with bread, vegetables, cornichons, pickled onions, and fruits.  Another option is to order the Raclette, a traditional Swiss dish similar to fondue, that involves slicing the hot cheese onto your plate.  In this case, you get to make your own on the table grill, which comes with cornichons, pickled onions, potatoes, and vegetables.  Their regular menu is fantastic as well.  I highly recommend the schnitzel (so big it could feed two!) with an additional side of spatzli.  They also have a fantastic cocktail selection - don't miss the wine spritzer with elderflower ($8)! Top it all off with an apple strudel for dessert.

Beware of Bad Fondue Deals:
The worst place I've experienced in NYC for fondue is Honey (Chelsea, 243 West 14th Street).  It's been featured on several of the daily deal sites offering dinner deals for groups of 4. I went with one of these deals in a group of 3 and was severely disappointed.  One savory & one sweet fondue were definitely not enough to sustain the three of us for dinner. We would have liked to order an additional savory fondue but it was fairly pricey ($36-38 for a large).  The fondue pots themselves came with a very measly portion of raw vegetables and french bread.  We ended up having to order extra dippers and got charged a decent amount for the veggies AND the bread.  It was a real rip-off and the fondue didn't even taste that great.  Until they change their menu, I would not recommend it for fondue.  It's alright for an after-work happy hour bar though - pretty decent drink specials.  For fondue, it seems best to stick with a restaurant venue vs. a bar venue.

The Cheapest Option:
The cheapest option is to make your own fondue! I recently got a friend this fantastic electric fondue pot from Oster, now on sale for just $29 at Walmart.  I've purchased the specialty Swiss boxed fondue cheese at the grocery store for certain occasions (usually $20), but you can really just drop any cheeses and white wines of your choice into the pot.  It doesn't have to be anything special.  You can also make chocolate fondue in it.  The pot came with a booklet of really creative recipes so I'd recommend trying out some of them too.  Then, just buy some veggies, french bread, fruit, or meat and bon appetit!

Don't see YOUR favorite fondue spot? Post in the comments or send a tweet to @hauteonthespot1For more ideas, visit Tasting Table's recent article on fondue spots HERE.

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