I’ve only been to one original Melting Pot restaurant, as part of a huge group for a bachelorette party. I remember the multiple large containers of cheese and chocolate, the variety of dippers, and the fun and interactivity of the experience.
It was a big, rich meal and a memorable way to celebrate our friend getting married, especially when we all got to laugh about a dipper taking the plunge off someone’s fondue fork into a melted pool of goodness.
So when I realized there was a similar but distinct restaurant in Asheville called Melting Pot Social (or MeltSo, for short), I was intrigued – from what I could see from walking down busy Patton Avenue, I knew that it looked modern, trendy, open, and spacious, and was in the thick of everything: next to the beautiful new Restoration Hotel, across from historic Pritchard Park, and within easy reach of all the many downtown music and entertainment venues.
When we visited, we were hungry, and we got recommendations on what the concept would yield. Rather than a meal that is entirely cheese and chocolate-centric (nothing wrong with that!), this menu features appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and entrees, as well as much more manageable small fondues that you can order.
I saw a couple at the bar trying a small fondue as their nibble with a drink, making it more of a mid-afternoon snack, but also various people eating full meals. Because we arrived famished, we opted to split food from the traditional menu as well as fondue – why not try it all?
First, we started with an appetizer and a small salad to help us get a little veggie in our stomachs before the rich flavors to come. We tried the FGT Stack, a beautiful and compact appetizer of fried green tomatoes covered in “angry ranch” and with a flavorful slaw to accompany the crispy-cornmeal-fried tomatoes.
The flavors were perfect for this appetizer, which is impressive given that neither my husband nor I are very big fans of ranch – this is more like a creamy sauce with a spicy kick that goes well with the fresh, watery tomato and the crunch of the cornmeal.
We also tried the MeltSo House Salad with a citrus dressing that was light and perfect to start us off. Whenever we know I’m going to be reviewing a restaurant, my husband and I tend to each order an entree and split them so I can accurately review both. In this case, we opted to get one fondue and one entree and each eat some of both.
Choosing was surprisingly hard, but we sipped some flavorful drinks while we deliberated. I chose the 828 Spritz (I can’t resist anything themed to Asheville!), which added vodka and prosecco to grapefruit and lemon juices and was finished off with a honey-vanilla infusion – sweet and light to the core!
My husband opted for the Blue Ridge Smoked Old Fashioned, a wild drink that arrived with some assembly required – our server put his glass on the table with the ice in it and unstoppered a little drink container where smoke and the rest of the ingredients of the cocktail were mixing.
She poured it over the ice and the smoke wafted up from the drink, a fancy and fun touch that continued the theme that there’s a playful spirit at work on the MeltSo menu. The resulting drink had a strong root beer overtone, being made with Sugarlands Shine Root Beer Moonshine, Kahlúa, black walnut bitters, orange peel, and black cherry. I’ve never tried an Old Fashioned made with a root beer undertone, but I can totally see why it works now!
One of the cool elements of the fondue menu is that it’s fully customizable. The chef has created four blends that include some kind of mix-in and a few different kinds of cheese that they know will taste great on the available dippers, but you can also choose your own cheeses and mix-ins to create your totally unique fondue experience.
We opted for a chef creation, the spinach and artichoke variety made with butterkase and fontina cheese, loosened with vegetable broth to make it smooth and dippable, and flavored with garlic, parmesan, and Tabasco for kick. With it came simple wooden forks and a few different tasty dippers: roasted potatoes, sliced pear, raw broccoli and tomatoes, and some pretzel bread bites.
I was happy with the size: while any pot of cheese is going to be a substantial serving, this amount of dippers was very manageable and well-paired with the spinach-artichoke-filled cheese. The little candle under the fondue dish gave a little ambiance as we discovered the joys of cheese potatoes and cheese on pear slices.
We also shared the Sweet Spiced Sticky Ribs, a crispy pork rib dish using gochujang (a red chili paste popular in Korea), as well as sesame seeds and scallions. The ribs were tender and flavorful, and they were served with an absolutely delicious mac and cheese.
If I’d had my wits about me, I might have asked for a different side, since we had other cheese to eat, but I’m glad I didn’t: trust a fondue restaurant to make the creamiest, dreamiest mac and cheese! All things in moderation, including moderation, is my motto.
We were probably full by any person’s standard after this, but we weren’t stuffed, so we took the plunge and picked a chef’s creation off the chocolate fondue menu: this one was a white-chocolate and berry-based fondue called Wildberry Swirl.
It was very pretty when served, and the dippers fulfilled my inner child’s whimsy: while there were tasty bananas and strawberries, there were also chunks of flavorful pound cake and sprinkle-encrusted crispy rice treats… decadent and downright fun!
The design inside the restaurant features an exposed brick wall with a big, luscious mural of a strawberry dripping chocolate, as well as the word Asheville in big letters further into the building. The color scheme features orange, which I think brightens up the space, and the big garage door window in front brings tons of natural light during a bright day.
My favorite feature, though, is how the dining area is essentially a C shape, with the middle of the C being the bar and fondue-prep area. I think most of the kitchen is in the back, but there’s a small area that feels “open-kitchen” style. I haven’t often seen the bar set in the middle this way in restaurants, and I really like the look.
Having tried both concepts, I’m now biased toward the Social experience – while fondue is a wonderful option, it’s also really fun to be able to have it as something like an appetizer or final note of a meal rather than the star attraction.
This feels like a great spot to celebrate an elementary-school-and-up birthday – the food menu itself is fun and memorable, and the adults can get their choice from the extensive bar. I’d be surprised if anyone failed to find something that sparks joy on this menu, and with its decor that walks the line between trendy, classy, and casual, you can make your own adventure with a meal at Melting Pot Social. I’ll definitely be back.
Melting Pot Social: 74 Patton Ave, Asheville.
Have you been to Melting Pot Social in Asheville yet? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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