Not all restaurant trends are good. For every new spot embracing the industrial chic look successfully is a place trying to serve up dinner on a roofing shingle or something equally ludicrous. On a long enough timeline everything hip becomes less so and the secret is in knowing when to pivot to the next hip thing rather than let your restaurant become lame. Most restaurants that stick around long time fit into one of three categories: those who know how to change with the times; those who make food so good that it doesn't matter if they change because they've developed a loyal following of regulars; and The Melting Pot.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love The Melting Pot, even as I acknowledge your criticisms of it. I don't mind that it didn't make our own list of best places to cook your own food. I hear you when you say that it feels dated instead of vintage. Yes, I agree it is a bit weird when hours later you catch the smell of fondue in the air and you realize it's coming from you.
I just don't care, is all. I think going to The Melting Pot is a great night out, and the fact that it feels like an older restaurant that is somehow frozen in time actually works for it instead of against it.
I don't remember what it was like to go out to eat before I had a smartphone, which is silly because I know I did it regularly. I assumed when I was with people I talked, and because I was a poor college student mainly only ate at places that had TVs when I was rolling solo. Or maybe I just sat with my thoughts and ignored my homework. Those all seem plausible, at least.
Now, ordering food just feels like that thing that gets in the way of me looking for cute animal content on social media and/or arguing with strangers about things I really don't care about all that much. And I bet you've seen your share of couples eating dinner across from each other, food falling out of their mouth as they stare down at their phone; if you haven't, take it from me, it's super gross.
But The Melting Pot encourages active eating, which encourages actually talking to the people in your dark booth. Fondue isn't a passive experience. You're figuring out how much cheese you want on each dip, you're tracking the cook time of your meats and vegetables, and you're trying to get as much chocolate onto your dessert options as possible. So you use your skewers and you stare at the pots as they come and go and you talk to the people around you. Yeah, maybe you try and snap a photo or two for Instagram along the way, but fondue is also a smoky experience, and it's usually not worth the effort to try and get the perfect shot.
And it's fun too, like making s'mores without the mess, unless you're bad at keeping the melted cheese on your dipping food of choice, and with less chance of accidentally setting yourself on fire.
No, a trip to The Melting Pot is not for everyone. If you balk at the prospect of a $30 steak the price of the average trip will make you frown. Like I said, the smell will linger long after you step out of the restaurant. And you'll be eating at this silly restaurant instead of somewhere newer that maybe has better food.
But I promise you this: you'll leave stuffed and you'll have spent a few hours with someone you (hopefully) enjoy being around, eating and talking and laughing and not choosing the glow of the screen over the person sitting with you. Every now and then it's nice to step back into the past, no matter how unhip it is today.