I must admit, The Melting Pot was not on my list of chains that I wished would open in El Paso. I knew of this chain from my family in Denver, in which opinions are divided. Fun fact: the Denver (Littleton) location is housed in a former Carnegie Library! I never had an interest because the restaurant’s concept sounded dated and gimmicky to me. I also figured that the vegetarian options would be limited.
It was a surprise to find that a location would be opening at the Fountains at Farah. My interest was piqued when I heard that they had revamped their concept, and that El Paso’s location was to feature a new design with a broader menu selection. I reached out to them to see if they could tell me if there were any vegan and vegetarian options, and they invited me in to give them a try during opening week. What an experience it was!
The Melting Pot in El Paso is a mix of casual and swanky where you can dress up to dine or come as you are for happy hour. I met with John Westland, who’s formal title is International Franchise Business Manger. He gave me a quick tour and took the time to explain the overwhelming amount of menu items and answer all my veg questions.
The interior is gorgeous and open, with a bit of a mid-century modern design. The bar area has a unique setup of bar height tables jutting out from the bar counter, complete with hotplate units. Towards the back, you can see all the fondue-making action happening and peruse packaged cheeses, nuts, and desserts to take home. After settling into a table out on the patio, I started out with The Melting Pot Mule served in an adorable mini pot that’s also available for purchase. This was one of the most refreshing and flavorful mules I’ve ever had thanks to the addition of fresh mint. It was somewhere between a mule and a mojito, but not overly sweet.
While I waited for my first course, I scanned through what I think were five or six separate menus. It’s a lot to take in and you’ll need every bit of guidance from your server. There’s the brunch menu, served during the weekend from 10 am-3 pm with some fun items like an Alpine Benedict Fondue, waffles, scrambles, and Stuffed Brioche Beignets (what?!). Then there’s a lunch a menu (served M-F, 11am-3pm) featuring “Fondue in a Flash,” salads, paninis (I see you, Brie & Pear), and entrees. The remaining menus are dinner, bar, dessert, and kids. P.S. Happy hour is M-F from 4-7 pm and 9-11 pm in the bar and patio areas!
Not specified on the menus, but available, is a full vegan four-course meal, which is what they had me sample. The menu includes some specialty items that may not be in stock, so vegetarians and vegans, be sure to call ahead to verify that they are available to order. Before long, my salad was brought out and the cooking unit located in the center of the table was turned on for the incoming fondue pot. The cheese fondues are made to order, so ingredients can be omitted, like Worcestershire sauce. The cheese sauce is made with beer, but can be made with gluten-free beer if gluten sensitive. Vegetarians won’t have to worry about rennet in any of the cheeses, and vegans will be especially surprised that the restaurant carries Follow Your Heart brand cheddar. I was impressed by the vegan cheese fondue, which was flavorful and didn’t have that icky taste or texture vegan cheeses often have. Dippers for the cheese include pretzel bread, baguette, apples, grape tomatoes, celery, and carrots. The vegetables left much to be desired, but it didn’t matter once they were covered in cheese.
The entree is the fun and really interactive part, where you get to select entree items and cooking styles. I didn’t have to choose, as they wanted me to try a bit of all the vegan options, which included a variety of fresh vegetables, ginger teriyaki tofu, and vegetable polpettes (Gardein meatless meatballs).
At this point, I got to enjoy another one of their cocktails from their fantastic beverage menu. I was wowed by two unique drink options, one being a special wine tasting and blending area of the bar where where you can order a wine flight with 3 oz. pours or combine those pours to create a custom blend. The other wow factor was the porthole, a shareable cocktail served in a vessel containing a rotating selection of barrel-aged cask cocktails or fruit and herb-infused cocktails. Beers on tap and in the bottle are also served. I tried the Modern Old Fashioned, which was made with Knob Creek Whisky, a brown sugar cube, 18.21 Earl Grey Bitters, orange peel, and a filthy cherry (Luxardo).
Chocolate fondue closed out the meal with Enjoy Life brand vegan dark chocolate and fresh fruit. If you’re too full, they will gladly pack it up for you to enjoy at home.
The Melting Pot provides a unique, interactive dining experience that’s perfect for date night or special occasions. The full fondue experience will cost about $30-60 per person depending on item selections. It sounds a little pricey, but I thought it worth the really nice experience. The revamped menu provides choices for those who would rather have a chef prepare the entree or would like to opt out of a course, which could help bring down the price. Menu items crafted especially for El Paso, include Hatch Green Chili Cheddar fondue, as well as a Mexican Chocolate Flambe fondue.
Vegan Guide to the menu:
- Ask for Vegan cheese
- White baguette & pretzel bread (Honey Wheat is of course not vegan)
- Dressings: Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette, Oil & Balsamic
- House salad: ask for no croutons, cheese, & eggs
- California Salad: ask for no gorgonzola, candied pecans
- Good Earth Vegetarian – ask for no Sacchetti pasta, they’ll sub mushroom caps
- Cooking Style: Bourginonne or Grill (FYI, the Court Bouillon (seasoned vegetable broth) is not vegan)
- Sauces: Teriyaki, Ginger Plum
- Ask for vegan chocolate fondue
- Dippers: fruit
Disclosure: The Melting Pot provided me with a free meal and drinks for my honest opinion.