Fondue in Sarasota: The Melting Pot vs. Dylan’s Fondue Fusion

*Update* It looks like Dylan’s has closed. They were a great addition to the Sarasota restaurant scene. We’re sorry to see them go… (Thank you to Sharon, one of our readers, for tipping us off.)

The Melting Pot’s reservation line is (941) 365-2628. Always a great experience!

My gorgeous wife, Jill, and I really enjoy going out for fondue. For whatever reason, it really rings our bell. I think perhaps the slower-paced, more intimate dinner experience is a big part of it. But of course the chocolate finish is guaranteed to be a big part of it.

But for us a long evening out isn’t very commonly an option, so we were quite delighted when the opportunity came up to celebrate Valentine’s together without being concerned about time constraints and babysitters (thank God for grandparents who live nearby!). And, of course, fondue was at the top of the list.

We’d heard about Dylan’s Fondue Fusion — the upstart contender here in Sarasota — from some friends who said they had a good experience. And, when a coupon arrived in the mail on the front of one of those “clipper” magazines, that iced it for us… we decided to give it a try.

Now we’re not really gamblers where food and restaurants are concerned. Me? I’ll try anything… but you know keeping “Momma” happy is more important than anything else on evenings like this… and she likes what she knows. So, I was thrilled she wanted to try it, given that we are both huge fans of The Melting Pot in Sarasota.

The Melting Pot has been a regular haunt of ours on special occasions for years. In fact, just a few months ago we ate there on our 10th Anniversary.  We love the food — the beer-based cheese fondue with cheddar and Emmenthaler,  the Coq Au Vin cooking style, and most definitely the chocolate at the end (we haven’t tried one we weren’t absolutely thrilled with) — and the atmosphere. When they moved to their new home downtown a few years ago, we made the move with them — the new place has great ambience and is even reasonably easy to get in and out of with parking in the building.

The New Kid on the Block: Dylan’s Fondue Fusion

What about Dylan’s Fondue Fusion? Well… we didn’t know much other than the report from friends, and since the budget is important this year, the coupon helped. It’s located in a storefront on US 41 just a little stretch south of Bee Ridge Road. Not the most elegant location — at least on the exterior. So… all things considered, it was a gamble.

We made our reservation almost a week in advance — a good move, given that we wanted to go on Friday night before Valentine’s Day (which was, of course, on Saturday).  We opted for an early time slot to give us plenty of time to enjoy the entire evening. So… we pulled up at 5:30, almost on the nose.  We were greeted by someone who was clearly a hardworking young man. Later we learned his name is Dylan, but he didn’t let on that he was the owner when he greeted us.  His was somewhat casual attire, with a black t-shirt and apron… I took him for a staff member.

We were seated right away in the already busy restaurant, and learned from our conversation that they were completely booked with reservations and would be turning people away until very late in the evening.  The ambience and decor turned out to be quite nice — low lighting and darkish colors on the walls gave it a fairly elegant feel. The reservation was clearly a good idea, since waiting wouldn’t have been overly welcome to us.

Given that the restaurant has been open for only about 6 months, everything was new — the seating and the in-table burner and so forth.  We were treated excellently by our server, a highly professional yet warm and friendly young lady named Ashley.  She anticipated our every need, was proactive with the drink refills (something I tend to notice), and neither rushed us nor left us waiting between courses.

The food?  Excellent. Not only was it on par with The Melting Pot, but Dylan’s Fondue Fusion may have even come out on top in this category.  The cheese course was tasty — we went for a beer-based cheddar & Emmenthaler combo, which we were delighted to spot on the menu.  The veggies and breads that were served with it were fresh, tasty, and well-prepared.  The salad course gave us plenty of choices, and though both of our salads were a little heavy on the dressing, it was nothing to complain about.The options for the entree were plentiful and diverse, including a “we can’t decide” option they call “Everything But the Kitchen Sink.”  That was the one we chose, because we were able to select from a list of favorites rather than choosing one of the main sets of entrees.

Being experienced fonduers (is that a word?), we appreciated the presentation of the foods and the clear instructions. You always need a bit of a reminder on things, it seems, no matter how many times you’ve done fondue. And, of course, in a new restaurant, you want to make sure that even what is familiar will still apply. Ashley took great care of us in this department and presented us with a stunning array of sauces.  Again, very much on par with our expectations.

The chocolate course was fabulous, with cheesecake, lots of gorgeous fruits like strawberries and pineapple, and some brownies and other tasty morsels.

All in all, with pricing that is strategically less than that of The Melting Pot, Dylan’s Fondue Fusion has won us over. We’ll definitely go back.  I highly recommend the entire experience, and since you can have an experience that is just as good (if not better) than its cross-town established competition for a little less money, why wouldn’t you?

As we were on our way out, I heard someone refer to Dylan by name. Of course, being lightning-fast in my brain I put 2 and 2 together. I had to shake his hand and let him know how much we enjoyed it and how much we’d been fans of The Melting Pot.  He was glad to know he’d won us over.

Definitely give Dylan’s a shot if you’re looking for a nice, slow-paced, intimate evening out with some great food and great service.  And let him know I sent ya.

Here are the important details in case you need ’em:

Dylan’s Fondue Fusion
4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL, 34231
Take my advice, make a reservation: (941) 926-1289

They’re on the east side of 41 in the brick plaza behind Chili’s.  There’s a Sprint store closest to the road… and plenty of well-lit parking close by. Enjoy your fondue!

Baby Talk – Infant and Toddler Speech Development

I’m admittedly a little biased on this one.  OK… I’m very biased…

My gorgeous and amazing wife, who is a speech and language development expert, has just unveiled a shiny new downloadable audio program intended for parents of infants and toddlers.

Now… I’ve actually lived through the development of this material. Our beautiful 3-year-old daughter is one of the most articulate and verbal children I’ve ever seen in my life. So, not only do I know it works, but I’ve been encouraging Jill for nearly 10 years now to help other people understand this material.

Who Would Benefit From This?

If you’re an expectant parent or if there’s an infant, toddler, or preschooler in your life, you don’t want to miss out on this information. Until I married Jill, I was unaware of how significant the speech and language development of a baby was to their intellectual and — get this — even their physiological brain development.  That’s right, what you do in your interactions with your little one can actually affect the way their brain gets wired as it forms and develops.

Complex Made Simple

Jill is one of the few people that I know who has that rare ability to take volumes of information and distill it down to something simple and actionable. So, while there’s a healthy amount of research and high level info for those that want to sink their teeth into it, anyone will find this useful. She provides very simple tips and techniques you can use to help your child develop.

The bottom line? If you want to set your child up for the greatest possible success, wire their brain from birth! Check out Baby Talk and Beyond: The Power & Promise of First Words.

Oh… and be sure to tell her I sent ya.  Points like that are invaluable!

The Motorcycle Jones

It doesn’t have much to do with business (or does it? hmmmm…), but my good friend Bill Sanders is on a meandering motorcycle trip and is reporting about it on his blog. He left from his home in Northern California on Monday and is making some scheduled stops before starting to wander aimlessly.

Every motorcyclist’s dream trip.

Reading about it is both joy and torture. Makes me wish I had a bike.