Friday, September 7, 2007
THAT 70's RESTARAUNT-THE LITTLE DIPPER IN WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
THE LECTURE: Fondue is a traditional Swiss communal dish shared at the table in an earthenware pot ("caquelon") over a small burner ("rechaud"). The term "fondue" comes from the French "fondre" ("to melt"), referring to the fact that the contents of the pot are kept in a liquid state so that diners can use forks to dip into the sauce. The practice of Fondue hit a high point in the US in the 70's when it enjoyed a moment of popularity that was not sustained. In recent years, restaraunts in NY, most notably Dip, have revived this phenomenon. The practice is too much of a niche activity to realistically break back into the mainstream for very long, if at all. This is especially true since most thing devoted to single life are not front and center in the conciousness of the public.
The practice, however, will always have its devotees, and, for the hipster contingency, the practice will always be an appealing thing due to its 70's vibe and ritualistic nature. Anyway, Wilmington has a first rate fondue restaraunt called The Little Dipper (a too cute name for a place that has hipster aspirations). The restaraunt, located in the old location of Crook's Corner (a restaraunt that, if you can believe the rumors, lost most of its profits up its nose) near the Barbary Coast. The setup and menu are clever, The choice are set up as a three-course meal starting with a cheese appetizer for the table to partake. In addition, all of the tables are handmade with one or more common burners in the center of the table. The setup is unique in that all diners share a pot to cook in which requires all to agree on one common cooking style, including Peanut Oil, White Merlot and Vegetable Broth, Port Wine and Beef Broth or Chicken Broth.
The novelty of the place is considerable, and it has one great prop/conversation piece in the tank of jelly fish located near the entrance and bar (the bar appears to be pretty ordinary with stacks of Encore magazine and business cardsn nearby and not very interesting people sitting there watching sports)> TLD would be a great place to take a first date. My wife, stepdaughter and her boyfriend all went over Labor Day weekend and it was sufficiently removed from the collegiate shenanigans of Front Street to allow us to walk down to the Cape Fear River without the worry of dodging beer bottles from all of the "sophisticates" in Wilmington. (Personal note: It is funny the way things come full circle: I parked about a block away in front of an old girlfriend's house where my tires were slashed not once, but twice during the course of a week way back in 1994, by my girlfriends jealous ex-girlfriend-Thankfully, the tires were intact when I returned to our car).
The wine list was a great thing as well. Many of the wines were half-price (which means they were only marked up about 60%). We had two bottles of Hess Select (a very good first-rate, second rate wine) which were perfect and exceedingly reasonable at about 16.00 a bottle. The food was tremendous and surprisingly filling despite the fact it was mainly small bits of tuna, chicken, etc.
One small complaint: The serving style of waiters in the port city is depressingly casual. Our waiter, adept though he was kneeled down to take our orders as if we were in a bar-b-que restaruant and told us his name "Hi, my name is..." This is merely a small example of the over-familiar style of the southern service industry which is a small annoyance, but an annoyance, nonetheless. Less annoying was the reasonable price tag, as people can eat for about 40.00 a person (and eat quite well)
Check this one out, for a break from the tired Cafe Phoenix, DeLuxe routine-Also, check out the Hookah Bar (A Hookah Bar!) across the street!
138 S. Front St.
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Links of note from M & L...
- I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...