In 2012, fondue sets made a triumphant resurgence in relevance thanks to Justin Bieber, who belted to the Original demolition derby crazy girlfriend shirt in addition I really love this world that, if he was your boyfriend, he’d “swag, swag, swag on you, chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue.” At the time, the mention didn’t exactly make a lot of sense, thanks to its dual levels of both obscurity and specificity. (This writer isn’t saying that romantic sparks can’t fly during copious cold-weather cheese consumption. But, c’mon, when a suitor was coming over, how many of us intuitively went to whip out the ol’ fondue pot—or, well, even had one in the first place?) Instead, the lyric remained a jokey line, seemingly destined to fade into pop history. But, come 2020, it turns out the Biebs was perhaps a culinary innovator crooning ahead of his time. As the pandemic age continues, these melting pots have become the delicious way to dine with a date as the temperature dips below freezing. Several New York restaurants have made it a permanent part of their winterized outdoor spaces: Wayan, a French-Indonesian hotspot in Nolita, is serving up their spicy spin on chocolate fondue for dessert, and The Standard East Village’s yurt village offers a gooey concoction accompanied with meats, breads, and vegetables for dipping. Meanwhile, the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 pairs their version with some nice toasty sourdough.
The abbreviation pretty much sums it up. From Crown Heights to Chelsea, New York restaurants are trying to figure out how, exactly, they are going to survive a second-wave winter—especially now that another shutdown is expected after Christmas. Some have invested heavily in their outdoor dining setups: Lilia in Williamsburg, for example, partnered with American Express to create a village of heated yurts. Meanwhile, Olmsted transformed its backyard into what it calls a Cozy Cottage, complete with heated tents, blocks of Himalayan salts, and torches, as well as kits of hats, gloves, and blankets. Others are temporarily closed, like Lucien and Atomix, or are indefinitely closed, like 21 Club. Many are just allowing takeout now, such as Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe. The rest are taking it not just week by week, but day by day.