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Let the day melt away at Glendale eatery

Queens might be referred to as a melting pot of ethnicities and nationalities, but those craving actual melting pots might best head to Glendale, where Simply Fondue offers an array of tempting, European-style dinners at the Shops at Atlas Park.

Owner Henry Fernandez, of Maspeth, opened up the franchise restaurant at the mall in October 2008, about two years after the new mall opened.

He said the restaurant is getting by mostly on word of mouth.

“A lot of people don’t know about us yet, but more and more we’re getting more popular,” he said. “On the weekends, you definitely need reservations. On weekdays, you can walk in, no problem.”

Dinners range from $13 for half a fondue pot to $69 a person for a fancy group meal. Melted cheese meals feature diverse varieties like pepper jack, Swiss chalet and Italian fontina. They also offer standard entrees like lobster and beef tenderloin.

Part of the draw is the restaurant’s private dining options. For a $20 fee, it offers several secluded, specially decorated rooms away from the chatter of the main dining room, where diners can enjoy dipping food items in melted cheese and chocolate.

“A lot of people come here and do birthdays and anniversaries,” Fernandez said. “It’s an event place.”

Walking into Simply Fondue drops one immediately into an evening ambience. Lights are dim and everything is paneled in rich, dark woods. With the evening in mind, Fernandez said, the restaurant also boasts a bar with 100 different martinis.

Like the rest of the Shops at Atlas Park, the slick, pseudo-urban atmosphere may be slightly out of step with the neighborhood, but Fernandez said nearby residents have given him positive feedback.

“It’s a place where they can come and kick back,” he said. “We have half-price martinis on Mondays. They come for a dessert, appetizers. When they get out-of-towners, this is where they bring them.”

Local acceptance must have been a relief for Fernandez, 33, who formerly managed a cafe but had no cooking experience of his own.

“I’d been looking for the right business to open for probably four years,” he said. “I’m not a chef, so I wanted something that I could jump in the kitchen and pretty much do like a prep cook and bring it out.”

The job of getting the restaurant open consumed his life for more than a year, he said, noting he had to refit the interior of an old factory building.

“It was basically a concrete floor,” he said. “I had to get someone to sandblast and bring the original brick to its state, lay new floor, new HVAC, new fire alarms, soup to nuts. For me to do this not having really built a restaurant in my entire life was one hell of an experience.”

For more information about Simply Fondue, call 718-416-3755 or visit simplyfonduenyc.com.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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