Before the door even opens to Dante’s Down the Hatch and the crocodile graves out front come into focus, it becomes obvious that Dante’s is a different kind of restaurant. This quirky fondue restaurant is overflowing with memorabilia and random items that Dante Stephenson, creator and owner of the restaurant, has collected over the years.

Dante Stephenson poses in front of the pirate ship in his restaurant.

From my seat at the table overlooking the restaurant, I could see much of what makes Dante’s unique. There were families eating on the pirate ship in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by the moat filled with Dante’s personal pet crocodiles, as well as children examining the original Danish treasure chest at the entrance. As I took in the life-sized models of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Mark Twain in the corner, our waiter, Chris, came to take our order.

Every table at Dante’s is taken care of by two waiters, a regular waiter and a special fondue waiter. We ordered the imported cheese fondue and the Mandarin fondue. Almost immediately after ordering, Chris came back with our cheese fondue supplies, with Nick, our fondue waiter, close behind to set it up for us. The cheese fondue is essentially a pot of hot melted cheese that comes with food like apples, fancy bread, tomatoes, broccoli, and other vegetables to dip. It is a delicious way of eating your vegetables.

By the time we had finished our cheese fondue and were ready for our Mandarin fondue, I noticed Dante wandering around the restaurant, making a point of talking to every single table. When Chris and Nick brought our Mandarin fondue, a pot of boiling oil with beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and vegetables to cook in it, I asked them if Dante could come talk to us. By the time we had finished our Mandarin fondue, Dante had arrived at our table. The first thing he asked was how our dinner was, which, we replied, was delicious. He then went on to tell us all about his history, his life, and his restaurant.

Dante talked to us for half an hour on topics varying from how he “works the floor” every night, his maintenance of quality control by eating his own food twice a week, to his mission work in Africa for the conservation of cheetahs. Dante, an eccentric man to say the least, said, “I think a lot of people sense that this place is different… I really want them to want to come back.” Dante’s Down the Hatch is at 3380 Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

By Julia Beck, Staff Writer ’15

Photo: Julia Beck

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