22 places around the world where eating is truly an adventure.
Food is life. It’s what gives us the energy to go about the tasks of our daily lives. Food can also be art, as anyone who has ever dined in five-star restaurant can attest to, where the presentation of a dish is given as much attention as its flavor and the quality of the ingredients. And if you pick the right spot, eating out can also turn food into an adventure (as this list will demonstrate), where the location and décor offer customers a truly thrilling, out-of-this-world dining experience.
If you head to the Canary Islands and the island of Lanzarote, you will be in hot lava—or at least pretty darn close to it. El Diablo is an eatery that harnesses the geothermic power of the earth coming from the Timanfaya National Park to grill food for its guests. The massive grill, set above a giant hole of layered volcanic basalt rock above the gentle lava flow, is perfect for meat and fish. The volcano is dormant (for now), which makes for relatively safe dining. And the nearby Fire Mountains make for a spectacular backdrop to this volcanic feasting experience.
For people who adore gorgeous views and tasty food, all enjoyed from lofty perches, the Treepod Dining offered by the Soneva Kiri resort, located on Koh Kood island (not far from Cambodia) should give them the heightened adventure they seek. Guests hover 20 feet above the ground in comfy private bamboo pods, with gourmet delights delivered to them by a zip-line, and a very well-balanced personal waiter. Stunning vistas of the lush rainforest and the Gulf of Thailand complete the experience.
INSIDER TIPTo get the most out of the treetop dining, and the island in general, it’s best to avoid the monsoon season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October.
Depending on how you feel about child labor, you may or may not want to check out Kinderkookkafé in Amsterdam’s lovely Vondelpark. Of course we’re only teasing about the child labor part, as the playground outside and the laughing children should dispel any worries you might have about any disgruntled, tiny workers. Even so, this establishment is in fact a restaurant run by kids—with some adult supervision of course. The idea here is to give tots a bit of fun by helping them make their own food and allowing them to serve their culinary creations to adoring (and in some cases very brave) adults.
Want a kitschy, cartoonish robot experience while out and about in Japan? Then voilà, welcome to Tokyo’s gaudy Robot Restaurant, which features robot wars, robot dances, robot cabaret, and robot boxing. Oh, and yes, they also serve some nibbles to munch on as well. Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but for travelers who like a cheesy good time, it just might satisfy their appetites for tawdry pleasures. Go for the zany show, not the food.
INSIDER TIPThe robots are in fact performers dressed up in costumes, which is something you should know in case you were expecting real robots.
Dinner in the Sky
The name pretty much says it all. Clientele visiting Dinner in the Sky ingest a vertiginous meal while suspended in the air by a massive crane. This concept, which started in Belgium, now offers “flying” dinner parties in more than 40 countries worldwide, with some of the planets most celebrated chefs preparing the dishes. If you attend one of these events, you’ll be in for a gastronomic treat that will take you soaring to new heights as far as your taste buds are concerned—and the actual elevation of your physical body.
INSIDER TIPWhile guests and serving staff are strapped in for safety, if you suffer from a fear of heights, this is one dining experience you might want to avoid.
WHERE: Dominican Republic
Spacewalker, located at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, will launch your quest for gastronomic excellence into the stars. The theme here is all about outer space, infused with a ton of good-natured fun. Cosmic cocktails, cosmic-themed décor, and glow-in-the-dark menus help create the Star Trek-like vibe that enlivens this animated restaurant. Space helmets for the little ones (or for those who are young at heart) complete the cosmic journey, which should fill you and your family’s heads full of ideas about the universe, and your bellies full of food.
Dans le Noir
Dining in complete darkness is the driving concept behind this restaurant chain that’s all about letting your sense of sight go in order to indulge in the pure, unadulterated sense of flavor. From Paris and London to Auckland and St. Petersburg, Dans le Noir has been going international over the last few years. The restaurant permits the culinary curious to experience pitch black dining while being attended to by visually impaired servers, with the aim of giving guests a new take on how they savor and interact with the food placed in front of them.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
Eating next to the ocean coral at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort is an outing you’ll likely never forget. While banqueting at five meters, or 16 feet below the surface of the water, guests are afforded a 180-degree view of the magnificent sea life and bright coral. European fare served in six courses (for dinner) accompany the gorgeous scenery, which might have even impressed the likes of Jacques Cousteau. It’s truly a sublime place to dine.
INSIDER TIPWhile children are welcome to join for lunch, dinners are a child-free affair, which could be a plus or minus, depending on how you feel about your own (or other people’s) brood.
WHERE: Milwaukee and Chicago
If you want to pretend you’re a spy in search of a good meal, then the Safe House restaurants, located in Milwaukee and Chicago, should fulfill your wannabe espionage fantasies. Run like a CIA safe house, these establishments make getting onto the premises an adventure. From the website, you’ll start your mission (“Daytime Delight” or “After Dark”), complete with a safeword for entrance. Once inside, you can dig into some of the hearty food, which includes burgers, homemade meatballs, freshly breaded cheese curds, and the “covert” chopped salad.
Dining at 135
The London Eye, also know as the Coca-Cola London Eye (corporate branding is everywhere), one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels, is all about the views. If you’re lucky enough to have a meal at Dining at 135, which is a specially kitted out Ferris wheel capsule, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas from a vantage point 135 meters off the ground, of the River Thames below. Great wine and gourmet food add to the charm of this elevated dinner sortie—along with the panoramas of London’s picturesque skyline.
INSIDER TIPYou could probably buy a small car (or at least a motorcycle) for the price of booking an evening at Dining at 135, which means this definitely isn’t an experience for budget travelers.
Perch on a stylized Japanese fishing boat and catch the fish you’ll eat for dinner that night. While the fish don’t really have much of a sporting chance (no need to be a fishing pro here), the Zauo restaurant chain, with locations in several different regions around Japan, lets patrons snag their own fish indoors, which are then cooked to order. For folks who don’t want to drop a line and yank up scaly creatures from the artificial shallows, they won’t have to—but then, of course, they won’t be offered the catch-it-yourself discount.
Book a Hotel
In Kemi, Finland, at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia, the enchanting SnowCastle and its icy restaurant open their frosty doors to the world from January to April. Dishing out local fare with a hefty amount of river and sea fish, this snow-sculpted bistro thrives on berries, fish, and drinks served out of ice cups, set out on ice tables. Imagine an igloo on steroids with a ton of artistic flair, and you’ll grasp the concept. You’ll want to dress up in parkas and other warm weather gear because this is one of the (literally) coolest restaurants on the planet.
INSIDER TIPThe entrance fee to the SnowCastle is separate from the cost of a meal.
Not far from Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll come across the city of Chandler, and the Rawhide Steakhouse. If you worship cowboy culture, you’ll want to get your grill on here. The steakhouse, situated in an Old West theme town, is steeped in cowboy lore, complete with a general store, a jailhouse, and the occasionally staged gunfight at the Six Gun Theater. Massive cuts of beef and a big helping of the Wild West all come together for some cowboy fun.
INSIDER TIPRawhide focuses on special events, so you might want to call ahead and see what your options are before you visit.
For a glitzy cabaret and dining extravaganza, London’s Circus offers nourishment for the mind, body and soul. After visiting the market at Covent Garden, swing by Circus for a wildly entertaining acrobatic show, creative cocktails, and of course some sophisticated Pan-Asian cuisine. It’s a smart idea to book ahead, and come with a group of dear friends to better enjoy the sharing menu, flavorsome dishes, and the spectacle on display.
When in Tokyo, you might stumble across Alcatraz E.R., which is (as you’ve likely guessed) a dining establishment set up like a prison hospital. You can dive into your meal in a prison cell, while being waited on by servers dressed up as prison nurses. Patrons are often handcuffed as they’re led to their tables, and exposed to a décor that recreates the look of a less-than-sanitary rundown prison hospital. With cocktails drizzled out of blood collections bags and an array of other grisly touches, Alcatraz E.R. is a place where the ambiance is the thing to enjoy … more than the food.
INSIDER TIPSince some of the drinks are stirred with sex toys, and this joint gives off a creepy adult vibe (on purpose), children are not permitted inside.
While the climate of Montreal doesn’t usually bring images of sandy beaches or surf culture to mind, Oasis Surf, with a wave pool churning out 2 to 6-foot waves, is doing its best to fight back against Montreal’s wintery stereotypes. With surf lessons available, as well as drinks, cocktails, burgers, tacos, and more on offer at Restaurant Le Turf, customers can slide down indoor waves, recharge their batteries with some scrumptious food, rest up a bit, then tackle some more ankle busters or larger swells and keep the good times rolling.
The Pyongyang Restaurant chain, run by the North Korean Government in countries like Cambodia, China, and Laos, features authentic North Korean cuisine unadulterated by Western influences. That means you won’t find any Korean tacos or Korean pizza like you might encounter in South Korea or North America. North Korean dancers and singers provide the entertainment, which should qualify as “out of this world,” since the Hermit Kingdom’s culture isn’t often accessible outside its sealed borders. Waitstaff, loyal to the regime back home, help generate hard cash for a nation often short of funds.
Would you like to nosh on some gourmet eats at an even higher altitude than Diner in the Sky? If that’s the case, CuliAir will send you soaring toward the heavens in a floating restaurant set up inside the basket of a hot air balloon! And the kicker here—besides the stunning views of the countryside all over the Netherlands—is the clever twist that your chef will prepare your gastronomic goodies (lobster, sea bass, guinea fowl, and more) with the same hot air keeping the balloon aloft.
WHERE: New York City
If you’re after an interactive adventure in a feudal-themed Japanese joint where you’re served by waiters dressed as ninjas, with the occasional “ninja” waiting in the shadows to jump out and surprise you, New York’s Ninja should deliver enough kitsch to satisfy. While this restaurant hasn’t always been a darling with the critics, kids and plenty of adults are delighted by the ninja castle and ninja village vibe. Inside, you’ll find plenty of hidden secrets to discover, from the aforementioned surprise ninja “attacks,” to some pretty decent Japanese and American cuisine.
H.R. Giger Museum Bar
The singular visual imagination of H.R. Giger, in all of its dark, twisty glory, is birthed into existence inside the H.R. Giger Museum Bar. If you aren’t familiar with this Swiss painter’s incredible work, check out any film in the Alien movie franchise, where his design aesthetics reign supreme. The H.R. Giger Museum Bar, located in Gruyères, Switzerland, is rife with Giger’s tortuous décor. Visit here, and you’ll feel like you’re in the belly of one of the eerie, extraterrestrial vessels that inhabit the Alien universe.
INSIDER TIPThe Museum Bar is open daily from April to October. From November to March, it’s open every day except Mondays.
Modern Toilet is an exceptionally tongue-in-cheek (and “tongue-in-bowl”) eatery with a hefty amount of sanitary toilet décor. This frisky restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan, gives guests the opportunity to sit on toilets while they dig into meals served in little toilet bowls, drinks sloshing around toilet-shaped cups, and massive desserts dished out in what looks like knocked over urinals. If you have some kind of obsession with toilets and toilet accessories, then a meal here will make you feel like you’ve been flushed out into your own personal lavatory heaven.
The Viking Yurt
When you arrive in Park City, Utah, you’ll only be a short sleigh ride to a mountaintop yurt, and a feast of scrumptious Scandinavian fare. The Viking Yurt offers adventurous gourmands an exquisite sleigh ride where they’ll be treated to panoramas over the snowcapped mountains and the glowing lights of Park City below. And while yurts are actually a Mongolian invention, this Viking yurt has been decorated in a Scandinavian manner. When you dine here, you’ll be served a 6-course meal inspired by Norwegian gastronomy.
INSIDER TIPThe Viking Yurt is only open during the winter from December through March.