If you thought that New York was all about hotdog, donuts and pretzel stands, then you would be wrong. Manhattan is teeming with original and unique dining experiences that could be the proverbial icing on your New York holiday cake. If you’re vacationing in New York anytime soon, here are 10 of the most unusual restaurants in NYC…
Ninja Dining – best for novelty factor
When you arrive at this Tribeca Disneyland, you will be whisked into a feudal-esque sub terrain space, down a secret path dotted with ninjas (yes really). For the faint-hearted, there is a regular elevator but both paths lead to a restaurant scene built to recreate an ancient Japanese village and the servers theatrically dish out plates of sushi and menus to diners. Even after having your fill of sushi and teriyaki in this Japanese-French restaurant, you’ll always have room for a tiramisu bonsai tree.
- Ninja Dining – 25 Hudson St, Manhattan, NY 10013, United States
Nude Dining – best for the open-minded
This is not for the easily embarrassed but for proud and unabashed gourmands only. Nude Dining NYC is part of the rising trend of ‘clothing optional’ dining. While, there is not necessarily a set location, there are set locations monthly that devote an evening to the wholly nude dining, while the option is there to stay fully clothed if you’re feeling shy. The servers and chefs all wear a full serving uniform in accordance with serving laws- in case you’re wondering!
Les Salonnieres – best for luvvies
This speakeasy style supper club allows customers to embrace their inner 1920’s persona and knock on the door of this charmingly dilapidated tenement building on the Lower East Side, albeit no password needed. Guests can expect an engaging programme of entertainment ranging from live painting, poetry readings, pottery classes and a photobooth. The set design changes for each event and an enticing menu for the supper club includes oysters, bbq shrimp and king chocolate cake, not to mention a handsome list of bespoke cocktails.
American Girl Doll Dining – for the young at heart
Entry into this pink striped sanctum is the dream of all 4-12 year olds, this 140 seater restaurant on 5th Avenue is inescapably pink with an equally pinky menu including salmon shortbreads and pink scrunchie napkin rings. This is where young women learn the ways of the ladies who lunch, as pink-attired waiters see to their every need. For those who forgot their companions, this US phenomenon has a stash of dolls to accompany their luncheon. At $23 a head, it’s a bargain, educational and unique dining experience for all those budding princesses out there and their mini friends.
- 609 5th Ave New York, NY 10017, United States
Opaque Dark Dining – best for experimental experience
The idea of this concept of dining in the dark is to enhance the senses and was inspired by a European concept. Upon arrival, you are presented with a prix fixe in a brightly lit reception room before being plunged into darkness and a world of sensitivity. The team of visually impaired and legally blind servers offer up a sensuous gourmet meal. In an era of visual overload and heightened visual stimuli, you may never turn the lights on for dinner again.
Jekyll and Hyde Club – best for history fans
Brace yourself for a wholly unique experience – think Disney meets the Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with moving monuments, talking pictures, faces appearing in mirrors and moving walls. The servers provide excellent service and fully embrace the theme, roaming the restaurant in character and conducting tableside performances. The special effects and theatrical atmosphere is perfect for kids birthday parties or group bookings, although slightly pricey, the experience itself is more than worth the price. Also, for those of an edgy disposition- there is a comprehensive cocktail list, perfect for calming those nervous.
- 216 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036
La Caverna – best for cave dwellers
Like any lair, La Caverna is inconspicuously located between a takeout joint and a dive bar. A hotspot for the after-work crowd thanks to their renowned happy hour, it also attracts a late night dancing scene but also provides a tasty eclectic menu amidst dangling stalactites, cave paintings, leather upholstery and an illuminated waterfall. Sheltered nooks and crannys give the illusion of decadence and there is something surreal about sipping a Mai Tai watching a plasma screen embedded in a faux rock face wall with stalactites on either side.
- 122–124 Rivington St between Essex and Norfolk Street, Manhattan, NY 10002
Ellens Stardust Diner – best for cheerful waiting staff
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is famous for its team of singing waiting staff (some of whom have gone on to achieve Broadway fame) and is a true Broadway experience for the price of your bill, like ‘Mamma Mia’ with food. The restaurant fully embraces the 1950’s theme and Ellen’s diner is choc full of retro memorabilia as well as being a tribute to the archetypical food of mid-century America. The menus most popular fare includes old-fashioned chicken potpie, creamy milkshakes and classic American meatloaf.
- 1650 Broadway New York, NY 10019, United States
Shopsins NYC – best for a touch of old-school
A 90’s psychedelic menu hides a never-ending list of dishes that are made from scratch for each order, made from an endless supply of ingredients stashed away in the minute kitchen from which, emanates the famously foul-mouthed eloquence of chef and owner, Kenny Shopsin. The restaurant is small- perhaps a 20-seater, located in the Essex Street Market and parties of more than four will not be allowed to enter, nor will you be allowed to use your cellphone. You’ll be waiting a while and the service is not fantastic but the food is out of this world. Ask anyone who’s been there- also, if you’re heading there, save room for the maple glazed donut sliders. A health detriment but worth every clogging artery.
- Shopsins – 120 Essex St New York, NY 10002, United States
Kajitsu – best for a spiritual experience
This restaurant’s culinary practice is based on the ancient Japanese tradition of Shojin which, spread from the ancient Buddhist monasteries when the religion moved to Japan. The monks themselves insisted on a policy of not causing harm to other creatures but the frugal meal they prepared before their tea ceremony became known as Shojin. Despite the lack of meat or fish, the expertise of the chefs in creating exceptional dishes from vegetables, flowers and rice, ensures you never miss meat or fish. Ironically, the restaurant is located above a tea shop and is lovingly decorated with custom furniture, restored ceramic teapots and antique Japanese dishware. The atmosphere is open, serene and friendly with an open chef counter, all very zen.
- 25 Hudson St Manhattan, NY 10013, United States
With all this to choose from, your tastebuds will never have a dull moment throughout their sojourn in the Big Apple. The allure of the $1 hotdog stand probably doesn’t seem so enticing now…
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