The cult of extreme eating — be it a dinner date with KFC’s Double Down or following the path of Andrew Zimmern — has become surprisingly mainstream. While most Americans are not drowning live birds, François Mitterrand–style, or snacking on fried Cambodian tarantulas, they are increasingly aware of such daredevil dining habits.
Yet some of the world’s most frightening culinary experiences have entirely quotidian menus. Instead, the restaurants themselves provide the fear factor.
Consider Dans Le Noir. Already an institution of terror in Paris, Barcelona and St. Petersburg, the dining-in-total-darkness restaurant recently debuted a branch in Manhattan’s Times Square, giving New Yorkers the chance to stumble through three mystery courses alongside 70 unseen strangers in a pitch-black space.
Our guide takes you into the Midtown madness and beyond. Those with a strong constitution and solid game face might consider booking a table at a haunted Southern mansion, in an Italian prison or 150 feet above city traffic. With Halloween coming up next week, what better time to take a look at the world’s scariest restaurants.
6. Voltera, Italy: Fortezza Medicea
Located within a 500-year-old fortress near Pisa, this 120-seat restaurant also happens to be a maximum-security prison. The menu of Southern Italian favorites like fennel frittatas and nonna Catozza is prepared and served by convicted murderers and armed robbers, many of whom originally hail from Puglia, Naples and Sicily. Meals are accompanied by classical piano, courtesy of one musically inclined convict, and patrolled by 20 wardens. via del Castello; +39 058-886-099
5. New York City: Dans Le Noir
In August 2012, this Parisian restaurant chain introduced America to its unique brand of blind fright. In a pitch-black New York City dining room, light-emitting cell phones are verboten and menus are a mystery. The kitchen cuts all elements of the unknown meal into small, bite-sized portions. Most unsettling of all, guests sit elbow-to-elbow at 72-person communal tables, to encourage socializing with total strangers in a cavernous, unlit space. Chilling. 246 West 38th Street, New York, NY; 212-575-1671
4. Worldwide: Dinner in the Sky
The vertigo-inspiring Dinner in the Sky serves five courses at a free-floating table suspended some 160 feet in the air. After signing a $10 million insurance waiver, 22 diners are strapped into their chairs and elevated above local landmarks or cityscapes by a 200-ton crane. Created in Belgium, the global menace has appeared alongside the Eiffel Tower, throughout central London and above Niagara Falls.
firstname.lastname@example.org; +32 23-333-810
3. Bangkok, Thailand: Ka-tron Flying Chicken
Fairly macabre, and redolent with self-conscious whimsy, Ka-tron’s signature menu item is something of a Sweeney Todd/New Girl mash-up. Waiters catapult whole fried chickens across the dining room and onto a unicycle-riding colleague’s helmet, which has been fitted with a tall spike for this very purpose. The fowl is then cycled over to guests’ tables, where it is adorned with catsup-heavy dipping sauce and a small bouquet of flowers in the neck cavity. 99/1 m. 12, Bang Na Trat Road, Bang Na, Bangkok; 023-995-202
2. Charleston, South Carolina: Poogan’s Porch
Poogan’s Porch serves elegant Lowcountry fare like crab soup and roasted grouper over pulled pork ravioli. Meals are closely monitored by the ghost of one-time homeowner Zoe St. Armand, who killed herself on the central staircase 100 years ago. Her black-clad figure has been seen roaming the dining room so often that local police have stopped filing reports. A ghost dog, the namesake Poogan, who died in 1979, has also been felt sniffing underneath tables. 72 Queen St., Charleston, SC; 843-577-2337
1. Lloret de Mar, Spain: Disaster Café
Not enough turbulence in your daily meal? Head to Disaster Café on Spain’s scenic Costa Brava, where the underground dining room simulates 7.8 earthquakes nightly. Wait staff don protective headgear and reflective vests, and patrons are advised to wear machine washable clothing, as the fake ‘n’ quake will send wineglasses and dinnerware flying. Carrer de Francesc Layret, 9; +972 36 02 50
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