From weird locations to odd themes and bizarre ingredients, these six restaurants from around the world make for one-of-a-kind dining experiences.
1. The Black Ant, NYC
The modern Mexican fare at The Black Ant in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood is strange only to American palates. The restaurant features its eponymous insect as an ingredient in dishes, such as its black ant guacamole, and features other creepy crawlies as menu items.
The black ant, or hormiga, is a common Mexican protein and flavor source. Mole de chicatana is a famed sauce from Oaxaca in Southern Mexico that has been popping up on menus across the globe. At The Black Ant, try gusano de agave, or mezcal worm, tossed in a salad. They also offer gigantic shrimp that have been crusted in grasshoppers. And the menu includes the same grasshoppers (chapulines in Spanish) in ice cream desserts.
This is far from a gross-out experience, though, as The Black Ant is highly-regarded for its contemporary spin on traditional Mexican food, and as eating insects is actually not uncommon around the world.
2. Dans Le Noir, London
At this chic London restaurant, guests are led semi-blindfolded into the dining room where they are treated to meals that focus on flavor, texture, and aroma, rather than visual presentation. The blindfolds are more like sleep masks, with a darkening effect. The concept is called dark or blind dining.
The restaurant's owners claim that dining in the dark heightens the awareness of the palette, but they also claim that your interactions with fellow diners are enhanced without visual cues. As the name suggests, Dans Le Noir's bailiwick is French cuisine, and its servers and waitstaff are all visually impaired. You might wonder how a diner would choose from the menu without the ability to read it. Well, that's where the theme is taken up a notch: the entire meal is a surprise, although diners can state their preferences and dietary restrictions.
If you are interested in this concept but you're not planning a trip to London any time soon, you can visit their other locations, including Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and St. Petersburg.
3. Cabbages And Condoms, Thailand
Sounds like an odd mix to be sure, but Cabbages and Condoms is a highly-successful Thai restaurant chain. It started as a produce stand that also offered contraceptives, lingerie, and other adult items. The purpose was to encourage safer sex practices. At the time, the owners said that cabbages were available in shops all over Thailand, but sometimes condoms were difficult to find. The scarcity of condoms was a public health risk, with the global HIV and AIDS epidemic that began in the 80s. Now a full-service restaurant with locations throughout the country, a portion of its proceeds goes to health groups such as the Population and Community Development Association. They provide scholarships and school lunches, too.
4. Ithaa, Maldives
This dazzling restaurant seats you directly under the sea. The glass-walled dining room shimmers with the surrounding tropical water as schools of fish swirl around the diners. The restaurant is nestled in a coral reef, so eating here is like taking a tropical snorkeling trip without getting wet. Except it's a five-star restaurant as well! You want to make sure to get an early seating, as the surrounding water is only illuminated by the sun. The restaurant also offers lunch for those who want to see the seabed at its brightest.
5. Dick's Last Resort, Boston
This fun restaurant located in Boston's Quincy Market is notorious for having rude employees who rib customers and say degrading things during their meal. It's all in good fun, though, and most of the digs are aimed at emasculating men for ordering anything less than a mega-sized beer. Insults are scrawled on paper hats that the servers make diners wear, and napkins are thrown at customers. The food is resort-style bar food, such as wings and burgers. The chain has been in operation for 30 years and has locations in several other U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, and Chicago.
6. Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas
The Heart Attack Grill is a greasy spoon burger joint slash medical shrine to the dubious benefits of obesity in old Las Vegas (which is already infamous for its salacious hedonism). Enjoy what the restaurant claims are the world's highest calorie burgers and highest fat content milkshakes. Burgers at the Heart Attack Grill vary from single to quadruple bypass (a reference to the number of patties not necessarily the medical consequences of the meal). Fries are cooked in lard, and desserts include piles of candy. The proudly unhealthy eatery's website also notes that you eat free if you weigh over 350 pounds. If you are slimmer, or want to eat something that's not animal-based, they have a vegan menu offering nothing but cigarettes.
If you want to add some flavor to your next vacation, put some of these odd restaurants on your list. Dining is an important part of experiencing the culture and strangeness of another city, state, country. So why not get as strange as you can? Happy eating!