In terms of cuisine, New York has some of the world’s most attractive, most tantalizing, most famous, and most expensive restaurants. We also have a high abundance of local mom-and-pop favorites, in addition to some of the cheapest eateries. Seriously: if you come hungry, you’ll find something to satisfy you in NYC.
But what if we told you that a restaurant was going to blindfold you or make you eat grasshoppers? What if a ninja tried to scare you while you attempted to eat your meal? No, this isn’t Survivor—just nine restaurants that you can try while you’re in the mood to experiment or feeling up for some adventure. From food that will make you squeamish to delicacies that you’ll fall in love with, here is our round-up of some of the quirkiest, weirdest restaurants in New York City.
60 2nd Ave, New York
A real-life Fear Factor, this unusual, hip East Village Mexican joint tries to stay above the fray by offering food laden with insects. Yep, insects. Hence its name The Black Ant, which serves an appetizer of black ant guacamole and, for dinner, grasshopper-crusted shrimp. With a cocktail-lounge atmosphere and a hip flair with warm wooden tables and bistro-tiled floors, the Black Ant isn’t a freak show and also offers many well-prepared dishes that aren’t, well—infested with insects.
85 MacDougal Street, New York
This laid-back Franco-American bistro is most known for its “Dinner in the Dark,” which is held twice a month. When you arrive at the restaurant, you put on a blindfold. Your server is blindfolded too. And because you no longer have sight, your other senses—smell and taste—are heightened. The sounds of the restaurant, and its textures, become hyper-emphasized. This makes the food you eat, and which you can’t see, entirely distinctive. Dinner in the Dark is a great place for those who want to try something very out of the ordinary for the evening. Oh, and only once you’ve finished your meal is a menu of what you ate is revealed.
Dining in the dark #merrychristmas #coolestpresent #camaje #foodie A photo posted by Alana (@lanixxjay) on
25 Hudson St, Tribeca, New York
Ninja New York, a medieval, subterranean Japanese eatery, is like a trendier Medieval Times but on a smaller scale. Designed to look like a 15th-century Japanese feudal village, warriors appear out of hidden doors, disappear in a plume of smoke, appear in the dungeon and the wood bridge and travel in stealth through castle-like halls. They tumble about, scare you, hide behind you, and do tricks—which is fun, if not a bit gimmicky (although your kids will love it). And, oh right, since this is an actual restaurant and not a theme park (we forgot, as there’s too much sword play happening), the warriors take your orders and deliver your food.
49-11 Roosevelt Ave., Queens, NY, at 50th Street
161-29 Crocheron Avenue, Flushing, NY 718-321-7770
This seafood spot has two outposts and is probably most famous for what’s on their menu. The delicacy at both Sik Gaeks is live octopus. Yep: they’re everywhere, and we don’t mean cooked. We mean, squirming, just-caught seafood where its nervous system continues to function as it’s being served. If you can’t stomach a whole octopus, there are sushi-like bites that are still writhing that you can try.
Fresh octopus!! #foodporn #foodie #instafood #nyc #sikgaek #koreanfood #hotpot #bepixielove A video posted by Oak Mokkasak (@pixiel0ve) on
226 W 79th St, New York, NY
Burke & Willis, located on the Upper West Side, has a down-under theme, and is renowned for their kangaroo eats. There’s a small plate of kangaroo with sides of sweet potato and bok choy and a kangaroo burger called the ‘Roo Burger,’ served in the Australian manner, with a sunny side of egg on top. The décor is more appealing than you’d think, with chocolate leather banquette seating, white tablecloths and framed pictures everywhere you look.
271 West 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, Chelsea 212-463-8000
The Trailer Park Lounge has achieved success in a fickle restaurant industry that changes constantly. Somehow they’ve remained popular ever since they opened way back in 2000. With its trailer park theme—there’s an actual trailer façade inside to hammer down the point—the restaurant is deliberately tacky, and still serves their famous tater tots as well as the city’s best margaritas. Trailer Park Lounge is one of New York’s weirdest restaurants due to its kitschy décor and its fab, flashback music (8-tracks play in the background.) You’ll find everything from mannequins to flamingos here, as well as lit-up Santas no matter what the season.
Trailer Park A photo posted by Brad Walsh (@bradwalsh) on
231 E 14th St, New York, NY
This may be our weirdest restaurant yet. Technically, it’s a bar, but we couldn’t help putting it on our list because it’s seriously the quirkiest place we’ve stumbled upon. The Beauty Bar serves martinis and manicures at the same time. Other than New York, the kitschy retro bar also has outposts in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas. The Beauty Bar was first opened as a bar in the city in 1995 and has managed to retain its salon look even after it was converted from an actual salon into a beauty “saloon.” It’s only ten bucks during happy hour for a manicure and a martini, although by the time you’ve drunk three glasses, you probably won’t care what your nails look like. And if that’s not enough to get you in doors, the Beauty Bar hosts weekly live events like comedy skits, bands, and DJs, and expands after happy hour into a sort-of nightclub where you can jive and swing on a retro dance floor when the back room is opened.
157 Chrystie St, New York, NY
This restaurant on the Lower East Side has been cooking Jewish delicacies in the same location since the 1940s. What’s weird about this place is that every day at Famous Sammy’s is like a bar mitzvah. There’s live music, lounge acts, and the customers who sing along. The atmosphere has a festive feel, and will make you want to be hoisted on a chair by those drunk on “Hava Nagila” and Stolichnaya. The menu, featuring bottles of vodka served in ice blocks, contains all those Jewish comfort foods that you grew up on, including chopped liver and kasha varnishkes. The restaurant’s signature stamp is their steaks topped with chopped garlic. It’s like family here, with the walls of the basement dining room proudly displaying photos of loyal customers.
Went to eat dinner and then…..oh New York, I fricken love you. A video posted by @nicmacpattywack on
137 Seventh Avenue South, New York
You may not know him by name, but Dominique Ansel is the chef who created the Cronut, which, if you’ve been living under a rock, is the croissant-doughnut pastry that exploded on the bakery scene some time ago. Ansel’s newest creation is his dessert tasting-only menu, served after his restaurant, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, is closed. The restaurant then undergoes a transformation, with a table stored on the ceiling that’s brought down into the center of the restaurant. This new venture is so highly coveted that tickets are being sold on the first of every month at 12 pm EST for the following month’s seating. The seating, by the way, is intimate, and limited to only eight customers.
Ansel calls his creation an “unlimited possibility, or “U.P.” His eight-course after-hours tasting menu changes every six month, and is often themed. The restaurant’s next theme, for example, is called “American Dreams,” and according to the website, the theme “will trace through more than a century of different American Dreams and in each course, make it come true.” Now how could you not want to see what that’s all about.
[Featured Image: Bill D. via Yelp]