It seems that when it comes to modern travel, there are two schools of thought when picking restaurants: you’re either the sort of person who goes without a plan and either strikes it lucky happening upon culinary manna from heaven or wind up in a crumby bistro that has never had travelling custom for a decade, or you’re the sort who meticulously picks out all the hotspots well in advance and spends hours trying to find them while walking by several amazing competitors.
In short, eating abroad can be tricky. However, depending on what your tastebuds are in the market for, sometimes the choice can be forgone. For instance, if you’re wanting to venture towards the extreme end of the eatery scale then you’re not likely to find many competitors in any given city. In fact, when it comes to the restaurants we have collated below, the servings are so unique that you’ll find nowhere else like them on Earth.
From restaurants serving exclusively animal penis to a Latvian experience where they literally treat you like a prisoner; this is the dark tourism equivalent of fine dining. Please enjoy the smorgasbord of madness we have served up below.
The 7 weirdest restaurants in the world:
Latvia’s ‘Naval Port Prison’ dining experience
The following exchange is one that you wouldn’t expect to hear all that often: “What should we do for dinner this evening darling?” to be met with: “Oh, I’ve heard that the haunted Latvian jail is pretty good, they literally treat you like a Soviet prisoner there.” However, clearly, it is one that has been had many times over.
The Naval Prison was an active establishment from 1990 until 1997. During that time it saw so many grisly crimes and house the darkest criminals slowly earning the reputation of being haunted. And where apparent ghouls go, tourists soon follow. The added lure, if you can call it that, in this case, is that when you arrive there you will literally be served like a former inmate, receiving a few sloppy rations before being locked in your cell and being let out, back into the world, after your morning gruel.
China’s ‘Guo Li Zhuang’ animal penis restaurant
Amazingly, Guo Li Zhuang is a restaurant that does exactly what it says on the tin—it exclusively serves animal penises. Presumably, you start off picking at a few cockerel manhoods and then move on to a seared tapir trouser truncheon for main.
Oddly, this bizarre eatery, located next to Beijing’s West Lake, is not some grotty underground myth, but quite a plush legitimate diner and they take dicing up dong rather seriously. For instance, the establishment recommends spicy wasabi sauce as the way to go with dear old deer penis, but a dog’s dangler is best served with hot peppers. Despite all the dressing up here, the median word from the average review is simply: chewy.
‘Cabbages & Condoms’ in Bangkok, Thailand and Bicester, England
Perhaps most peculiar of all with this entry is the header above. It asks, ‘what exactly could cabbages and condoms mean?’ and ‘why is there one in the sleepy market village of Bicester?’ Well, as it happens, the origins of this chain of restaurants derive from Chairman Mr Mechai Viravaidya who said “you can go to any shop around Thailand and you will always find cabbages… condoms should be like cabbages which are ubiquitous and accessible to everyone.”
Thus, his response was to set up a no-profit fine dining establishment to help curtail the spread of HIV in his native Thailand and he has continued that ethos ever since. While the wild condom paraphernalia that stands in the lobby of the Thai restaurant might catch the eye, the food served up inside is frequently award winning and happily remains free of any contraceptives.
Japan’s ‘Izakaya Kayabuki’ monkey waiter restaurant
The first half of the restaurant description for Izakaya Kayabuki remains quite normal. It simply reads: “The Kayabukiya Tavern is a traditional-style Japanese ‘sake-house’ restaurant located in the city of Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo, Japan.” It is the second half where things go awry: “The tavern’s owner, Kaoru Otsuka, owns two pet macaque monkeys who are currently employed to work at the location.”
Remarkably just about every review comments on the efficiency and skill of the simian service that you receive at the establishment. And these humble monkeys, bedecked in dapper kimono attire, ask only to be tipped in soya beans.
Belgium’s ‘Dinner in the Sky’ suspended restaurant
Friday night dinner dates can be drab affairs; sitting all cosy and warm with tasty morsels, watching the world go by is old hat—why not terrifyingly elevate that mundane experience by dangling in mid-air?
At this Belgian restaurant, opening to the public in 2022, you can help yourself to a 5-course gastronomic menu all while suspended from a crane, hundreds of metres in the air. This is certainly fine dining for the brave-hearted.
America’s dining in darkness experience at the ‘Opaque’
Dining in darkness has a simple scientific thesis behind it: the removal of vision enhances the other senses and increases gastronomic pleasure. The Opaque in West Hollywood decided to add a benevolent twist to this and figured that the experience was the ideal way to create more job opportunities for the visually impaired.
Thus, you are guided into the restaurant lowered into your chair and then when service comes around you are shown how to eat in the pitch black and the hope is that you will savour the flavours even further. Some reviews rave that the experience was a revelation and others question whether their tastebuds really knew the difference, but the conclusion is always that it is certainly unique.
Spain’s ‘El Diablo’ volcano-powered restaurant
In Lanzarote, atop of a dormant volcano, sits ‘El Diablo’, a restaurant that can truly claim to be powered by a volcano. Sitting on 9 layers of basalt rock owing to the dangers of digging conventional foundations, ‘El Diablo’ offers stunning views, and a slight air of tension, as you gaze at a pit that last erupted in 1824.
What’s more, the chefs make use of the 400-degree lava bubbling below their feet and sizzle up a feast using geothermal power. The food itself is high-end local Spanish cuisine, but the experience is certainly out of the ordinary.