People go on vacations or outings looking for memorable moments, whether they be through gorgeous scenery, extreme sports, or an epic performance.
Dining is a huge part of going out both in your hometown and abroad, and expectations for dining experiences have been predictably obvious. Customers want a delicious meal in a clean, comfortable environment with friendly service.
There are, however, restaurants that have dared to push the envelope of convention through unique atmospheres, cuisines, and concepts. These unusual restaurants prove that a memorable meal has various avenues of ingenuity.
There are meals so delicious that they have become unforgettable. There are also dining experiences that are less about the food and more about cultural and historical context. Still, other restaurants feel more like a theme park.
Most Unusual Restaurants in America
I have compiled a list of the most unusual restaurants in America that encompass every idea of a memorable and unique dining experience.
Bors Hede Inne
10320 Kelly Rd NE, Carnation, WA 98014
While some restaurants transport you to different countries, the Bors Hede Inne transports you to a different era in history.
The Bors Hede Inne is just one of many establishments in a Middle Ages theme park village outside of Stillwater, Washington.
The Village is a major tourist attraction for families, with a cider mill, blacksmith, tourney fields, and more, all built and functioning the same way they did during the 14th century.
Bors Hede Inne is an Inn and eatery where cooks use equipment, recipes, and cooking methods documented during the Middle Ages.
Jekyll & Hyde Club
91 7th Avenue South, New York, NY 10014
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village a few blocks from Washington Square Arch, Jekyll & Hyde Club is a restaurant with a haunted house theme.
Hyper-real wax figures of every spooky mythical character from gargoyles to werewolves surround tables and walkways.
Special effects create frightening scenes of famous events like Frankenstein being brought back to life.
The servers are themselves dressed as spooky characters that will leap out of the woodwork to scare you as they deliver drinks and dinner.
The food menu features scary-themed cocktails and a vast offering of American comfort food, from pizza to burgers, all with names of famous literary or Hollywood monsters.
I went for the Frankenstein’s Favorite burger topped with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and cheese.
2020 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403
True to its name, Opaque is a fine dining restaurant that takes away the main source of sensory perception: sight.
Customers walk into this Santa Monica restaurant to experience utter darkness. The premise behind visual sensory deprivation is that it will fine-tune the other senses, namely taste, and smell.
With no ability to see a menu, there’s a pre-fixe multi-course menu of high-quality New American dishes.
Many of the staff members are themselves blind and share what it’s like not to see. Of course, you’ll sympathize completely as you sit in utter darkness, left to decipher your surroundings and meal by touch, smell, and taste.
For me, Opaque was certainly the most unusual restaurant in America, giving me a unique perspective that opened my eyes to the wonders of sensory deprivation.
6715 W Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80214
Casa Bonita is a Mexican food restaurant in a suburb of Denver, serving authentic Mexican food and margaritas. It stands out from the competition with its setting and extreme tableside entertainment.
The establishment is inside of a larger Spanish colonial-style Hacienda with a giant waterfall, stone caves, palm trees, traditional Mexican market fronts, and traditional Mexican art.
There’s live music, puppet shows, and a free dive show featuring daring divers who plunge over the 30-foot waterfall in a display of stunning acrobatics.
They offer an all-you-can-eat buffet and an a la carte menu. I enjoyed the beef deluxe dinner with a crispy beef taco and beef enchiladas while I marveled at the diving stunts.
The Airplane Restaurant
1665 N. Newport Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80916
Another famous Colorado restaurant, The Airplane Restaurant is one of Colorado Spring’s most popular attractions for families and aircraft enthusiasts alike.
The Airplane Restaurant is a restaurant inside a historic Boeing KC-97 tanker that completed many refueling missions during the 50s and 60s before becoming a 250-seat restaurant, bar, and museum.
The Boeing KC-97 is one of the biggest planes ever built, and you can learn all about its history and engineering while you admire aviary memorabilia adorning the various rooms within the massive tanker.
The food is classic American fare, with everything from quesadillas to steaks, to burgers. I went for the guacamole chicken burger with Swiss and bacon in the main cabin in a comfortable booth with plenty of legroom.
779 N Front St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Voted Best Theme Bar of 2016, The Safehouse is a family-friendly bar and restaurant with a spy theme.
Located in downtown Milwaukee, The Safe House has kid-friendly spy missions by day and alcohol-fueled adult missions by night.
You and your family can go on a wild-goose chase, getting to the bottom of a suspenseful assignment, ending with a delicious reward.
At night, The Safehouse has various themed rooms that’ll take you back in time to 1950s press rooms and hidden speakeasy bars.
They offer handcrafted cocktails and high-quality American pub fare. I went for a fun brunch and had the operation hangover recovery dish, a buttermilk biscuit topped with bacon, sausage, fried egg, and American cheese.
61 North Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308
An Atlanta institution since 1928, The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in restaurant.
You order a classic American comfort food meal from the friendly old-school window stand, head back to your car, and wait for a server to deliver it window-side.
It’s been family-owned and operated since opening and has served countless American presidents and celebrities looking to experience one of Atlanta’s most beloved haunts.
The menu is as classic All-American as they come, with malted milkshakes, no-frills burgers, hot dogs, fries, and onion rings.
I recommend their delicious slaw dogs, smothered in house-made coleslaw and served with a side of onion rings.
The White Horse Tavern
26 Marlborough St, Newport, RI 02840
The White Horse Tavern is the nation’s oldest restaurant, opened as an old Inn and restaurant in 1673, long before America earned its independence from Britain.
This restaurant is not necessarily unusual on its own, but it is notable as the country’s oldest restaurant!
The structure in which it lies was built in the mid-1600s as a home for a colonial nobleman before it was turned into a watering hole and Inn owned by the Nichols family for over 200 years.
Today, the building has been beautifully restored to its original glory and is a national historical landmark. You can tour the various rooms at the old Inn before sitting down for a fine-dining multicourse meal.
The high-end menu offers a contemporary American culinary experience that is as unforgettable as its surroundings. I had a delicious meal of steak frites with chimichurri.
950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Located inside San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, the Tonga Room is sure to put you in a tropical state of mind.
Designed by a Hollywood set designer in 1945, the Tonga Room is the perfect imitation of a tropical tiki hut surrounded by lush greenery, thatch roofing, and centered around a man-made lagoon with a colorful boat that houses a live band.
They serve Polynesian fusion food and offer a classic cocktail menu of tropical drinks served in coconut shells garnished with flowers and paper umbrellas.
The presentation of the food and drinks, the live music, and the festive atmosphere have garnered acclaim from critics and culinary celebrities alike.
Harvey Washbangers Laundromat
1802 Texas Avenue South, College Station, TX 77840
Whether you want a dining experience or a laundry day, you can have both at Harvey Washbangers Laundromat, a functioning laundromat with a full gastropub.
Located in the Texas college town, College Station, Harvey Washbangers Laundromat has an over-the-top menu of decadent takes on American pub fare that’s fun for the whole family.
Kids eat free every Sunday for dinner. They’re an especially popular spot for college kids to do their laundry while they enjoy a local Texas beer and a greasy burger.
The laundromat is in a different room than the dining hall, so don’t worry about fried food smells seeping into your clean laundry!
I brought along my whites and savored a Cajun Burger with andouille sausage, beef patty, fried crawfish, jack cheese, and veggies atop a toasted sourdough bun.
Most Unusual Restaurants in America
- Bors Hede Inne
- Jekyll & Hyde Club
- Casa Bonita
- The Airplane Restaurant
- The Safehouse
- The Varsity
- The White Horse Tavern
- Tonga Room
- Harvey Washbangers Laundromat
If you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, America’s most unusual restaurants aim to please. Some restaurants offer glimpses into a historic past, while others transport you to an entirely different world.
Whether you’re looking for a tiki hut, a laundromat, or a haunted house, you’ll find the most unique experience from my list of the most unusual restaurants in America.