Good food has always been my mantra when dining out, but my preferences have evolved as I now appreciate the experience more than quality food. It’s evident from my recent interest in themed restaurants.
Themed restaurants date back to the 19th century when Paris cafes featured designs and decorations that celebrated historical events.
The trend continued to the 1980s and 1990s as new restaurants featured pop-culture memorabilia, gift shops, unique decors, and kitschy menus to attract a specific audience.
The fad later died as consumer tastes became attuned to food quality over entertainment. Besides, not many restaurants could thrive on short-term fads.
The emergence of a new demographic (the Millennials) seems to rekindle this long-lost craze.
Themed Restaurants in America
If you’re like me, this guide will help you find the best-themed restaurants in the U.S.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
50 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 941084
I haven’t found a themed restaurant that beats Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.
From the tiki bar where the exotic Mai Tai cocktail is served to the tropical décor to the overall ambiance that brings every detail of the restaurant together, there’s so much to look forward to here.
Located inside Fairmont Hotel in Nob Hil, the restaurant was constructed in 1945 following a $1 million renovation that recreated the tiki bar in all its glory.
The restaurant’s highlight is the lagoon in the middle of the restaurant with a live band afloat that performs every night.
The food features a Polynesian-fusion theme with menus consisting of tuna poke salad, pupu platter, and miso salmon.
Besides the famous Mai Tai cocktail, I love trying out different tastes, including the uber-sweet martinis.
652 E Main St, Lexington KY 40502
Although its entire menu is based on one aspect-biscuits — its appeal is undeniable.
I first noted the words ‘worth every crumb’ painted boldly on the wall, enticing one to try out the delectable biscuits piled with tasty fillings.
The Rockwell Supreme was my favorite because it brings out a savory taste in the mouth.
Its biscuits have fillings of bacon, buttermilk fried chicken breast, goetta sausage, and an over-easy egg. The restaurant is spacious, featuring a brightly lit dining room filled with communal feasting tables, booths, and two-tops.
Teal, royal blue, and yellow mustard hues create a colorful palette, and when combined with the wood tables and the sleek light fixtures, the ambiance breathes ecstasy and vibrancy.
I love visiting on weekdays because weekends are packed to the brim with guests waiting to sit.
Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille
1084 Linwood Ave. Valparaiso, IN 46383
Forget the glitz and glamor in themed restaurants and head to Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille.
Known for its steelworker themed décor, the restaurant has a laidback vibe that allows visitors to relax after a long day.
The theme appreciates American patriotism, evident from the quotes on the wall, the overall ambiance, and the raw material used in its construction.
Be sure to try out the hearty meat and potatoes to appreciate what the builders ate at the time while checking out the model train track close to the ceiling.
I’m a fan of pastries and would recommend trying the hotel’s flavorful cheesecakes, Brezeln, and bread pudding.
114 Delaware St., New Castle, DE 19720
This colonial-themed restaurant makes a great place to dine when visiting Delaware with family.
From its setup to the décor to the menu and the staff dress code, it brings the 1700s lifestyle to life. First, the restaurant is located in a 300-year-old building in honor of its colonial theme.
Then there’s the staff dressed in colonial-era clothing and the décor characterized by earth-toned furniture.
What’s most appealing about Jessop’s Tavern is the delicious food heavily influenced by the recipes used then, which pair perfectly with the old-school brews on the menu.
Try out the Shepherd’s Pie, most customers’ favorite. For more restaurants like this, check out the oldest restaurants in the US that are still open today.
Mad Hatter Bistro
185 N Old Woodward Ave, Birmingham, MI 48009
Phone: (248) 540-0000
I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland fairytale, and finding a place replicating the film rekindles many exciting childhood memories.
Mad Hatter Bistro does it ideally using its whimsical décor, fantastic menu, and friendly customer service. The velvet ceiling panels, clocks, intricately designed doorknobs, and vintage teacups recreate Alice’s journey accurately.
I now understand why it’s also referred to as the Wonderland of New American cuisine. The food served here is a delight.
Different menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch make it easy to satisfy my cravings.
Sometimes I keep it simple, ordering a Mad Hatter Burger, but when I want to indulge myself, the Rabbit Porchetta and Madd Queen’s Chicken are great options.
700 Water St, Denver, CO 80211
For an underwater experience, I always head to Aquarium Restaurant. It feels strange chewing on the very creatures one is viewing, but hey!
It’s all part of dining in a themed restaurant. Diners sit in glass-enclosed sections of a million-gallon saltwater fish tank with sharks, tropical fish, stingrays, and more in view.
Fish-based delicacies make up most of the menu offerings, and I particularly love the tempura lobster claws served with black beans and avocado.
Aquarium Restaurant has many other branches in Houston, Nashville, Houston, and Kemah, but the one in Denver is my favorite.
It has a more comprehensive menu, and the million-gallon fish tank is bigger than those in other locations.
Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant
13803 W. 63rd St. Shawnee, KS 66216
This rail-road-themed restaurant has been a great source of entertainment for both adults and kids since its inception in the 1960s.
The fascinating features are the railroad memorabilia, engineer hats, and the little train chug known as Skat Kat.
The ceiling-mounted train runs on tracks, so whenever a guest orders food, it rolls to deliver the food to the table.
The menu is quite appealing, with delicious offerings for kids and adults. There are lots to choose from pork tenderloin sandwiches, burgers, thick milkshakes, crinkle-cut fries, and BLT.
1292 Mount Mills Road, Tuscumbia, AL 35674
What better way to be adventurous while eating than to dine at the famous Rattlesnake Saloon.
The restaurant attracts visitors from far and wide mainly due to its unique construction and natural settings.
It’s carved out of a 15,000-square-foot rock ledge in the Appalachian Mountains, creating a cool ambiance even during the hot summer.
Coupled with the swinging saloon doors, a pressed-in ceiling, and large rattlesnake skins, the experience is like no other.
It also has a nice view of the woods, and with neon beer signs illuminating the area, the dining experience is more than magical. Be sure to eat outside at one of the dozen tables to experience the Rattlesnake Saloon.
300 E. Grand Ave., #100, Des Moines, IA 50309
Zombie Burger is known as the unique themed restaurant in Iowa State, and for a good reason.
Its post-apocalyptic art on the walls and menu items featuring eerie names like Helldorado, Planet Terror, Envy Corpse display its chilling zombie theme.
The menu items are enticing, with drinks featuring a creative mix of flavors and delicious food options.
The burger is a hot sale thanks to the three-cut beef blend that levels it up. What’s more, the shakes are hand-mixed and if looking for a little more than the usual taste, have some booze added.
Ka Moana Luau
41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo, Hawaii
Phone: (808) 926-3800
The restaurant takes guests on a voyage across Ka Moana (the ocean) under the stars.
It’s a world-class experience that uses everything from buffet-style food and dances to music, art, and cultural activities to entertain guests.
The restaurant is keen to appreciate the Hawaiian culture in the food served here.
Guests can choose from various dishes, including chow mein noodles, Huli Huli chicken, fresh island greens, and fish, and vegan dishes are daily specials.
The buffets are filling, offering options like papaya mango salsa, seasonal fruit salad, crisp radish sprouts, and local sweet potatoes.
Before the show starts, guests are treated to various cultural activities, including lei-making, weaving coconut headbands, and playing the ukulele.
Sami’s City Diner
3000 Minnesota Dr, Anchorage, AK 99503
If looking to experience the 50’s dining experience, head to Sami’s City Diner.
Established in 2005, the restaurant features a retro theme reminiscent of the 1950s dining culture in the Midwest and the East Coast.
The interior features gorgeous stainless steel construction, mid-century art pieces, and round stools at the soda fountain counter to take one back to the 50s.
The restaurant also has an extensive menu to cater to a whole family. Classic American comfort is the highlight of the menu, with lunch and dinner food options consisting of classics like the Mac Daddy Cheddar, chicken fried steak, and corn chowder, to mention a few.
The Airplane Restaurant
1665 N. Newport Rd., One block east of Powers on Fountain Blvd.
Located on the famous Boeing KC-97 tanker, the Airplane Restaurant, is an excellent place for those looking for an epic dining experience.
The magnificent plane was built in 1953 to refuel aircraft worldwide, but it was converted into an aviation restaurant in 2002.
The 275-seat plane hosts 42 guests at a time and features different kinds of aviation memorabilia, rare artifacts, and hundreds of pictures.
The food isn’t that special as it mainly consists of fries, burgers, steak, and salads but the fun involved in eating non-plane food in an airplane is quite memorable.
Mac N’ Out Macaroni & Cheese
902 Boston Post Road, Milford, CT 06460
Phone: (203) 693-3497
Mac n Cheese is a staple in many American homes, but I visit Mac N’ Out Macaroni & Cheese restaurant when looking for variety.
It has more than 25 Mac and Cheese dishes, and its seasonal menu has more options.
The backyard mac n cheese is a favorite for many guests. It consists of pulled pork, swiss cheeses, fontina, and gruyere topped with homemade barbeque sauce, but if looking for options with extra cheese, the pizza mac is an excellent alternative.
It is made with homemade sauce with melted mozzarella as the topping. I particularly love the mouth-watering appetizers served before the main meal.
Guests can choose from chili mac spring rolls, mac bites, or mac jalapenos.
310 West Spring Street, Goodsprings, Nevada 89019
The Pioneer Saloon restaurant isn’t the typical Las Vegas restaurant. It has a rather rustic vibe which, when coupled with great food and fascinating history, takes one back to the 1900s.
The restaurant’s interior and exterior walls are made from stamped tin, and it’s believed to be one of the country’s last hotels of its kind.
Fictional movies have been filmed here, including the Travel Channel ghost adventure series. The highlight of the restaurant is the primarily western-themed food.
The breakfast selection is wide, featuring standard egg dishes with a Mexican vibe, ribs, steaks, and a variety of egg scrambles.
The Purple Cow Restaurant
8026 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, Arkansas
Phone: (501) 221-3555
This restaurant is another excellent option for anyone looking for a 50s-themed restaurant.
It was established in 1989 and had a straightforward theme focusing on the color purple.
The original restaurant was quite famous and led to the opening of other branches in Central Arkansas.
Although each restaurant has a unique personality, one thing is common — its retro roots and purple color.
The restaurant uses features like neon signs and an old-fashioned soda fountain to recreate a 1950s ambiance, and as for the menu items, the signature purple milkshakes stand out.
The Proud Bird
11022 Aviation Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045
Los Angeles doesn’t have many airport trains, so finding one with good food is a breath of fresh air.
The Proud Bird is one such restaurant located directly across the street. It was opened in 1967, and the recent renovation left it spotting a new look and a reimagined design emphatic of its aviation theme.
Upon entry, diners get a boarding pass to order food from the counter menus.
The restaurant has six kitchens preparing a range of cuisines, including its signature ribs, pulled pork and brisket, Asian-inspired, Italian, and American cuisines, and more.
Be sure to grab an aviation cocktail from The Mile High Bar and Lounge.
Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grille
33 Magothy Beach Rd Ste 100, Pasadena, MD 21122-4465
Visiting a pirate-themed restaurant has been on my bucket list, and finding Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grill was a dream come true. Everything from its kooky décor to the chilling bar and costumes echoes its theme.
The place has a vast range of food options great for all ages. There’s so much to choose from seafood options like crab cakes to regular burgers and fries.
For the drinks, I had the privilege of trying out the flavorful hungover brunch after having one too many drinks the previous night. The rum drinks taste great too.
Themed Restaurants in America
- Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
- Biscuit Belly
- Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille
- Jessop’s Tavern
- Mad Hatter Bistro
- Aquarium Restaurant
- Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant
- Rattlesnake Saloon
- Zombie Burger
- Ka Moana Luau
- Sami’s City Diner
- The Aeroplane Restaurant
- Mac N’ Out Macaroni & Cheese
- Pioneer Saloon
- The Purple Cow Restaurant
- The Proud Bird
- Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grille
Having walked you through the best-themed restaurants in the U.S., you’re well equipped to find the best for you, your family, and your friends. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar takes the first position due to its unique construction, theme, and rich culinary scene.
If visiting with kids, Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, The Airplane Restaurant, and the pirate-themed Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grill restaurant are great picks.
However, if you’re into spooky stuff, Zombie Burger and the Rattlesnake Saloon might be what you need to get you on edge.
Have more ideas on the best-themed restaurant in America? Leave a comment below.
Check out other unique restaurants in the US with odd or unusual features!
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