You're Eating Where?! The World's Weirdest Restaurants
Some restaurants take the idea of unique table settings to a whole other level, setting their tables in treetops, on the ocean floor, and everywhere in between—caves, cliffs, igloos, you name it. Adventurous foodies can enjoy delicious meals at such places and, just as important, accrue serious bragging rights. Here are 10 restaurants that are so unusual you’ll have a hard time focusing on your food.
Eat with the fishes at the world’s first and only all-glass underwater restaurant. Submerged 16 feet below the surface, the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel boasts 180-degree panoramic views of manta rays, sharks, tropical fish, and other denizens of the deep. You descend a spiral staircase to enter a long acrylic tunnel that’s secured to the sea floor. Once inside, you feast on delectable island-inflected European fare such as caviar, prawn tartare, reef lobster, and coconut-crusted légine. Forget surf and turf—here it’s more like surf on its own turf.
For supper with a side of spelunking, dine deep inside a volcanic cavern northeast of Mexico City. Located just behind the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, La Gruta restaurant serves traditional Mexican cuisine in a mystical grotto sparkling with tiny lights. After the challenge of climbing the pyramid, reward yourself with some mescal and tacos, barbacoa, gooey queso, or fajitas. You’ll be following in some famous footsteps—everyone from Frida Kahlo to Queen Elizabeth has spent time here. Mariachi musicians and folkloric dancers provide live entertainment.
Sprouting from the Indian Ocean like an optical illusion, The Rock restaurant is a surreal coral outcrop just off the island of Zanzibar. Reached by boat at high tide and by foot at low, this place is positively made for Insta-moments. Climb a rickety wooden staircase to enter the 12-table dining room crowned with a Makuti thatched roof. Here you can indulge in a seafood-focused menu with local touches, such as fish carpaccio with coconut sauce, potato gnocchi served with prawns and Zanzibar vanilla, and tambi (AKA Swahili spaghetti) with stir-fried fish. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to have a cocktail (white rum, pineapple juice, and blue Curaçao, anyone?) on the ocean-facing patio.
Hope you don’t mind getting your feet wet. At the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant in the resort plantation of Villa Escudero in the Philippines, bamboo picnic tables are set in a shallow pool at the base of an artificial waterfall. Diners partake of a traditional Filipino buffet with fish, rice, barbecued chicken, and bananas, as ankle-deep water from the falls gently courses throughout the space. No shoes allowed. All rows will get wet.
Here’s one last waterlogged spot before we move on to other elements. Al Frio y al Fuego restaurant floats in the Itaya River of northern Peru. Located just offshore from the city of Iquitos (and reached by hopping a boat from there), the eatery and swimming pool is thoroughly Amazonian—from its rainforest setting to its thatched-palm roof to its locally sourced menu. After a dip in the pool, tuck into typical jungle fare: tropical fruits like carambola (starfruit) and camu camu; river fish like paiche, doncella (catfish), and sábalo; and, for more adventurous palates, snails, lizards, and turtle.
Swinging from the treetops takes on new meaning at the Soneva Kiri eco-resort on the remote Thai island of Koh Kut. Settle into your private bamboo pod suspended 20 feet off the ground amid lush rainforest and let nimble waiters serve you dinner by zipline. Feast on epic jungle and seaside views along with organic fare from the resort’s own garden. “Canapés in the Canopy” are made with crispy sweet potato, banana, and taro chips, while baked white fish comes in banana leaves with lime and salsa verde. Who said eating like a bird wasn’t fun?
Be sure to bundle up for the Ice Restaurant, located 120 miles above the Arctic Circle in western Finland. Part of the Lapland Hotels SnowVillage, the igloo-like eatery is a magical world made entirely of snow and ice each season. Surrounded by shimmering ice sculptures, you can sample the unique flavors of Lapland: cloudberry, marinated forest mushrooms, Arctic char, and reindeer fillet. Should the chill get to you—the temperature inside is a frosty 23 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit—the restaurant will loan you some extra layers.
In spite of airplane food's perennial unpopularity, several restaurants have opened in grounded jets around the world—in China, Ghana, New Zealand, and elsewhere. In Southern California, you can even opt for the Pan Am Experience (pictured), a dinner aboard a retired aircraft now used as a film set. Everything is meant to evoke the golden age of air travel, right down to the ample legroom. But one of the first businesses of this type was the Airplane Restaurant, which can be found near Colorado Springs. The historic 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker seats 42 passengers flanking the central aisle. After a meal of basic American comfort food served by wait staff dressed as flight attendants, you can visit an adjacent “terminal” area decorated with hundreds of aviation-related artifacts and photos or sit in the cockpit and let your flying fantasies take wing. Up, up, and away.
Perilously perched on a sheer cliff, Fangweng Restaurant is carved into a limestone cave on the side of the Xiling Gorge near Yichang, China. Most of the tables are safely inside the cavern, but a few jut out from the cliff several hundred feet above the ground. Diners follow a precarious 98-foot-long path that clings to the mountain face to enter the dining room, which is softly illuminated and set with Chinese furnishings. If you can, snag a seat on the hanging platform to watch bungee jumpers leaping toward the Yangtze River below. The menu features local specialties of fish, duck, pork, and even turtle spiced with hot peppers and chili powder.
If that cliffside perch triggered your fear of heights, then you can definitely forget about Dinner in the Sky, a heart-in-your-throat aerial dining experience that has skyrocketed to success in 45 countries around the world—from Austria and Australia to Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Suspended 180 feet in the air from a 200-ton crane, the Belgian-made flying table seats 22 diners for a multicourse meal prepared amid the clouds. The sky-high dinner has even attracted the participation of celebrity chefs such as Joël Robuchon and Heston Blumenthal. Their cuisine has to compete with a 360-degree bird’s-eye view. Just don’t look down.