Jun 2, 2023 - World

Get ready for "extreme" restaurants

A dramatic bridge over a deep gorge has a central atrium with a walkway around it, and people walking around.

A 240-meter-long glass bridge over the Dashbashi Canyon in the country of Georgia has a diamond-shaped café in the middle. Photo: Vano Shlamov/AFP via Getty Images

Want to have drinks on a glass bridge suspended over a fearsome gorge? A chef-driven dinner at a table suspended in the sky? In a polar pod in Antarctica? Under the sea amid a coral reef?

  • A crop of bizarre — and perhaps scary — restaurants is catering to our appetites, wanderlust, and social media-driven desire for photogenic life (and food) moments.

Driving the news: "Experiential eating" was dubbed a food trend for 2023 by the New York Times, fueled in part by the end of the pandemic, which has diners craving "restaurants that offer interaction, excitement and a bit of a show."

  • The 2022 movie "The Menu," a murder mystery set at an haute cuisine restaurant on a remote island, may have helped fuel interest — along with the closing of Noma, the cultish gastronomic temple in Copenhagen.
  • A new series from National Geographic, "Restaurants at the End of the World," has "Top Chef" winner Kristen Kish dining at a floating restaurant in Brazil, a Norwegian spot in the Arctic circle and more.

Details: While offbeat dining experiences can be had in most big cities — such as the horror-themed Burgertory in Salt Lake City and the immersive theater served up in 10-14 course meals at Charlotte's Counter — a few global locations have gone to extremes.

  • Ithaa in the Maldives is 16 feet under the ocean, with guests dining in a transparent tunnel with coral garden views and "fusion menus matched with fine wines."
  • The Diamond glass bridge spans a fearsome canyon near Tbilisi in the country of Georgia; it opened last year with a café in the center that will seek Guinness designation as "the restaurant suspended at a highest point from a bridge."
  • Whichaway Camp in Antarctica boasts of serving "five-star international cuisine" prepared by a "private chef" in an igloo; visits start at $62,500.
  • At El Diablo in the Canary Islands, you can eat chicken, steak or chorizo that's been cooked over a dormant volcano.
  • Dinner in the Sky is a feast that moves from city to city hosting lavish meals at a table on a platform suspended by a crane. (Now serving in Athens, Greece, and at the Lion's Mound landmark at the Waterloo battlefield in Belgium.)
Diners sup at a dinner table suspended in the sky.
At a "Dinner in the Sky" event in Brussels, guests sit at a table suspended from a crane at a height of 50 meters. Photo: Xinhua/Gong Bing via Getty Images

What they're saying: "People are really craving a special experience and prioritizing the experiential," says Debby Soo, CEO of restaurant reservation platform OpenTable.

  • "I do think a large part of that is because of a lot of us being pent up or cooped up during the pandemic."

Yes, but: Sometimes these places are a tad less exciting than their hype.

  • A Parisian restaurant called Sur Un Arbre Perché ("perched on a tree") lets people dine on swings and get shiatsu massages, but some reviewers note that there are only a limited number of swinging chairs — best to book far in advance.
  • TripAdvisor reviews of the Diamond bridge focus more on the excitement of biking across the chasm than on supping in the center of it.
    • "My only regret was that the bar in the diamond was closed. I always like to have a beer in weird places like this," one visitor wrote.

The bottom line: While most of these restaurants predate the pandemic, they're getting fresh attention as people seek out exciting destinations that travel restrictions had denied them.

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