10 Dining Experiences That Soar Beyond the Average Meal


Sometimes a lunch or a dinner is more than just a meal, it's an unforgettable event. Increasingly more establishments are realizing that there's more to offer than just great food, with some creating full experiences for their guests. We tip our hat to the restaurants, event planners, theaters and alternative bars that are creating interactive cultural adventures around meal-time. Dining out is certainly "a production" with these folks...and we mean that in the very best way.

 Photo Courtesy of Diner en Blanc
Diner en Blanc
Worldwide

Originating in France, this pop-up picnic has been dubbed a "white party for foodies," combining a chic flash mob with food to make an epicurean phenomenon. Now a quarter-century old, Diner en Blanc has become an annual event all over the world, appearing in Africa, North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. After drawing more than 1,000 enthusiastic socialites out to Beverly Hills this month — lugging folding tables and dressed in their finest white evening wear — Diner en Blanc next heads to San Diego on September 19 for perhaps the beachiest soiree in its history. Photo Courtesy of Tru
Chef's Encounter at Tru
Chicago

In Tru, one of Chicago's most critically acclaimed restaurants, you won't ever be able to reserve the chef's table or even over-tip the maître d' for it. Instead, Chef Anthony Martin chooses who will sit at his table, walking around the dining room to select random diners and regulars to visit him for a single course. He comes up with dishes on the spot for each meal and since this is a social media savvy restaurant, diners are encouraged to snap photos to share online.  Photo Courtesy of Theater 1
Reel Chefs at Theater 1
Revere Hotel, Boston

The "dinner and a movie" classic night out becomes so much more with this series, which has brought everything from Pulp Fiction to the Muppets into the Revere Hotel's beautiful Theater 1 on Boston Common. Special menus match the movie, so this summer's Muppet Movie screening ended with the Animal-styled dessert pictured, while the next screening (in October) will be an artistic culinary offering to fit the partnership with Art Week Boston. Photo Courtesy of Casimir & Co
Tableside Cheffing
Casimir & Co, Manhattan

Tableside meat carving and Caesar salad preparation is fairly common, but it's rare to see a Stateside restaurant prepare a signature red meat dish tableside with any spicing and garnish a guest might want — all without a flame. At authentic French bistros like Casimir & Co., guests can direct the server in preparing their steak tartare tableside and then send it off to the kitchen to be seared. But seriously...doesn't that defeat the point? To get the true flavor of the dish you should eat it raw, per the recipe and tradition. Photo Courtesy of Wild Earth Llama Adventures
Lunch With a Llama
Taos, New Mexico

Like most New Mexico towns, Taos is known for its outdoor adventures and one specialty tour operator is creating quite a buzz with its buck-toothed, furry trail companions. "Take a Llama to Lunch" day hikes from Wild Earth are a runaway hit (pun intended) with family vacationers. It's no wonder kids want to hit the northern New Mexico trails with these goofy-cute creatures. Plus, they're gentle (when trained to be) and big enough to carry all the gear. Photo Courtesy of The Palace
Dance. Drag. Brunch.
The Palace, Miami

Every kind of fabulous is welcome at this Miami Beach LGBT institution that's become a perennial mainstream draw. From scenesters winding down their weekend and tourists looking for an eye-popping bit of "real Miami" to locals and the occasional curious family, guests of the Palace get served with endless Mimosas and unforgettable drag theatrics. The daylight setting makes it more approachable, but those who want to walk on the wild side can stay for the T-dance and what comes next... Photo Credit: SoaringBird | Flickr
Ninjas, Ninjas Everywhere
Ninja Restaurant, NYC

Is that a real ninja plating your food, pouring your water or sneaking up behind your table to scare the wits out of you while you're eating? Probably not. But at Manhattan's Ninja Restaurant and Akasaka in Tokyo, people line up for the peculiar pleasure of dining in a replica ninja village from the Samurai era. It's touristy, loud and unsettling (how can you relax when a ninja might rappel from the ceiling and land in your soup?) but it's also unforgettable...and that's what keeps the crowds coming. Photo Courtesy of Bedford Post Inn
It's Your Privilege to Forage
Bedford Post Inn, New York

Our caveman ancestors would probably have grunted in amusement at this burgeoning trend, which sees affluent (perhaps not very outdoorsy) hotel guests spending their days in search of the produce that will make up their meals. At places like Bedford Post Inn in New York (pictured), Mendocino in Northern California and Fogo Island in Newfoundland, guests can book special packages to get in touch with their latent hunter-gatherer instincts. Photo Courtesy of West Sweden Tourist Board
Lobster Safaris
West Sweden

Saltwater shellfish in West Sweden is incredible — the clear, chilly seas are an ideal habitat for jumbo-sized sweet crayfish, oysters, crab and lobster. The end of summer signifies the start of something delightful for seafood lovers: lobster season. Locals go straight to their favorite local fisherman or fishmarket stall, while tourists enjoy the thrill of the hunt on the "Seafood Safaris" that have become a popular early-autumn daytrip. Photo Courtesy of Tarrytown House Estate
Top Chef-style "Chef-testant" Teambuilding
New York

Looking for something different and fun to liven up your semi-annual office retreat? At Tarrytown House, reality television food shows serve as the inspiration for team-building offerings. The hotel has even converted a former kitchen into a customized space to host these events, while the hotel team enjoys acting like producers and judges — creating challenges, scoring the throw-downs, and making sure no one packs their knives to go.

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