This piece is reprinted from Food and Wine.
“I feel like medieval tonight” is not a common response to that classic question of where to eat, but it could be soon. Once relegated to theme parks and kid-friendly chains, oddball dining experiences are gaining in popularity.
The appeal of outlandish restaurants lies in our penchant for escapism. “Some of it is trying to go back to our roots,” says Rupert Spies, a senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. “Eating with our hands is a very sensuous and primal experience,” he explains of restaurants like Medieval Times, where diners are addressed as “Lord” and “Lady,” and no utensils are provided.
Customers look beyond decor and atmospherics; food is an important part of the fantasy. “There are only two things that are equally intimate,” Spies says. “One is sex, and the other one is eating.” A meal has to fit in with the surroundings and with diners' tastes. “You are transporting yourself for an hour or two into a different world,” Spies says. “Food helps, because it is so immediate; it helps you become completely immersed.”
Much like travelers on vacation, diners who go to theme restaurants usually embrace the full experience. “You have the music, you have the decor, the ambiance, the behavior of the people who serve you. Even if it’s just around the corner, you want to completely escape," says Spies.
Still, some weird restaurants seem to find success by just being plain bizarre. At a restaurant called Modern Toilet in Taipei, Taiwan, the seats are toilets, bowls are shaped like bathtubs and the glasses resemble urinals. At least the food, including beef sirloin hot pot and pork with black pepper sauce, is reportedly delicious.
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