14 Unique Dining Experiences Across America guide image


14 Unique Dining Experiences Across America

Because a meal that comes with a magic show is a surefire way to change things up a bit.

Maybe you’re searching for an extra special restaurant worth planning a trip around, or you’re celebrating an anniversary and want to do something other than eat a small plate of burrata with calabrian chili oil from your favorite neighborhood wine bar. Or, perhaps you just want something a bit out of the ordinary for your next meal. 

Whatever the circumstance, we’ve got some ideas for you. You can book a tasting tour on an oyster farming boat off the Chesapeake Bay, catch a magic dinner show in an LA castle, or fully embrace neon gen-z aesthetics at a climate-conscious pizza spot in SF. Check out those and more in our guide to some of the most unique dining experiences around the country.


Oasis Cafe

Calling Oasis a hidden gem would be a little too on the nose, considering it’s tucked inside of a literal jewelry store in Chicago. Once you walk past all the glittering rings and watches, you’ll find this Mediterranean spot where you can grab a cheap meal. The menu has classics like stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and baba ganoush, all of which are much cheaper than the jewels on display. Plus, you can recreate a Breakfast at Tiffany’s moment when you feast your eyes on the necklaces and earrings that cost more than your monthly rent with a stuffed $8 falafel sandwich in hand. 

The experience of dining at Magic Castle in LA begins with the process of getting in. You’ll need to know a magician (or you can post an ad on Craigslist asking for a guest pass). But the effort is worth it, since you’ll be rewarded with a classic steakhouse dinner followed by a magic show in one of the Castle’s intimate theaters.

The food is good, but not the point. Dishes like beef wellington and grilled rack of lamb are really here to set the stage for magicians performing in different theaters inside the castle, like the Palace of Mystery or Parlour of Prestidigitation (say that three times fast). You can stay after the mainstage show to wander through the castle or catch later shows—members are also allowed to perform impromptu magic in various areas of the clubhouse.

Cicada Club is a supper club in Downtown LA that’ll make you feel like you’re walking into a time machine, or at least a deleted scene from La La Land. There are plenty of Old Hollywood details like chandeliers and a big band stage, plus a huge dance floor for showing off your best prohibition-era cosplay and charleston. It’s also one of the few places in town where you can dress up and not feel silly, so put on your Oscar-worthy best. Dinner involves lots of Italian dishes like branzino and veal scaloppini, but you can also just enjoy a sazerac and the music-filled atmosphere at the bar.

The Old Hollywood Restaurant Guide guide image

LA Guide

The Old Hollywood Restaurant Guide

Shuggie's in San Francisco immediately feels like a different kind of modern pizza spot—you won’t find any blonde wood paneling or muted velvet banquettes here. The neon green and yellow rooms are monochromatic and look like something your mind would conjure after drinking too much absinthe, and you’ll find furniture resembling human legs, lips, and cupped hands to sit on. 

Don’t mistake Shuggies’s out-there style for a lack of substance—it’s also unique for its all-in approach to eliminating food waste. A buffalo dish not only has wings, but also crunchy livers, gizzards, and hearts, and the crust on their signature trash pies are made from by-products of cheese and oat milk production. Come here to impress a date that’s really excited by their new home composting setup, or as an excuse to really lean into a neon outfit of your choice.

Pizzeria Beddia is one of the best pizza spots in Philadelphia, but it’s also home to one of the most intimate, special dinners you can have in the city. Located in a private back dining space, the Hoagie Room is a pizza and sandwich omakase where you can share Cantabrian anchovies, slices of their garlicky tomato pie, and decadent hoagies in a dimly-lit room with a Warhol print on the wall. The two-hour omakase also gives you access to Beddia’s own sizable wine collection—simply point at which displayed bottle you’d like to purchase. The night gets capped off with soft serve, and for $75 a person, it’s a solid deal for an unforgettable meal.

Monster Vegan in Philly is challenging the idea that great vegan food can only be found in bright, all-neutral dining rooms with a giant monstera or next to a crunchy yoga studio. This vegan spot screens ‘80s-era horror films and serves spooky-themed dishes like vampiro tacos with oyster mushrooms in a space decked out in dark, moody colors and lightning. They also have a solid Happy Hour, so you can pop in for bar bites and a Beware the BLOB... arita when the scariest thing in your life is your 9-5. 

Turkey Leg Hut first started as a food truck serving, you guessed it, turkey legs to hungry rodeo-goers, but now it’s a full-fledged institution in Houston’s Third Ward. The plates are over-the-top in the best way possible, with Flintstones-esque pieces of poultry doused in cajun alfredo sauce and crawfish mac and cheese. You’ll see people joining in (or dodging) the occasional impromptu two-step in the aisles after drinking a few of their frozen cocktails. They also sometimes host car shows, so you might spot a lineup of pristine low-riders on display during your visit.

A gas station might not be your first choice for a vibey sit-down meal, but El Carajo Tapas and Wine proves that you can have an excellent dinner and fill up your gas tank at the same time. This Spanish spot in Miami is located past the pumps and fridges full of energy drinks, but once you’re inside, it’s all rustic Spanish interiors, pulpo al ajillo you’ll want to lick off your plate, and fluffy slices of tortilla espanola. You can even scan the store’s vast selection of wine and purchase a bottle to have with your meal, even if it’s just for the novelty of enjoying a great glass of rioja in a space shared by people filling up their gas tank.

You can find just about any type of dining experience in New York City, but almost nothing is exactly like Mắm. The stars here are the wide baskets of bún đậu mắm tôm, an iconic Hanoi street food you can’t really get anywhere else in the city. You’ll see lots of people spilling out from the tiny dining room onto the sidewalk and street on brightly colored plastic stools, dipping fried tofu cubes and sticky rice sausage into fragrant, spicy shrimp paste sauce. 

Dining here also puts you at the center of the action—the interior is small even by New York’s standards, and you’ll have to walk through the bustling kitchen to use the bathroom. But the tight quarters and communal nature of eating on the street is all part of the experience.

It feels like NYC has reached peak omakase, but Mr. Moto is actually a place that stands out. The experience begins before you even sit down—you have to decode an email puzzle to get to your meal. The solution is your entrance code to the speakeasy-like dining room that’s tucked away on St. Mark’s, and the interiors are decked out with Japanese antiques and nautical paintings and prints. 

Once the omakase begins, you’ll get 21 courses highlighting hyper-seasonal ingredients, like shirako or red gurnard flown in from Japan. Dinner costs almost $200, but considering that other omakase spots in the city can run $500+, it’s a great deal for the quality of fish served in each course. Plus, where else can you linger post-omakase for a drink beside a vintage player piano?

Archipelago is about as Pacific Northwest as owning a Subaru and multiple pairs of rock climbing shoes, but you can’t find a meal like this anywhere else in Seattle. The Filipino-American tasting menu spot is dedicated to hyper-local sourcing to the point where it feels like a bit, with items like torched pine branches from the chef’s backyard garnishing your plate, or a kinilaw served atop rocks collected on hikes.

The intimate 10-seat dining room is the ideal stage for dishes that take creative liberties with Filipino classics. The halo halo has “pineapple” ice made from pines and apples (the tropical fruit doesn’t grow in the PNW), and their imagining of sinigang has plum, green apple, or rhubarb broth instead of tamarind. While you’re marveling how a riff on banana ketchup made with caramelized squash is somehow better than the original, the owners will be cracking UW vs. WSU jokes to really make you feel at home in the land of Patagonia rain jackets and third-wave coffee spots.

Gunshow in Atlanta answers the question few people have been brave enough to ask: what if an experimental tasting menu, dim sum carts, and a game show had a baby? The concept here is fluid in every sense of the word—chefs make different dishes each night, and then wheel them out on a cart where you can decide whether you want to invest in it like a mogul on Shark Tank.

Dishes like soft shell crab with zucchini or pastrami lamb ribs with kimchi russian dressing are large enough to share, so you and a few friends could work your way through the dozen-or-so plates available each night. The daily menu changes also mean that you can come back endless times without ever having the same thing twice—the perfect cure for when life is starting to feel a little too predictable. 


In a world filled with natural wine bars serving small plates of crudo, the latest Nashville restaurant from the team behind Audrey goes in the complete opposite direction. The 8- and 16-course tasting menus are developed in a literal lab with incubator rooms and an ultrasonic homogenizer.

The dishes change twice every season to highlight ingredients from the American South, like deer and paw paw at their absolute peak, and riff on the chef’s connection to Appalachian foodways, which means you'll see things like caviar hickory nut handrolls. The space only has nine tables and seats up to 37 guests, so you’re sure to have an intimate experience here. Just be aware that they don’t accommodate vegans or vegetarians.


If you routinely take down a dozen oysters by yourself, it’s worth traveling out of your way to experience this tasting tour in the Lynnhaven River. After boarding the boat, you’ll cruise past million-dollar homes as you learn about how oysters are grown and handle tiny shells. This tasting tour is definitely on the adventurous side—you’ll walk along the sand banks in the river in water shoes or waders—but you’ll be rewarded with lots of incredibly fresh oysters served on a makeshift bar on the side of the boat. If you’re lucky, your host will also add some homemade mignonette, served straight out of a mason jar with a fishing knife.

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photo credit: Erin Ng

14 Unique Dining Experiences Across America guide image