The modern age of the mega-brand-themed restaurant is assumed to have started with the opening of London’s Hard Rock Cafe in 1971, while some trace their roots back to the burlesque cabarets of nineteenth-century Paris. Themed restaurants are not a new concept. Many have tried, resulting in strange concepts that often don’t make sense on paper (or in reality) because of the difficulty of pulling off their design.
Despite lacking any equally enticing food and following themes that are no way related to all things edible, many of these weirdly themed restaurants—including ones that look like prisons, airplanes, hospitals, and toilets—have been wildly successful. When it comes to novelty dining, there are other countries that like to get a bit eccentric and it’s not just countries like China, Taiwan, and Japan where these kinds of restaurants proliferate.
There are plenty of themed restaurants out there, and we take you on a journey through the wacky and the strange from all over the world.
Location: Truskavets, Ukraine
Housed in a windowless building that looks like a giant coffin, this restaurant’s decor includes human-sized coffins, black walls, and funeral wreaths. Death must be delicious. Why? Because diners can indulge in dishes with morbid names like Let’s Meet in Paradise. This is what happens when undertakers decide to innovate their careers and open their own restaurants.
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Situated in a building vaguely marked as International Exports Ltd, you must figure out a secret password to gain access. The security at the door will give customers embarrassing missions to complete so they could enter if they can’t figure the password out. The place is riddled with secret passages and trap doors.
Aside from that, they have a truly unique way of giving you your Bond-style martini. Your drink is “shaken” by shooting it around the restaurant through a plastic tube. This restaurant will give you the opportunity to live out your clandestine cloak-and-dagger fantasies.
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
There are Barbie dolls everywhere and the waiters try really hard—but often fail—to look like Ken, while the waitresses wear tutus. Chair backs resemble bustiers and often have tutus, while bar tables look like the heel of stiletto. Customers can order cocktails such as the Barbie 128, which happens to be a very pink concoction, or macarons served in a martini class.
Location: Paris, France
This upscale eatery manages to work 120 varieties of apples into its menu, though the restaurant itself might not be shaped as an apple. Most of their dishes have apples, such as wasabi-marinated salmon with Grannysmith apples and apple cinnamon rolls. With their apple-filled menu, around 600 kg of apples are delivered weekly. The restaurant also has a gourmet shop stocked with apple products, from chutneys to brandies, and they also sell various apple-based cocktails and ciders.
Theme: Prison Hospital
Location: Tokyo, Japan
The menu here includes “penis” on a bed of lettuce (aka a suggestively carved sausage); cocktails such as the “brain buster,” which is served in a life-sized mannequin head; and “human intestines” (really incredibly long sausages in a kidney dish). If you have dreamed of eating in a creepy hospital prison where waiters are orderlies who handcuff you and pretend to inject you in the ass, while the waitresses are dressed up as nurses, then this restaurant is definitely for you.
Theme: Friends, the TV show
Location: Beijing, China
The Central Perk is a fictional restaurant from the renowned TV show Friends. Anyone who has watched an episode of the show wished that the restaurant was a place that existed outside of the show. Fortunately, avid fan Du Xin opened the café in honor of the gang’s go-to hangout, and it now stands in Beijing.
Xin said he studied millions of pictures that he found online just so he could get the exact look. The eerily precise replica of Central Perk has big cups of coffee, hot dogs, endless reruns, and chocolate muffins. They even have students who take turns playing “Smelly Cat” at various points in the day.
Theme: Mars/Outer space
Location:New York, NY
Status: Closed in 2012
This martian-themed restaurant really took its design to a new level. Unfortunately, it closed about 100 years too early. Guests could order dishes with extraterrestrial names, such as Promethean pork chops, and star-field salmon. The waiters would also dress up as aliens while serving customers in martian red lighting and space-themed furniture.
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Customers are seated on toilet seats as they eat their meals from toilet seat–shaped containers in this famous Taiwanese restaurant. Their menu items include a whole complimentary toilet bowls filled with chocolate soft serve or the Hemorrhoid ice, which is served with raisins, marshmallows, ice cream, strawberry syrup, biscuits, candies, and jellies. They also serve Thai spicy chicken dish that is actually pretty good.
Cabbages and Condoms
Theme: Birth Control
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
The founders of Cabbages and Condom created this restaurant because they believe birth control should be as easily accessible as vegetable in market. This was the owner’s effort to promote safe sex practices in rural Thailand. Diners are given free condoms—instead of being brought mints—when the check comes.
Perhaps the best part is the slogan embellished across the menus: “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.” Aside from the free condoms and the slogan, the decor features a variety of colorful condoms arranged to form flower and various statues, including one of Santa Claus.
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Modeled to look exactly like the interior of an aircraft, A-380 expectedly has waitresses who are dressed as flight attendants. There’s even a first-class area reserved for group dining. Upon entering, customers are handed boarding passes that indicate their seats. Just as how it should be when you’re on a ride 30,000 feet above the ground, most dishes on the menu are served on plastic trays. Although airplane food isn’t exactly the best when it comes to reputation, the food that this plane-themed restaurant is quite good. That’s the only difference between the two of them.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
This restaurant will cater to a woman’s desire to experience what it would be like to be a princess? Before taking a seat in a throne and being crowned, customers are led to a full-length mirror where they’re supposed to ask who’s the fairest one of all. Women can drag their boyfriend or husband along. If you are a single man, however, and you try to enter the restaurant, you’ll be rejected.
Before running away to reevaluate their life choices, princesses can feast on either the “Something Cinderella Leaf-Baked Custard of Magic at 12 O’Clock” or “Salad Rolls of Shrimp and Steam Chicken with Two Sauces Enchanted with Sleeping Beauty’s Voice.”
Theme: League of Legends
Location: Chongqing, China
Basically, it’s like a Hooters for gamers to attend when they finally decide to leave the house. Modeled after a video game, the restaurant features waitresses dressed up as characters and serves League-themed dishes like deep-fried Skarners (scorpions), along other potion-inspired cocktails and nerdy delicacies. The walls are decorated with League paraphernalia, and there are stations set up through the restaurants for patrons to play the game as they dine.
Buns and Guns
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Status: Closed in 2009
This burger joint was so dedicated to their chosen theme that it constantly played helicopter noises in the background as it was inspired by Lebanon’s war with Israel in 2006. The restaurant had the slogan “Sandwiches Can Kill You” displayed at the entrance. Patrons could order items such as the Mortar burger, the vegetarian Terrorist Meal, or the M16 Carbine meat sandwich.
Pretty unusual and downright bizarre, right? But you have to admit, despite their peculiar themes, these restaurants are totally amazing and unique. They truly offered something that a typical restaurant couldn’t. They offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience that their customers wouldn’t soon forget.
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