New York City

Eating In The Dark

Here’s a restaurant theme you didn’t see coming: darkness.

The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Today you can stumble into dozens restaurants around the world where that question made famous in an American commercial in the 80s — Where’s the beef? — takes on a whole new meaning. Most dark restaurants employ blind waiters, offer a single set menu, and ban anything that could give off light (like cigarettes, cell phones and cameras) from the dinning area. All of them also have normally lit bathrooms though you’ll need to ask your waiter for help in finding it.

Here’s our illuminating look at some of the world’s dark restaurants:

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NYC’s Best Budget Boutique Hotel

Walk off of New York City’s Times Square and into the Room Mate Grace Hotel and here’s some of what you’ll see on the hotel’s ground floor: a stylish lobby, a sauna, a gym, a steam room and a pool with a swim-up bar. In the morning you’ll see guests enjoying the free continental breakfast. In the evening you’ll see a DJ spinning tunes in the hotel’s low-lit lounge.

You might think that the Room Mate Grace would be among New York’s top tier expensive hotels. You’d be wrong.

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Happy Endings

Once an illegal massage parlor, hence the name, Happy Endings is now a friendly lounge with a hip singles scene that doesn’t guarantee this spot’s former promises of gratification. Getting in is as easy as showing-up and the downstairs lounge still offers private tiled rooms, which are now filled with banquettes and tables. The crowd is informal and hip and they both dance and mingle to DJs that bring the 70s funk on weekends, but aren’t afraid to mix it with a little 80s pop and modern rock. Take a cab here -– the lounge is hard to find and the neighborhood can be sketchy.

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Milk and Cookies Bakery

Seriously, this place specializes in milk and cookies. It’s no $100 per entrée hot spot playing “the irony angle,” it’s a café that has found a niche in a city where it seemed that all of the niches had been taken ten times over. Of course, no one pulls off this kind of coupe with store-bought Oreos. This place makes their own type of Oreo with chewy Valrhona chocolate and a homemade cream filling. Coolest of all, this bakery also lets customers create their own cookies — you select from their myriad of ingredient possibilities and they’ll bake up your creation in 20 minutes ($19/dozen). No wonder this place is a favorite for the West Village’s young at heart . . . and their inner-children.

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Barcade

Most of the people who religiously played Centipede, Mario Bros. and Frogger did so when they were too young to drink. Good news. Times have changed, but the games remain the same. At this slightly out of the way former warehouse, friendly and grungy locals jingle all the way through the long room with pockets full of quarters. Surprisingly the hip space attracts an even numbers of men and women and while playing video games may seem anti-social, the flashing screens are a distant background for those crowded around the bar.

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Peanut Butter & Co.

And what exactly “accompanies” peanut butter? How about more types of milk than most cows would even consider possible? They serve soy, rice and Lactaid milk here at this dinner that specializes in variations of PB and J. The drinks here are all non-alcohol so while diners won’t have to worry about pairing their Nutella with the right wine, choosing the appropriate beverage for tongue-stuck-to-roof-of-mouth- syndrome is of the essence. The very small place is fun if nothing else, and you’re sure to be in and out in a “jiffy.”

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