The whole idea behind dining at a fancy restaurant is for you to enjoy a sumptuous meal; practically, you get to just lay back and hey presto, food appears as though miraculously summoned. However, if dining out for you is as much about ambience as it is about the menu, restaurant location may be they key. And we've got what it takes to whet your appetite.
With this trend in seeking exotic locales to eat out at, we've compiled a bucket list of the most unconventional, out-of-the-box restaurants set in a variety of settings, including original bank vaults, a converted 1950s truck, an old fisherman's house, jail cells, former churches, a super-yacht marina, and more. Spanning from Chicago to Mexico, making pit stops in Texas and Brazil, this list comprises some breathtaking dining venues in stunning locations. Instagram is calling!
1. 1950s Chevrolet Truck
At Cevicheria at W Punta de Mita, signature ceviche and craft beers are served straight out of a converted 1950s Chevrolet 3800 truck. Vibrant Latin American recipes blend citrus and raw fish or light seafood seasoned together. At the resort, they believe that food is more than just fuel. It should be transformative, appealing all of guests' senses. As such, they take food very seriously. In addition to Cevicheria, foodies can transport to the streets of Southeast Asia on an unforgettable culinary journey at Spice Market by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's or try their hand at making their own mole at Venazu Restaurant.
2. 120-Year Traditional Mexican Landmark
Ready for a serious cultural lesson? Restaurante Prendes, one of Mexico City's most historic traditional Mexican restaurants, reopened its doors this past month at El Palacio de Hierro, Latin America's largest luxury department store located in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. With over 120 years of tradition, the restaurant returns with a revamped modem vibe and a newly designed mural by Pilar Goutas—a throwback to the original, featuring photos of Prendes' most famous clients including Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara, Walt Disney, and more. In its new location at El Palacio de Hierro, Prendes draws in Mexico's elite, travelers looking for traditional cuisine, local foodies and cultural enthusiasts. With legendary items still being served, customers can sample the "steak Chemita," a dish specifically invented for a loyal patron, or the Maguey worms, made famous by Diego Rivera, who was the first to order the dish at Prendes.
3. Island in the Middle of a Lake
Mesa1, located at W Punta de Mita and dubbing itself "the most exclusive restaurant in the world," sits on an island in the middle of a spring-fed lake and looks like something straight out of The Notebook. Guests arrive via stepping stones that emerge from the water and then disappear once seated. The 18-seat restaurant has only one seating with seven tailored courses on a table carved out of an indigenous Parota tree trunk that's been repurposed as a dining table. W Punta de Mita is a nearly 400-acre property with an adults-only pool, lazy river, spa, and four alfresco eateries, including two by Richard Sandoval.
4. Old Fisherman's House in Brazil
The Casa da Cachaça restaurant at the newly renovated Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort is formerly an old fisherman's house, now offering a colonial atmosphere within the hotel's vibrant leisure area. The panoramic seaside views are the star of this cozy, authentic Casa da Cachaça restaurant, which also offers live music and traditional Brazilian foods and cocktails. To sweeten your Instagram feeds, they also serve classic Brazilian cuisine on a terrace with a newly redesigned ambience and ocean view. Caipirinhas perfectly accompany light meals and Brazilian appetizers.
5. Original Bank Vault
Opened just this year, Lockbox is the signature restaurant of 21c Museum Hotel, Lexington, Kentucky's first luxury boutique hotel. Located on the ground floor of the historic 103-year-old First National Bank Building, Lockbox is committed to sourcing local, high-quality ingredients around the Bluegrass Region. Led by executive chef Jonathan Searle, the menus at Lockbox showcase a deep network of local providers and the bounty of ingredients fed by Kentucky's limestone-rich soil. For those looking for a truly memorable experience, the original bank vault, The Safe, provides an intimate setting for private dining groups of up to 12. One of the hotel's many art installations is located in the Lockbox bar, where hanging orbs represent atmospheric molecules and change color and height depending on the following day's weather forecast. *Just take our money already.*
6. Life-Size Gingerbread House
What's better than food? (Nothing). Great Wolf Lodge offers the exclusive opportunity to dine inside a life-size gingerbread house built entirely from scratch and all for charity! Featuring more than 5,000 candies, 600 pounds of gingerbread dough and 1,320 pounds of sugar, the gingerbread house is baked, iced, and candied to perfection, providing the setting for a memorable holiday breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Up to six individuals can dine in the gingerbread house for a collective $10 "sitting fee." As if it couldn't get any better, 100% of sitting fees are donated to the Ronald McDonald House. To date, more than $65K has been raised through gingerbread house proceeds.
7. Historic Mexican Home
The newly opened Beijing cuisine restaurant MR CHOW simply exudes luxury. Housed in a historic, baroque-style home in Mexico City's exclusive Polanco neighborhood and designed by Cuaik Arquitectos, the stunning two-story restaurant features original iron railings, lush floor-to-ceiling living walls, a unique indoor/outdoor layout, and original artwork from acclaimed restaurateur and artist Michael Chow himself. The glamorous eatery also features a large terrace, bar, and two dining rooms featuring signature MR CHOW dishes such as Chicken Satay, house-made noodles, and Beijing Duck, which is roasted to order and carved tableside. Mexico City marks the eighth global location for MR CHOW joining the ranks of notable hot spots in London, New York City, Beverly Hills, Miami, Malibu, and Las Vegas.
8. Superyacht Marina in Miami
If you want to feel like the Bachelorette for a day, this one's for you. Developer Mehmet Bayraktar of Miami's superyacht marina Island Gardens Deep Harbour, teamed up with nightlife entrepreneurs Michael Capponi and Eric Milon to open The Deck at Island Gardens, the first restaurant in North America where guests can dine with the world's largest yachts (up to 550 feet!) in the background. Upon its late November grand opening in time for Art Basel, acclaimed Chef Alfredo Alvarez will bring a new concept to The Deck by fusing Mediterranean flavors and quintessential European dishes drawing from the yachting circuit's various ports of call, with menu items sourced internationally and locally. Guests will be able to savor yachting-infused menu selections, including The Deck Seafood Casserole: a mix of fresh shellfish, sea bass, and redfish in a tomato saffron broth, served in a Vulcan clay casserole cooked in the new wood brick oven; Octopus a la Plancha: fresh octopus topped with mint foam; Pear Ravioli with gorgonzola cheese, finished with a black truffle sauce; and Island Gardens Seared Tuna: seared tuna dressed with an assortment of fruit caviars. Are your mouths watering yet?
9. Tatami Rooms with Shoji & Japanese Architecture
Guests at Hakubai at The Kitano Hotel New York are transported to Japan as they enjoy authentic Kaiseki cuisine crafted by Executive Chef Yukihiro Sato whilst surrounded by stunning Japanese architecture and décor. Groups can book private Tatami rooms, constructed using shoji (translucent paper dividers), floor seating, and rice straw mats, where they will remove their shoes to dine as in Japanese custom. Kaiskei is a multi-course meal, with roots in Zen Buddhism and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, served on an exquisite array of porcelain, pottery and lacquer dishware at carefully timed intervals.
10. Historic Esquire Theatre in Chicago
Housed on three floors of Chicago's historic Esquire Theatre, guests of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House Chicago can indulge in rare cuts of wet-aged steaks, fresh seafood, and an award-winning wine list while sitting within one of the city's most prevalent Gold Coast district landmarks. With a lavish interior that was designed to preserve the theatre's historic architectural elements, guests sitting at any table in the restaurant can view the incredible three-story suspended wine cellar while dining. Located near high-end shopping yet hidden enough on coveted Oak Street to provide an air of exclusivity, Del Frisco's is a must-see in the Windy City.
11. Jail Cell
We promise you won't feel caged in at this option. Diners at the Calaboose Grille in Owego, New York (on the southern end of the Finger Lakes region) can dine in former cell blocks. Originally built in 1910 as the Tioga County Jail, the restaurant transformed the jail cells into dining areas and the bed frames into tables. "Calaboose" is the Spanish colloquial word for "local jail," and the Calaboose Grille is known for serving locally-sourced steaks, seafood, burgers, wraps, and more. Diners choosing to experience this unique restaurant can also order locally crafted Finger Lakes wines and beers such as Hazlit's Red Cat and Ithaca Green Trail.
12. Middle of the Ski Slopes
Only accessible by skis (or snowboard), the picturesque Morning Star Café at Bristol Mountain is a slope-side waffle house built mid-mountain between two ski trails. The remote waffle-only eatery is known for homemade Belgian waffles, locally-produced maple syrup and an assortment of nourishing drinks and juices. Built in 2008, the quaint, comfortable and picturesque eatery is exclusively for those that have mastered the art of winter sports. Hosting a continuously sold out Valentine's Day dinner, the Bristol Mountain team transports food from the bottom of the mountain to the mid-slope restaurant via ski lift.
13. Former Church with Roots of the Underground Railroad
Known for their combination of fresh, homemade Mexican, Southwestern, and South American cuisine, The Mission Restaurant is located in the former Syracuse Wesleyan Methodist Church in the heart of Syracuse (a gateway to the Finger Lakes region). Built in the 1840's, the building was an important way-station on the Underground Railroad. A hidden tunnel underneath the restaurant previously used to liberate slaves escaping the south features seven striking faces that were carved into the clay wall by former slaves. With the exterior still closely resembling a church, diners are immediately transported to old world Mexico upon entering.
14. Remodeled Historic Texan Brothel
Want something with a little more edge for your next meal? In the true spirit of Texas, guests visiting Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House Fort Worth will dine in a literal historic brothel and bathhouse—remodeled, of course. Situated in the town's Hill Half Acre area, the three-story restaurant boasts restored mahogany-lined walls, vintage ironwork lining the original catwalk, and traditional stockyards memorabilia. Along with sheets of the original bath tiles still visible on the floor, Del Frisco's 10,000 bottle wine cellars are housed within the original brick from the underground tunnels cowboys used to walk their cattle back home from the stockyards. Used as a pit stop for their journey home, rumors say the building was one of the city's most popular in the 1800s. Today, the restaurant is regarded as one of Fort Worth's best steak houses showcasing hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, and warm, genuine hospitality.