Everyone knows that New York City is, indeed, the foodie capital of America, but put down your iPhone cameras for a hot second. These New York restaurant picks are all about the meal experience, from a simple scoop of edible cookie dough to a full lobster dinner surrounded by a group of acrobats. If you're looking to have the meal of a lifetime, look no further. Take a peek at these 13 NYC hot spots that are all notorious for their whacky dining experiences. 

1. Dirt Candy

Being healthy is cool now, right? Of course it is. So naturally, this Lower East Side gem takes a veggie obsession to whole new level. The award winning restaurant, Dirt Candy, started as a small 18 seater, but has since grown into a nationwide phenomenon, attracting celebrities and foodies from far and wide.

This restaurant switches up the ingredients of classic, everyday meals and recreates them out of vegetables, including the desserts. Some of their most popular dishes include broccoli dogs, carrot sliders, and an onion chocolate tart. Chef Amanda Cohen has finally found a fun way for you to eat your greens and actually enjoy the meal experience.

86 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

2. DO, Cookie Dough Confections

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: cookie dough has actually become safe to eat. You can't be yelled at for licking the spoon at DO, Cookie Dough Confections in Greenwich Village, where cookie dough is scooped like ice cream into a cup or cone of your choice (the cones are ALSO made of cookie).

This cookie dough is completely egg-free, making it mom-approved to munch on raw. DO offers your favorite classic flavors, like Signature Chocolate Chip and Classic Sugar. Try their more unique flavors as well, such as Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle or Gimme S'More. You may even succumb to the unicorn food trend, with their seasonal Unicorn flavor.

550 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

3. The Black Ant

Now this is where your meal experience gets really interesting. A modern Mexican joint in the Lower East Side has been infested with little bugs and BIG flavor. The Black Ant is known for being out of the ordinary, with its dark, funky interior and dishes made with real insects.

One of their specialties is the Black Ant Guacamole, made with wake-black ant salt and chapulines, complete with shishito peppers, avocado puree, queso fresco, and topped off with roasted grasshoppers. Don't knock it 'til you try it because the flavor is unreal.

60 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

4. Lavo

At this brunch spot, there is a 100% chance that you get your hands in the air. Lavo, normally a hip night club in the heart of the city, does Sundays like no other. Every Sunday from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM the club hosts their famous Champagne Party Brunch.

For four short hours, the lights dim, the music gets louder, and the scene shifts from a casual brunch with friends to hundreds of drunk party people shoving their eggs Benedict aside and taking their rightful place on the table top. Best way to beat the Sunday Scaries, if you ask me.

39 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022

5. Mission Chinese

Another Lower East Side hot spot puts an American twist on classic Chinese dishes. And yes, it really works. Hidden in a dark corner, Mission Chinese looks like any ordinary Chinese takeout restaurant on the outside. But the inside is dimly lit and has a hipster vibe, with decorative art scattered throughout.

Some of their best American twists include the Beef Jerky Fried Rice and the Kung Pao Pastrami. Not to mention they have unique specials that they change up each day. After this meal experience, you'll never settle for ordinary Chinese takeout again.

171 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

6. Brooklyn Grange

There is no farm-to-table experience quite like Brooklyn Grange because you are literally eating on the farm that sources your food. We've heard of rooftop pools and rooftop bars, but never a rooftop farm. This organic farm spans across 2.5 acres of rooftop in Brooklyn and was created to produce high quality vegetables and honey for local New York City restaurants. 

Their extensive events calendar allows people to choose their culinary adventure, which typically includes making your own food on the farm. A few such events include Butcher Paper Dinner, where hungry visitors pull their own pork, and Sweetcycle: Bicycle Powered Gelato Workshop. Check out the full list of events on their website to find one that suits your fancy.

63 Flushing Ave, Enter at Clinton Ave & Flushing Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

7. Stanley's Pharmacy

We've all experienced that dreadful Sunday morning: waking up after a night out and wishing you never had. Hangovers have the power to ruin an entire day... That is, until Stanley George came along. After 20 years working as a pharmacist in New York and Los Angeles, George decided to create a new pharmaceutical practice unlike any other. Stanley's Pharmacy is a wellness bar centered on George's philosophy: "it's all about feeling good."

Yes, he fills prescriptions, but his Drinks + Drugs menu takes things one step further. The menu features recovery drinks and elixirs created to ease any pain you may have, including headaches, exhaustion, insomnia, allergies, anxiety, and sinus infections. It is also known to be a hangover haven. George greets his customers with a smile and always knows exactly what to prescribe.

31 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

8. Ellen's Stardust Diner

This place defines eating for the experience. Ellen's Stardust Diner serves mediocre diner food, but gets away with it because they provide you with dinner and a stellar show, all at once. The waiters and waitresses perform for you, singing songs that will get you on your feet and jumping on stages strategically placed throughout the room.

Located a block from Times Square and the birthplace of Broadway, this diner has been serving up music and food to performance lovers since 1987. It is the perfect place to truly experience the wonders of New York City with the entire family.

1650 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

9. Urbanspace Vanderbilt 

If you don't know what you're craving and you happen to be steps from Grand Central Station, your best bet is to pop into Urbanspace Vanderbilt. The Urbanspace company's job is to create markets throughout Manhattan, and every year they introduce exciting new locations, chefs, and makers. 

The Vanderbilt location is a brick-and-mortar food hall offering foodies a fun meal experience and a like-worthy Instagram photo year round. There are 20+ vendors, including favorites, such as KBBQ by Korilla, Hai Street Kitchen, Goodstock Soup, and Dough.

East 45th & Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10169

10. Shopsin's General Store

Everyone loves options, but how many is too many? How about 900 options? Shopsin's General Store, located in Essex Market on the Lower East Side, has over 900 menu items and some that aren't even listed on the menu. Come choose from over 75 different pancakes or take a whack at reading the names of more than 300 soups.

But don't make yourself too comfortable. If you come to Shopsin's for a meal experience, you are pretty much asking to get yelled at. Owner and chef, Kenny Shopsin, has a strict philosophy and even a set of rules that he expects his customers to live by. Anyone who annoys him or doesn't like what he has to say can walk right out. He also doesn't allow customers to ask for recommendations, change any item on the menu, or order the same thing as someone else in their party.

120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

11. CAMAJE Bistro's "Dinner in the Dark"

If you're really feeling daring, head over to a "Dinner in the Dark" in Greenwich Village, made famous by the Franco-American eatery CAMAJE Bistro. Twice a month, they host this one-of-a-kind meal experience, where visitors actually eat blindfolded.

A meal at CAMAJE Bistro certainly puts your senses to the test, as the menu will not be revealed to you until after you are finished eating your food. It's up to you to figure out what you're chowing down on and how to eat it without actually seeing it. Good luck figuring out what that sweet, sticky (but delicious) substance is that you just put in your mouth.

85 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

12. Smorgasburg

Let's be honest, half of the pictures of food in the air you see on Instagram are probably from Smorgasburg. This food festival gives you one fabulous reason to get out of bed on the weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday, dozens of gourmet vendors pitch tents in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, awaiting thousands of hungry (and sometimes hangry) guests. 

Complete with a lively bar and a beautiful view of Manhattan over the East River, Smorgasburg is an all day event. If you don't know what you're craving and you want to be adventurous, or you just want an Instagram your friends will salivate over, head over to one of these two locations.

90 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 1121, Prospect Park – Breeze Hill (East Drive at Lincoln Rd.) 


NINJA NEW YORK takes your meal experience to a whole new level. This Tribeca restaurant transports you to an ancient Japanese village, which could easily be mistaken for the set of an action-packed ninja warrior movie. Warriors swing around your table, appear from hidden doors, disappear into smoke, and oh yeah, they serve your food too.

In all the chaos of the battles that ensue, NINJA NEW YORK does manage to get food to your table. From sushi, to traditional Japanese dishes, to crazy cocktails, the menu matches the fun of the restaurant.

25 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

New York is a crazy place and with it comes some of the most outrageous food experiences ever. So if you're looking for your next foodie get-a-way or you're a local itching to get in touch with your wild side, try one of these places. Better yet, try all 13. I guarantee you won't regret a single one.