What is experimental nutrition? Everything you need to know about the trend

Experiential dining isn’t new, but it’s among the top dining trends for 2023. If you’ve ever been to Medieval Times or even Benihana, you’ve experienced this trend that goes beyond traditional dining to offer customers a unique and memorable an experience. What has changed is that food is no longer an afterthought. Gone are the days of rubber chicken and bland side dishes at a dinner theater performance. Now it’s all about sensory-focused multi-course meals, themed menus and decor, and awe-inspiring settings.

Why is experiential dining having such a huge moment? After several years of pandemic closures, combined with an unprecedented variety of food delivery options, one meal isn’t always enough of an incentive to leave the house. People are looking for unique and memorable experiences that go beyond dining, and that’s why you’ll see more experiential dining in 2023 and beyond.

From dark dining to prohibition-inspired eateries, here are some of the coolest experiences to try this year.

Lunch in the dark

Eating in the dark works on the premise that removing vision and distractions like phones and light enhances your other senses while eating. There are pop-up dark experiences all over North America, but two of the most notable locations are Blackout in Las Vegas and ONoir, which has locations in Toronto and Montreal. Blackout offers a mystery menu brought to you by servers wearing night vision goggles, while ONoir has both mystery and non-mystery menu options served by a visually impaired waiter.

Cat/Dog Cafes

You could go to a cafe for breakfast or lunch, but why not visit a cat or dog cafe instead? While enjoying a cup of coffee, you can interact and play with dogs or cats that are available for adoption. You may have to pay a cover charge or an entrance fee to get in, but it’s totally worth it for the dopamine hit and general charm.

Dinner in the sky

For adventurers and thrill seekers, Dinner in the Sky serves meals on a dining table suspended by a crane more than 150 feet in the air. The first was held in Belgium, but events are now held all over the world. More than just dining with a view, the chefs actually prepare your food at the center of the table as well.


Speakeasies and hidden bars are popping up everywhere, and while cocktails remain the focus, there are more upscale bites on the menu. Part of the excitement is getting to know a really cool secret, complete with hidden or creative entrances like bodega warehouses and vintage phone booths.

A devouring meal

The best way to describe an immersive meal is a meal that includes light shows, soundscapes and other special effects. For example, Le Petit Chef is a family option that is making its way around the world. A small animated chef appears to prepare each dish on the plate in front of you before the actual food is served. In Fort Lauderdale, Atmos offers diners five-star dining with a multi-sensory experience, along with themed menus with accompanying audio/visual effects that stimulate all your senses.

Gaming and arcade restaurants, bars and cafes

Your first encounter with experiential dining may have been Chuck E. Cheese, and the ever-growing number of gaming bars and restaurants are definitely tapping into that nostalgia. Retro arcade bars like Barcade, which hails from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offer an assortment of classic video games alongside craft drinks, cocktails and bites to share. If you prefer board games, board game cafes are perfect for spending an evening with friends. Many of them also have retail stores where you can pick up a copy of the game you just played.

Traveling restaurants and dinners

In this type of experience, the setting is as important as the food, with memorable meals mostly served outdoors. Outstanding in the Field brings the restaurant to the source, hosting dinners everywhere from farms and vineyards to beaches and fishing docks in North America, Europe and Africa. Diner en Blanc, which started in France, is another traveling experience where large groups of invited guests gather for an exclusive, sophisticated picnic in a public space.

Theme restaurants

When it comes to themed restaurants, the possibilities are endless, with options for dining in decommissioned planes and trains or former fire stations and textile mills. There are places like Toronto’s Storm Crow Manor, with its geek decor and menu that pays homage to sci-fi, fantasy, horror, gaming and superheroes. If you’re in San Francisco, there’s the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, offering an immersive Tiki experience, including indoor rain storms and a band playing on a boat floating in an indoor lagoon. Then there’s Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, a Wild West-themed establishment where you’re encouraged to dress up in your western clothes.

Dinner and show

Yes, there are murder mystery dinner theater shows and experiences like Medieval Times, but if you’re in New York, head to the Theater District and visit Ellen’s Stardust Diner or Gayle’s Broadway Rose to hear the singing waiter perform live. Heading to London? Circus is a legendary place to enjoy pan-Asian fare that you can share while watching aerialists, entertainers, fire-breathers and more.

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