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20 Themed Restaurants in the US You Totally Have to Visit

By Valentina Ioana


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Themed Restaurants
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

It goes without saying that you should always select a restaurant that serves excellent food. But occasionally, you want to go somewhere exciting, original, and interesting. That’s where themed restaurants come in.

Believe it or not, themed restaurants have been around since the era of corsets and can-can dancers in Paris.

Back in the day, the counter culture that influenced these artistic cafes included tributes to the Montmartre-based revolutionary Paris Commune government of 1871.

Particularly notable in this regard was the Cafe du Bagne, opened in 1885 by Maxime Lisbonne, a Commune member who had spent many years in exile in a South Pacific penal colony.

His eatery was decorated like a prison dining hall, boasting posters honoring Commune leaders. Moreover, there were waiters decked out in prison garb, complete with replica balls and chains.

Once it opened, the establishment became a huge hit, and people queued for hours to get inside. Soon, the bohemian atmosphere of Paris cafes passed into the US, first in New York City.

Thus, 1895 saw the opening of Au Chat Noir, a restaurant adorned with a frieze of black cats.

Aside from that, the place appeared to be just a fairly modest French bistro of the era, serving dishes such as lobster or tripe.

Several other New York City cafes followed suit, and Coppa’s in San Francisco did the same thing. France may have started the trend, but now everyone wants a piece of the wacky dining pie.

Why Do We Find Themed Restaurants Appealing?

La Caverna restaurant
La Caverna

These crazy experiences are spreading faster than a sneeze in a kindergarten classroom.

It’s amazing how restaurants with themes like toilets, hospitals, and prisons have managed to attract customers without any actual food appeal.

Yes, there is a stigma attached to themed restaurants, and you know what? This makes sense.

When you watch knights joust in an arena while munching on a turkey leg, that isn’t exactly gourmet eating.

But do you know what these places bring to the table? FUN. Because, let’s face it, after all the time you ate at home during the pandemic, you deserve a meal that’s more exciting than your cat’s constant meowing.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of eccentric establishments in the United States. Even though these aren’t true movie theaters, you can definitely count on some entertainment as part of the adventure.

Here are 20 unique restaurants you should try, including one in Colorado that was just saved from bankruptcy by some well-known investors.

Are you ready to enjoy awesome food in unforgettable surroundings?

20. The Purple Cow – Little Rock, Arkansas

The Purple Cow

Looking for a marvelous dining experience? You’ve come to the right place.

Back in 1989, businessman Ed Moore and chef Paul Bash decided to join forces and open The Purple Cow Restaurant. And thus, a legend was born. Inspired by diners of the 1950s, the place was a total smash.

This absolutely fantastic establishment serves American food for all tastes, along with a soda fountain that will take you back to early childhood.

If you really want to make the most of your time here, you have to get their famous signature vanilla, hand-dipped purple milkshake.

19. Mac N’ Out Macaroni & Cheese – Milford, Connecticut

Mac N’ Out Macaroni & Cheese
Mac N’ Out / facebook.com

Are you a rebel who likes to live on the edge? Or are you a traditionalist who sticks to mom’s classic recipes?

Be that as it may, if you’re a mac and cheese lover, this Connecticut establishment will make you feel like you’ve died and gone to cheesy heaven.

It all started with four sisters cooking their own version of the dish and tossing around the notion of opening a restaurant. Overnight, the youngest sister, Kate, founded the first Mac N’ Out in 2013.

You can choose from over 25 types of mac and cheese. Imagine that! Also, make sure to give their seasonal menu a look. It is a treasure trove of deliciousness waiting to be devoured!

18. Pioneer Saloon – Goodsprings, Nevada

Pioneer Saloon

The walls at Pioneer Saloon have seen more drama than a soap opera!

Thus, if you haven’t seen this place on TV, in your favorite video game, or even in a movie, then you must have lived under a rock since 1913.

I am not saying that the drinks and food aren’t amazing, but have you tried the Bloody Mary? It is so notorious that it will make Al Capone look like a choirboy.

And if that’s not enough to get you excited, the amount of history in this venue and the surrounding Goodsprings Ghost Town will make your head spin faster than a haunted merry-go-round.

17. Magic Time Machine – San Antonio, Texas

magic time machine

Magic Time Machine bills itself as more of an experience than just a restaurant. And for good reason!

The establishment takes great satisfaction in its ability to immerse its customers in a different era with a diverse cast of characters.

Dine in a retro bus with Nacho Libre, be transported to the world of Alice in Wonderland, swing by Spiderman’s lair, or just chill with Snow White.

But if there’s one moment that employees from Magic Time Machine look forward to, it’s whenever a child’s face brightens at a glimpse of a character who helps them forget about the real world.

And it is this ageless desire to rediscover our inner child that keeps this outstanding restaurant going.

16. Ka Moana Luau – Oahu, Hawaii

Ka Moana Luau
Ka Moana Luau / facebook.com

Are you ready to embark on a rollercoaster, but with more hula dancing and fire twirling?

Then, Ka Moana Luau, the only luau on the Windward side of Oahu, is going to blow your mind with its breathtaking panorama.

You’ll learn how to make lei, shake your hips with hula lessons, become a trendsetter with a coconut headband, and even strum a ukulele like a pro.

The restaurant’s menu is so local that the vegetables practically walk themselves to the kitchen. From fresh-cut fruit to sweet potatoes, everything is full of flavor.

Trust me, you’ll be talking about this experience for years to come—or at least until your next vacation.

15. The Pandorica – Beacon, New York

The Pandorica
Photo by Nancy Wong Shek / Google Maps

Looking for a Tardis-tically delicious meal? Look no further than Pandorica, one of the best Dr. Who-themed restaurants in the United States.

Whether you’re a die-hard Whovian or just a curious companion, the decor is sure to Dalek-tate your senses with subtle nods to the show.

Obviously, there are several Doctor Who-inspired options on the menu, including the Eleventh Lord’s personal favorite, Fish Fingers and Custard.

Don’t pass on the many distinctly British staples, such as Bangers & Mash or Cottage Pie, called Timey Wimey, on the menu. Or you can just relax and enjoy a pot of tea.

14. La Caverna – New York City, New York

La Caverna

La Caverna is like a secret hideout: you enter through a door with a simple ancient painting and suddenly find yourself in a cave with glowing purple rocks.

It’s like the Flintstones meeting the Jetsons. But alas, the paleolithic party stops here. La Caverna is the perfect spot for those who love to eat Mexican food and drink Margaritas.

When the sun goes down, the place transforms into a wild fiesta with music. If you’re not into it, make sure to show up before the clock strikes 8 p.m. to do Taco Tuesday a little differently.

13. Zombie Burger – Des Moines, Iowa

Zombie Burger
Zombie Burger + Drink Lab / Google Maps

When Zombie Burger first opened its doors, it caused a feeding frenzy in Iowa.

The cherry on top? Say hello to “The Walking Dead”. The setting here is completely post-apocalyptic.

You won’t find any dead cows in their kitchen, but every burger is so delicious it’ll bring them back to life.

Plus, each dish has an intriguing zombie name that will have you laughing tirelessly, making you forget you’re eating brains… I mean beef.

Not a meat lover? You won’t be left out of the action. You can customize each burger with your choice of two nut patty varieties or a grilled portobello mushroom.

There’s also a vegan burger on the menu called “Negan” for obvious reasons. I hope you have a stomach of steel and a taste for adventure!

12. The Airplane Restaurant – Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Airplane Restaurant

For those who claim that eating well on an airplane is next to impossible, we present The Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs to counter your assertions.

If you are lucky enough, you may get to dine inside the establishment’s centerpiece, a real Boeing KC-97 tanker that primarily refueled other aircraft.

Furthermore, the place boasts myriad aviation relics and plane replicas throughout the connected “terminal”.

Savor steak, sandwiches, and seafood while alleviating your thirst with “in-flight” beverages or specialty cocktails.

11. Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant – Kansas City, Kansas

Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant

If you’ve got a train-obsessed toddler, you might as well accept that Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant is your new dining destination. Resistance is futile.

Therefore, all aboard! Have your taste buds transported to a world of pure ecstasy with a menu that boasts classics like burgers, BLTs, and pork tenderloin sandwiches.

Not only can you snug some cool engineer hats for the kids, but your food will arrive via a “Skat Kat—a tiny train that moves along the ceiling.

10. The Hobbit Cafe – Houston, Texas

The Hobbit Cafe
Photo by Brian Reinhart / texasmonthly.com

This cozy joint may not be as grand as other themed restaurants, but it’s a hobbit-forming experience for any “Lord of the Rings” enthusiast.

From Gollum lurking in the corner of the front room to a myriad of posters from the movie, this place is a nerd’s paradise.

And if you need a break from the scorching Texas heat, the leafy patio is the perfect spot to chill with a cold local brew.

Try the Frodo sandwich, made with mesquite-smoked turkey, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and cheese.

Or, if you’ve got the appetite for something creative, take on the fiery Balrog burger with not one, but two juicy patties.

9. Safe House – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Safe House
Safe House / facebook.com

The clandestine gimmick is handled casually at the Safe House. First, to find this hidden establishment, you must locate the plaque “International Exports Ltd.” in a seedy Milwaukee alley.

Second, a password is required to enter; if you don’t know it, prepare to do a foolish dance as you’re escorted through a bookcase-turned door.

The decor is straight out of a James Bond movie, including two-way mirrors and spy gear galore. And the menu? It’s so family-friendly that even Q would approve.

Try the Inside Agent burger, the Licensed to Kill Macaroni, or the Goldfinger (chicken tenders). Don’t thank me now; send me a postcard later.

8. Aquarium Restaurant – Nashville, Tennessee

Aquarium Restaurant
Aquarium Restaurant / facebook.com

This restaurant’s name is so obvious that even a goldfish could figure it out. But, trust me, you’ll be head over heels for its groovy atmosphere the moment you step in.

There is something incredibly magical about dining amidst mind-blowing fish tanks filled with fascinating creatures.

The aquarium is home to over a hundred tropical species from the Caribbean, South Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a scuba diver’s fish feast or a spellbinding performance by some mermaids who are obviously not afraid of having their hair wet.

7. Big Nose Kate’s Saloon – Tombstone, Arizona

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon / Google Maps

If you consider yourself a bona fide cowboy, you’d better saddle up and mosey on down to Tombstone, Arizona.

And when you get there, don’t forget to stop by Big Nose Kate’s for some food and a cold one to quench your thirst after all that exploring.

You have arrived in the wild, wild west, baby! Thus, get ready to strike a pose with a sassy saloon lady.

At this allegedly haunted watering hole, you are encouraged to don cowboy hats. The ghosts might mistake you for a city slicker without one.

Or if that’s not your style, kick back and enjoy the show with some good old-fashioned live entertainment.

Live bands perform weekly, and the extensive themed menu features staples like burgers, brisket, and homemade chili.

6. Pirate’s Landing – Elkin, North Carolina

Pirate’s Landing

Designed to seem like the deck of a gigantic pirate ship, replete with skull and crossbones flags, masts, weathered planks, and rope-line pathways, Pirate’s Landing is impossible to miss.

As you enter, keep an eye out for the koi pond. Inside, there’s even more to see, such as pirate murals, cannons, weapons, and treasure chests.

If you’re lucky, you might even catch a tableside magic show. Don’t worry; your food won’t disappear.

Visitors with the biggest appetites can indulge in the Buccaneer’s Fried Seafood, which includes crab cakes, clam strips, oysters, baby founders, popcorn shrimp, and scallops.

5. Casa Bonita – Lakewood, Colorado

Casa Bonita
Photo by David Williams / The New York Times

Casa Bonita is not just a place to stuff your face with tacos and burritos; it’s a full-blown entertainment extravaganza that’s been vowing Denverites since the disco era.

Nonetheless, the business went from making dough to being in a lot of debt.

After some legal wrangling, fortunately, “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker bought the place for $3.1 million.

For fans of Casa Bonita’s 30 attractions, which include a cave, an arcade, a 30-foot waterfall, regular gunfights, and appearances by pirates, this is welcome news.

Parker and Stone have promised diners an upgrade to the restaurant’s food, which has always been secondary to the atmosphere. 

4. Rattlesnake Saloon – Tuscumbia, Alabama

Rattlesnake Saloon
Photo by Bob Gathany / Huntsville Times / al.com

No need to panic about tethering your trusty steed. The Rattlesnake Saloon has got you covered with its top-of-the-line horse hitching posts.

This joint is nestled in a big old rock shelter in the Appalachian foothills of northwest Alabama. It has all the Western charm you could possibly desire, and the views will make your heart skip a beat.

Feeling adventurous? Try your luck with the Gigantor, a colossal two-pound beef burger that comes with a side of fries.

If you can conquer this beast in under 45 minutes, it’s on the house. It’s time to dust off your cowboy boots, sweetheart!

3. Heart Attack Grill – Las Vegas, Nevada

Heart Attack Grill
Photo by Alexander Blecher / wikipedia.org

Oh, dear! I have a treat for you! If you’re looking for drama, come on down to Vegas and witness the madness unfold at the Heart Attack Grill.

First, you’ll have to rock that fashionable hospital gown before taking pleasure in the restaurant’s delicious foods.

With a menu that celebrates overindulgence and a theme centered around obesity, you’ll get the impression you’ve just committed a deliciously sinful act.

But who needs a doctor when you can have a waitress dressed as a sexy nurse prescribe a diet of heart-attack-inducing meals?

We wouldn’t dare suggest it, but if you’re feeling wild, go for the crazy 4-pound Octuple Bypass Burger. You know what they say—a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!

Who cares when you can have some Flatliners Fries cooked in lard and wash them down with a Butterfat Milkshake?

Step right up and weigh yourself! If the scale reads over 350 pounds, congratulations! You eat for free!

2. The Proud Bird – Los Angeles, California

The Proud Bird

Prepare to have your mind blown, folks! This place in Los Angeles is like nothing you’ve seen before. Just spread your wings and let the good times fly!

The Proud Bird is the perfect spot for aviation enthusiasts who want to chow down on some tasty food while watching planes land at LAX.

And if you get bored of food, just take a stroll through the mini aviation museum, because nothing says “appetizing” like vintage airplanes.

Explore the history of flight while indulging in some delicious Italian, American, or Asian cuisine. What’s not to love? Except for taxes, Mondays, and accidentally biting your tongue while eating.

1. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar – San Francisco, California

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar / facebook.com

Well, let’s just say that the Tonga Room isn’t exactly known for its understated elegance. Prepare to be transported to a tropical paradise that’s so tacky, it’s cool.

Tiki madness has taken over the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, complete with bamboo light fixtures, thatched huts, and enough palm fronds to make you feel lost in the jungle.

It’s kitschy, it’s cheesy, and it’s absolutely fabulous. Who needs a boring old stage when you can rock on a boat in the middle of a pool? The house band is making waves! Literally.

This place has the best Mai Tai in town. And don’t even get me started on its Polynesian fusion food. It’s so delicious that you’ll want to share it with your family, friends, and even enemies.

Go to the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar to experience a surprise storm while you eat. Lighting, thunder, and storm sounds are included. It’s like dinner and a show, but with a chance of getting wet.

What Is a Themed Restaurant?

A themed restaurant is a place that has some kind of unified concept across its menu, decor, and name.

The theme is carried through from the exterior and foyer to the dining area, the serving utensils, and even the restrooms, often being blown out of proportion.

Medieval eras, jungles, and even certain historical figures are just a few of the themes that can be found at many restaurants around the globe.

This type of venue, which is usually nestled in highly frequented tourist zones, caters to the gastronomic needs of people who want to do something different.

However, many assume that the food at a themed restaurant is subpar because of the emphasis on maintaining the theme. This is not always the case, of course.

Final Words

Having a mouthwatering meal is fantastic, but munching in an establishment that looks straight out of a movie is even better.

Thus, if you’re tired of eating in boring places and want to spice up your dining experience, then you have to choose at least one of these 20 themed restaurants in the US.

Let’s pair our meals with a side of laughter and a generous serving of fun, shall we?

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About Valentina Ioana

With an honest and engaging style, Valentina can write about almost anything, from fashion to food and travel, spanning a diverse array of subjects. In fact, give her a glass of wine and she will come up with a magical story about it. Every article she writes has a bit of her character, passions, ideas, and way of life. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process.

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