What to Expect at Chicago’s Dinner in the Dark


Have you ever heard of a restaurant where guests eat dinner in complete darkness? What better way to elevate a flavor experience than by focusing solely on taste and smell rather than sight?


I first encountered the idea in the movie “About Time” with Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, where the characters meet on a blind date at Dans le Noir? (meaning “In the dark”), which happens to be a real restaurant in London, and yes, the name ends in a question mark.


The wait staff are blind, allowing them to move expertly in the inky blackness, bringing guests to their tables, serving food, and pouring glasses of wine.

I think it’s wonderful that local blind individuals can find employment at this unique restaurant in an industry usually unaccepting of their impairment.


The Dans le Noir? website describes the experience as one that “allows us to re-evaluate our perception of taste while reclaiming our senses” and that their menus “are tested and improved through tastings by sensory experts in pitch darkness.”


A permanent restaurant in Las Vegas called Blackout replicates this experience, but with a twist – instead of employing blind waiters, the wait staff wear night vision goggles to do their jobs, the green-tinted headgear uses thermal imaging technology to capture infrared light, allowing them to keep water glasses full and easily retrieve dropped forks.


While Chicago does not have a dedicated dining in the dark restaurant, we do have occasional pop up experiences, like the one Brandon and I recently attended in River North, held by the event company Fever, at the Hubbard Inn.


Similar to the other restaurants, our meal was a mystery in three courses, each with wine accompaniments. Half the fun is not knowing what food you’re eating! Fortunately, all the courses were intentionally easy to eat with a fork or spoon, no knife required.


When purchasing our tickets, we were given the choice between a secret meat, seafood or vegan menu promising hearty portions and Mediterranean flavors.


The light red tealights on our table marked that we had chosen the meat menu.


Since this was a pop up experience, not a permanent one, the rules were a bit different.

Instead of complete darkness and night vision waiters, the lights in the dining room were replaced with pink bulbs and then significantly dimmed. Each guest was given a sleep mask blindfold to wear for the duration of the meal.

Beyond that, the honor system took over. Guests could peek if they chose to, but why not embrace the experiment completely and immersively? We paid for it!


The host encouraged us to take photos of the food while wearing the blindfold, and embrace that the images would often be blurry, or at the very least, not perfectly centered.

I did my best to line up my shots by feeling for the plate and imagining the distance.


I even tried to take a selfie during the meal! How did it turn out?


Our first course: a rich Tuscan white bean puree with rosemary and truffle.

Without knowing what this was when we ate it, Brandon and I guessed it was a pureed potato soup with horseradish notes, which I loved. Turns out it was the truffle I was tasting!

This course came with a white wine.


Our entrée: tender beef short ribs and gravy on a bed of rich parmesan polenta.

This time, Brandon and I guessed the food exactly right. Other guests shouted out “mashed potato!” and “risotto!” when asked what they thought it was, but we identified that unique cornmeal texture immediately.

This course came with a slightly strawberry sweet red wine, not bitter at all.


Our dessert: a rich, fudgy lava cake topped with raspberry coulis and whipped cream.

Obviously, the chocolate was hard to miss, but we debated whether this was a soufflé, torte or brownie before learning the sweet truth.

This final course came with a fruity digestif rosé.


Notice how I’ve used the word “rich” in each description of the meat menu meal? I’m telling you, everything was delicious and very, very rich!

I ordered a Stella Artois for the meal because I prefer beer over wine.


So, would you try dining in the dark?

Events like these remind me why we moved to Chicagoland, within a short drive of Chicago, a world-class city with endlessly interesting things to do!

Come back to DriveSwimFly to see what other adventures we have in the months to come.