A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 04, 2013
Dining in the Dark (Dark Dining)

"Dining in the dark” (or “dark dining") is a restaurant concept where blind waiters serve customers who are either blindfolded or have the entire restaurant in the dark, as if the customers themselves can’t see. The loss of sight makes it a challenge for the diners to use other senses to identify the food and drink. Only certain foods are served that are less likely to create a mess, although it often can’t be avoided. The dark dining concept began in 1999 when the Swiss organization Blind-Liecht Foundation launched the Blind Cow in Zurich.

The term “dining in the dark” has been cited in print since at least July 2002 and the term “dark dining” since at least December 2006. The franchise restaurant Dans Le Noir opened in New York City in December 2011 and closed in June 2013.

Another controversial restaurant policy is “silent dining.”


Time magazine
Dining in The Dark
By URSULA SAUTTER/Cologne Monday, July 22, 2002
The dark is good for all kinds of things, like love, trysts or even murder. Now, however, another nocturnal activity can be added to the list: fine dining. In Cologne’s trendy Unsicht-Bar (in German, an untranslatable pun on the words invisible and bar), light is absolutely verboten, and patrons gather to wine and dine in utter darkness.

With the complete loss of vision — and the resulting heightening of the other four senses — an evening at Germany’s first-ever dark restaurant is an extraordinary culinary adventure.

Google News Archive
24 September 2004, Rome (GA) News-Tribune, “The blind feed the blind at new Paris restaurant” by Jocelyn Gecker, pg. 11A, col. 1 photo caption:
People enter the Dans le Noir (In the Black) restaurant Tuesday in Paris. Dining in the dark is a concept of a new restaurant in the City of Light that wants diners to know what it’s like to be blind. Blind waiters serve as guides.

CBS News—Sunday Morning
December 3, 2006 1:59 PM
Dining In The Dark — On Purpose
By Caitlin A. Johnson
(...)
Where did he get such a bizarre idea? Dark dining restaurants are in Paris, London and all over Europe. The first one was opened in Zurich by a blind minister. Menus are useless so diners order before going in. Three courses for about $100, plus dry cleaning.
(...)
Chef Phil says there are definite dark dining don’ts.

“Obviously you wouldn’t want to serve anything that has bones in it,” he said. “Soup, obviously it would end up being on the floor somewhere. I think probably spaghetti would not end up on the fork either, it would end up on the floor.”

Washington (DC) Post—All We Can Eat
Dining in the dark
By Jane Black | December 2, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
(...)
Dark dining originated in Europe in 1999 when the Swiss organization Blind-Liecht Foundation launched the Blind Cow in Zurich. The world’s first dark restaurant let diners experience what it is like for blind and visually impaired people to eat – in total blackness.

The concept has since been expanded throughout Europe and the United States. Event company Opaque organizes dark dining nights regularly in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego and helps others such as Foundation Fighting Blindness create dark dining nights around the country. This was the first in the Washington area.

New York (NY) Times—Diner’s Journal
December 6, 2011, 10:54 am
At Dans Le Noir, Dining in the Dark
By FLORENCE FABRICANT
This gives a whole new meaning to “mystery meat.” At Dans Le Noir, which started in Paris eight years ago and has branches in London, Barcelona and St. Petersburg, Russia, customers dine in a pitch-dark room without knowing the details of the menu. The waiters are all blind or visually impaired.

“It becomes a totally surprising experience,” said Edouard de Broglie, the chief executive of the Ethik Investment Group, which owns the restaurants. “After dinner we show them photos of what they ate and the menu, and they can’t believe it. They might get the difference between carrots and peas, but they confuse veal and tuna, white and red wine.”

Now the chain plans to open a restaurant in the garment district of Manhattan sometime next week.

Eater NY
New York’s #1 Nightmare Factory Now Officially Closed
Tuesday, June 4, 2013, by Greg Morabito
Turns out New Yorkers don’t want to eat tasting menus with no utensils in a steamy, completely dark room full of screaming people. Dans Le Noir, Midtown’s “dining in the dark” restaurant, has officially closed. From the restaurant’s website:

We are sorry to inform that Dans le Noir ? experience is now closed in NYC. During 15 month more than 10.000 New Yorkers lived this unique experience. But we don’t have enough visitors to continue as it is not financially reasonable. You are now welcome to our franchise in Europe (Paris, London, Barcelona, St Petersburg). We may re-open a franchise in NYC in the following month in a different place.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • Tuesday, June 04, 2013 • Permalink