10 restaurants that are literally underground
By Angela Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 29 August 2017.
By Angela Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 29 August 2017.
Foodies may seek out underground restaurants - sometimes called supper clubs - that are often operated out of someone's home or a temporary pop-up location. But that's not the type of underground restaurant we're talking about here.
The beautiful eateries on this list are quite literally located below-ground in caves and caverns around the world. From a newcomer in the Grand Canyon to a stunningly romantic seaside dining establishment in Italy (top image), consider adding these to your next travel itinerary.
1. Cavern Grotto, Arizona, USA
Photo: Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn/Facebook
The Cavern Grotto is a newly opened restaurant located more than 200 feet underground in the Grand Canyon. As many as 16 diners can sit down at four tables on a dining platform that overlooks a 345-million-year-old cavern system for an all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner. Meals have time limits (90 minutes for lunch, two hours for dinner) to prevent groups from lingering too long in the fascinating setting.
The restaurant is connected to the Grand Canyon Caverns on historic Route 66, which operates tours of the cavern system via an elevator that travels 21 stories from the inn to the underground attractions. But don't worry. The dining platform isn't on the tour, so fanny pack-wearing tourists won't be snapping pics of you while you dine. A tour is included with your meal.
2. Alux Restaurant, Mexico
Photo: Alux Restaurant
The Alux Restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, can hold 250 people within its cavern walls, but the dining experience is much more intimate than it sounds. There's a cocktail lounge, a loop that visitors can walk that goes through the cave, and several private dining rooms to separate your party from the rest of the patrons.
The restaurant specializes in seafood, though they have a wide-ranging menu with Mayan influences. Traditionally dressed Mayans greet you at the door and roam the place to pose for photos with tourists (bring some cash for tips). Alux gets high reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor for food and atmosphere, though commenters warn that it's pricey and reservations are advised.
3. The Summer Cave at the Grotta Palazzese, Italy
Photo: Ristorante Hotel Grotta Palazzese/Facebook
The Grotta Palazzese Hotel in Polignano a Mare, Italy, is home to a restaurant in a limestone cave. The Summer Cave, as its name suggests, is open only during the summer, usually from May to October.
From the cave setting, diners look out onto the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea as waves splash shadows onto the walls. Fodor's Travel calls The Summer Cave the most romantic restaurant in all of Italy.
Online reviews tend to rave about the atmosphere while giving the food mixed reviews. And this probably won't surprise you: It's also expensive.
4. Ristorante Da Pancrazio, Italy
Photo: Ristorante Da Pancrazio/Facebook
Italy lands on this list again with Ristorante Da Pancrazio in Rome, which is famous for a few reasons. It's allegedly the site where Julius Caesar was murdered, but more recently, Julia Roberts filmed scenes for the 2010 movie "Eat Pray Love" there.
This traditional Roman eatery, which opened in 1922, is built over the ruins of the 1st-century B.C. Theatre of Pompey, according to Frommer's. Historical Roman decor, art and furnishings can be found throughout.
TripAdvisor reviews rave about the wine and the food, and they give Ristorante Da Pancrazio good marks for price value. But they warn about ordering the lamb. Apparently it's prepared differently in Italy than the way most Americans are used to.
5. Ali Barbour's Cave Restaurant, Kenya
Photo: Ali Barbour's Cave Restaurant/Facebook
Ali Barbour's Cave in Kenya is thought to be 180,000 years old, but it was just 30 years ago that a restaurant opened about 30 feet underground. Natural holes within the cave give diners a view up to the sky and provide (along with all the candlelight) an enchanting, romantic atmosphere.
Ali Barbour's Cave Restaurant, which is on Diani Beach, specializes in seafood and steak and gets rave reviews all around, from food to service to atmosphere. TripAdvisor reviewers call it a unique, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but also quite pricey.
6. The Caves Hotel, Jamaica
Photo: The Caves/Facebook
"Imagine being tucked into a cave strewn with pink bougainvillea petals and illuminated by dozens of flickering candles with a private table just for two - not to mention a front row seat by the sea," beckons The Caves Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. "This is your time to relax, while making sure that all of your appetites are fully satisfied."
Seafood is the specialty at this "handcrafted utopia" with a "modern, metropolitan attitude." Guests can sleep in cliffside cottages and walk down to the private cavern dining areas or a 7-mile white sand beach.
One note, though: Guests must be at least 16 years old.
In the words of Tina Fey, "I want to go to there."
7. Bientang's Cave, South Africa
Photo: Bientang's Cave Restaurant & Wine Bar/Facebook
Bientang's Cave Restaurant & Wine Bar is carved out of a cave in Hermanus, South Africa, overlooking Walker Bay, which is a nature reserve. You're likely to spot a few whales surfacing in the sea as you scan the seafood-packed menu at this popular tourist spot.
Legend has it that the cave was once occupied by a lone woman named Bientang the Strandloper, who had a feisty temperament, supernatural powers and a penchant for fresh seafood.
Online reviews call it vegetarian-friendly, pet-friendly and kid-friendly, and it's two-tiered outdoor seating area earns top marks for atmosphere.
8. Jameos del Agua Restaurante, Spain
Photo: Cél Ine/Facebook
Located on Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands, Jameos del Agua is an "entertainment venue" that consists of caverns and partially collapsed volcanic tubes that visitors can walk through to reach a huge cave and a transparent salt lake. From there, you can take the path that heads above ground past lush plant life toward a gorgeous in-ground pool. Or you can take a path that leads into an underground auditorium that seats more than 500 people. Also underground is a restaurant and bar where, three times a week, patrons come for dinner and dancing.
Items on the menu, which is packed with Mediterranean and European dishes, are not as pricey as other spots on this list and get mostly positive reviews online.
9. Marsden Grotto, United Kingdom
Photo: Steve Smith/Facebook
The Marsden Grotto in the coastal town of South Shields, England is the oldest facility on this list, dating to the 1780s. The Grotto, as locals refer to it, is built into the face of a cliff and has a bit of a dark past.
It was first home to Jack the Blaster, who worked in the quarry nearby. As Chronicle Live reports, he used explosives to create an opening in the cliff face to build his home. Then he and his wife, Jessie, provided refreshments for a small fee to smugglers who would hide their wares in the dwellings.
Legend has it that one of those smugglers, nicknamed John the Jibber, ratted out his fellow smugglers to law enforcement, and to thank him they lowered him down an elevator shaft and left him there to starve. His spirit is said to haunt the place to this day.
These days, Marsden Beach is a popular spot for dog walking and rock climbing. Visitors say the view is stunning and the area remains a popular attraction. But they add that this pub-style restaurant, which is under new ownership, is not as good as it used to be.
10. Osteria del Tempo Perso, Italy
Photo: Claudia Finetti/Facebook
Osteria del Tempo Perso in Ostuni, Italy, is a rustic eatery serving Puglian food with options for vegetarians and the gluten-free crowd. More than 80 percent of the more than 1,400 TripAdvisor reviews rate their overall experience as excellent or very good, making this the highest-rated spot on this list.
Some visitors had a hard time finding the restaurant, but clearly others did not, as this restaurant is usually packed and reservations are recommended. Apparently it tends to get noisy, but the wine list - which reportedly has good bottles at many price points - makes up for it.
Top image: Grotta Palazzese Hotel Restaurant (The Summer Cave) in Italy. Credit: Ristorante Hotel Grotta Palazzese/Facebook.
[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]