As eighteen of us all crowded into the holding space that looked more like a Victorian era sitting room than a waiting area, we had no idea what to expect. And bloody eyeballs were the topic of our conversation because they were the password that permitted our entry, so we knew this would be different than anything we had experienced.
In this “sitting room” the eyes in the photographs that crowded the wood-paneled walls appeared to follow our every move, if you could call it moving. This parlor where we were stuffed barely allowed us any elbow room. Then the lights began to flicker and I expected the ceiling to fall at any moment. I realized I was right when the chandelier began to shake.
“Hurry, hurry!” a voice exclaimed from the just revealed door that slowly opened. “This way! This way!”
I expect an experience like this at a major theme park. However, this is no theme park. It is New York City’s Jekyll and Hyde Club Restaurant and Bar. And, it is more like meshing Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Universal Studio’s Monsters Production, Hard Rock Café’s vibe, and Rainforest Café’s great food.
My travel group and I stumbled upon this quaint eatery almost by accident. It was not included in the itinerary, so eating here was optional. But the name said it all, and our group’s interests were piqued.
I have taught Victorian Era gothic literature for many years now, but I’ve never enjoyed an experience, especially with my students, where the books come alive. As a teacher who loves to read, I obviously was thrilled about the restaurant experience. I wasn’t passing up this experience. I was ecstatic when many on our trip (recent students of mine who had just graduated high school) wanted to join me.
As we moved from the holding area into the restaurant, every wall, nook, and cranny offered an appetizer for the eyes. The dark décor along the dim-lit hallway established an eerie mood that added excitement to the eating experience. A row of six skeletons encased in glass greeted us as we walked in wonder up the stairs to the restaurant.
“Look at those skulls dangling from the ceiling right above our heads,” Erin Holly shouted to the group above the screams, laughter, and weird oaths as she moved through the phone booth secret passageway. “These decorations are unreal! Did you hear those pictures talking?”
Every inch of the restaurant could have been designed by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, or Robert Louis Stevenson. The mad scientist Victor Frankenstein perched high on display above the tables works fearlessly on his creature as patrons cut their steaks and guzzle their drinks. One of Dracula’s newly-created vampires frolics from table to table refusing to be photographed for fear his blank image will give away his ultimate intent for the patrons. And of course grotesque masks cover many walls that aren’t already displaying twin sisters with demonic eyes peering from chairs high above or the man who changes into a werewolf when the clock howls instead of chimes every half hour.
Asian ritual masks crowded the wall behind our tables. The menacing quality and threatening countenance of the masks are a little intimidating. These masks represent the two-sides of human nature, just as author Stevenson intends his character to do.
“This is great because when we read Jekyll and Hyde, we discussed the duality of people,” Erin began when we sat down. “And those masks are a perfect reflection of the cooperative self and the angry state of mind.”
As soon as we ordered our food, Lieutenant Plummet’s shenanigans began. He is one of the restaurant characters, and his antics and tomfoolery kept our table entertained with games and tricks.
“This is such an exciting restaurant!” Erin told Casey Giambrone and Calah Burton who were sitting beside her. “I’ve never been to an establishment where the atmosphere was so inviting and playful. I can’t stop laughing.”
Erin turned to Morgan Kilpatrick and said, “This is a place where personal space means absolutely nothing and the characters never break from their roles. I’m sure each dining experience is never the same. They can keep you on your toes.”
As our plates of delicious food arrived, we forgot about the face-to-face stare-down competition with Lieutenant Plummet for a moment. And, for a time, the food even took our minds off the shelves of formaldehyde-filled glass jars that showcased intestines.
“This food is really good,” Tracey Garner said after scarfing down some of her chicken. “It just adds to the entertainment that is so amazing. When I come back to New York, this restaurant is a must.”
Her daughter Elizabeth added “This fun atmosphere that connects several literary themes we studied over the semester makes this one of my favorite places.”
My students always tell me they enjoy a novel much better when the story line seems realistic. For those who dined in this unique gothic inspired restaurant with me, the words from the novels we had read in the fall came to life during this trip.
The restaurant boasts that it is “New York’s most thrilling live action attraction!” which sounds more like a motto for Disney’s Tower of Terror ride rather than a restaurant. But then again, most restaurants are not New York City’s Jekyll and Hyde Club Restaurant and Bar. 78