7 book-inspired dining experiences

From Edgar Allan Poe to Eat Pray Love, these literary-themed restaurants and bars across the U.S. are worth a trip.

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably,” wrote author C.S. Lewis in his partial autobiography, “Surprised By Joy.”

Sure, your favorite local restaurant is always a great choice. But sometimes you might be looking for a dining experience that transports you to another world. If you’re a book lover and a foodie, take a reading road trip—and combine your 2 favorite pastimes with these literary-inspired restaurants, bars and festivals.

Eat pray pizza: L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele®

Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir “Eat Pray Love” follows her journey around the world in search of enlightenment, romance and good food. In Italy, Gilbert visits L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, a popular spot in Naples. In her book, she writes about the experience: “I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.”

You don’t have to book a ticket to Italy to get the same experience—Da Michele has been opening shops around the world, and in 2019 they’ll make their U.S. debut in Los Angeles.

Magic gatherings: The wizards and witches beer festival

In Denver, Phoenix, Seattle and other cities around the U.S., Rock Star Beer Festivals is putting on a wizardry-themed beer festival. Don your best dress robes for the occasion—they’ll be hosting the festival in impressive venues, including historic buildings, theaters and churches.

Photo credit: Ashley McMath/Wizard’s Brunch

If you’ve missed the festival, don’t worry: Magic spells have been cast all over the U.S., including at this immersive Wizard’s Brunch in Denver, which includes a three-course meal and dramatic performances.

Poetry and prose: Poe’s Pub

Although Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, he considered Virginia his home. The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, memorializes his work and life.

A few blocks away from the museum is Poe’s Pub, an Americana-style bar and grill with menu items like a “Fried Oyster Poe Boy” and a “Sloppy Poe Boy.” It’s worth a visit for die-hard Poe fans—even if the only thing it has in common with Poe is the name. For the full experience, stop by the Poe Museum first. If you’re closer to the D.C. area, check out Poe’s Baltimore home on Amity Street.  

For the Dorian Grays: Oscar Wilde NYC

With a storied history and an impressive collection of ornate furniture, Oscar Wilde NYC is an ideal place to pay tribute to the legacy of Oscar Wilde. It’s bold, opulent and extravagant—one of the most Instagrammable spots on our list.

Photo credit: Oscar Wilde NYC/Simmer Group

It also claims the title of the longest continuous bar in NYC at 118.5 feet, in a space that served as the Prohibition Enforcement Headquarters in the 1920s.

Down the rabbit hole: Hatter and Hare

Looking for a truly unique Alice in Wonderland-inspired experience? Hatter and Hare is a restaurant and bar in Phoenix, Arizona, based on the Lewis Carroll classic. Opened in 2018, it features whimsical decor—think oversized furniture, a grinning Cheshire Cat mural, a clock that runs backward and other playful, off-kilter decorations.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, they offer private events (“Tea Parties”) for groups, as well as an extensive cocktail menu with creatively named drinks. For food options, choose from their “Eat Me” menu, which includes weekend brunch, salads (aka “Rabbit Food”), and on-theme toasted sandwiches. The “Croquet with Flamingos” is a turkey and bacon sandwich with provolone, tomato pesto, black truffle aioli and arugula.

Hatter and Hare’s fantastical take on dining has earned them considerable attention, including the title of Phoenix’s best new bar in 2018.   

At the shire: The Hobbit Cafe

Did you know that Hobbits eat up to 7 meals per day? If you’re looking for a spot to grab an Elevenses meal (between second breakfast and lunch), check out The Hobbit Cafe in Houston, Texas.

With themed menu items like a Bilbo Magnificent sandwich—guacamole, tomato, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts with mayo—the Hobbit Cafe is designed “in the tradition of the hospitable hobbits.”

Shakespearean supper: The Bard’s Town

Parting is such sweet…potato? While those weren’t Juliet’s exact words in “Romeo & Juliet,” that is the name of one of the appetizers served at The Bard’s Town, a Shakespeare-themed restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. For a salad, try the Midsummer Night’s Greens; vegetarians might opt for the To Bean, or Not To Bean (a black bean burger).

Enjoy your Steakspeare alongside a production from The Bard’s Town Theatre, a nonprofit theater space and production company on the second floor of the restaurant. The Bard’s Town Theatre produces 24 weeks of theater a year, with a focus on new and emerging playwrights. In addition, they host performances from artists, comedians and other theater companies in the Louisville area—for a total of 47 weeks of live theater each year.

Looking for other memorable meal ideas?

Check out these 5 trending international cuisines—from Nepalese momos to Pan-African maafe, you might be surprised by what you can find in your town.

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