Dining in the Dark at The Blind Cafe Popup

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Dining in the Dark with The Blind Cafe is a moving experience and a chance to effect social change.
Dining in the Dark with The Blind Cafe is a moving experience and a chance to effect social change.

I’ve always been curious about dining in the complete darkness. What would it be like to not see anything? Would it invoke claustrophobia, be scary, liberating, unnerving, difficult? And the bigger question – would it give me a better appreciation for what it would feel like to be blind? We learned the answer to all of these questions at the Dining in the Dark popup event in Seattle, run by The Blind Cafe, a non-profit organization out of Boulder, Colorado.

The Dining in the Dark event is currently taking place in Seattle for three days only, from May 5-7. There are two seatings nightly so as many people as possible can participate in this moving experience. You can still get tickets, and if you miss this one, they host popups in many cities around the U.S., and will be coming back to Seattle in the future.

All of the lights are switched off for two and a half hours of temporary blindness, in an effort to entertain, but also to promote social awareness for the blind community and to give a unique introspection into what it is like to live and perform daily tasks, such as eating, without the use of your sight.

Since 2010, The Blind Cafe has been delivering unique and inspiring positive social change events nationwide, all held in complete darkness & facilitated by legally blind keynote speakers and facilitators.

There’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in darkness, purposefully. You know the experience is going to be unique as you’re being led by one of the blind waitstaff into the room through a maze of blackout curtains built up in a way as to completely eliminate light.

The Blind Cafe immerses you in total darkness from the moment you arrive.
The Blind Cafe immerses you in total darkness from the moment you arrive.

You are deposited into your chair, in close proximity to your dining companions, and for a moment you sit there and wonder how you’re going to do this. There’s food in front of you. But you can’t see any of it. You fumble around for the fork to eat the salad, a spoon to eat the rice, being careful not to knock over your glass of wine. Eventually you start to get the hang of it. The momentary bit of comfort you receive from this knowledge allows you to start talking again, and sharing your feelings with your dinner companions. It’s all very thought provoking.

And that’s the intention. Owner and founder, Rosh Rocheleau started the company “to initiate positive social change experiences for people, in hopes they would have an opportunity to relate with the world in a more meaningful and compassionate way.” When you are immersed in darkness, your walls tend to come down and you allow yourself to feel more deeply and engage more openly in discussion. It is quite liberating to not care what anyone else is thinking about you, because they can’t see you, even if you have lettuce on your face and dropped a spoonful of rice down your shirt.

The evening starts off with an explanation of the events that will take place, in a dimly lit room, then you crawl into “the rabbit hole” as Rosh calls it, and are seated at your table with 8-10 other diners. Eating is one of the main purposes of the event, obviously. The food is prepared by a local chef (everything is vegan and gluten free to suit all guests). This is where I usually include a few photos of the food we ate, so here’s what we ate:

The food at The Blind Cafe
The food at The Blind Cafe

Looks good, huh? I knew you’d like that!

Another important part of the experience is hearing the story of one of the blind staff members and the Q&A session that follows. We heard from Richie Flores, who was our keynote speaker for the evening. He shared with us what it is like to live with blindness his entire life, and how it has motivated him to be the best person he can be.

“Since our event is in total darkness, we provide a platform for all our clients, to help them to open their mind towards disability,” says Flores about the program. “Our clients have to rely on their other four senses, to imagine, enjoy, converse, eat, and learn to work with others non-visually.” As the keynote speaker, Flores was also willing to answer any question the diners had about blindness, and no question was off limits. He was candid and open about his own experiences and provided a meaningful learning experience.

The final portion of the evening is dedicated to music. Rosh is a long-time musician and he performs original and cover songs with The Blind Cafe Orchestra, which consists of a few other regular members of the staff. With the lights out, you have the ability to sink into the music in a deeper way. It’s very moving and inspirational.

The Blind Cafe Popups have been attended by over 11,000 people since its inception. With that many people learning and growing through this experience, The Blind Cafe has surely touched many lives and created positive social change. Even if your biggest take away from the experience was the experience itself, just talking about it with others promotes the agenda and raises awareness. And if that’s all you leave with after those two and a half hours in the dark, I would be surprised.

(We were invited to attend The Blind Cafe free of charge so we could provide this review and help spread the word. As always, all opinions and thoughts are our own.)

Dining in the Dark at The Blind Cafe Popup

20 thoughts on “Dining in the Dark at The Blind Cafe Popup

  1. Amelie Gagne says:

    This is such an interesting read and I am so happy to hear that everything served is vegan and gluten free (I am vegan). There is a similar restaurant in my home town of Montreal, but unfortunately they do not have a vegan option, so I was never able to visit. Would love to try it one day. Love your food photo also hahah >.<

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Thanks Amelie! 🙂 I still am not sure exactly what we were eating. It’s too bad the place in Montreal can’t do vegan.

  2. christine says:

    This sounds so cool!!! I saw something like this in a movie but I thought it was made up! haha I’d love to go to one of these.

  3. Tamara (Globe Guide) says:

    Wow, such a neat experience! I feel like would be great for everyone to try at least once, so we’d have even more awareness of the struggles that those with visual disabilities have every day.

  4. Wandering Carol says:

    I’ve heard of these but never eaten at one. It’s nice that it’s educational as well as novel. I wouldn’t have just spilled a spoonful of rice on my shirt, I would have spilled my entire dinner, wine included!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      It’s amazing how timid and delicate you become with things when you can’t see them. It’s because of that that I wasn’t wearing all my food.

  5. Meg Jerrard says:

    Sounds like a surreal experience! I love how this is a great opportunity to further your understanding of what it’s like for those who are visually impaired … I think these kind of experiences are a great way to move towards more tolerance in society.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      I do too. Unfortunately those of us who attend these are generally already the tolerant ones. It helps to spread the word though.

  6. Jenna says:

    I’ve always wanted to try something like this–it sounds so exciting and a bit scary all in one! 🙂 I really like that they have an educational component to the dinner as well. It makes the dinner not just an interesting concept for food, but a learning experience, too. Sounds like a great experience!

  7. Arzo Travels says:

    I would love to experience that one day. We have a restaurant here in Germany offering it but I am not sure about the food, so good to hear about the vegan food (so I could give it a try). The pics of your food looks awesome, haha 🙂

  8. Mags says:

    I’ve always wanted to try one of these places. There was a dark restaurant at a hotel I stay at in Cancun, I was so bummed I didn’t make it there.

  9. Katie says:

    What an interesting experience. I ordered lunch at a movie theater here in San Diego once and thought that was incredibly difficult to eat. I picked up a giant pile of wasabi instead of a piece of sushi and wow that was a surprise.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      That’s not a mistake you really want to make, huh? Hah. It’s definitely difficult when you can see the food!

  10. Bernard Tan says:

    I tried Dine in the Dark, when I was in Phnom Penh and I totally love the experience. It keeps you thinking about how you take things for granted, and be more appreciative of the things that you have.

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