There are few events I’ve wanted to attend more than dining in the dark at Blind Cafe. For a few years now I’ve heard of it happening in New York and Paris, so I was overcome with excitement when I heard that not only were they coming to do a pop-up event in Dallas, but that the cuisine was 100% vegan! I had to try it.
My “adventure friend” (everyone needs an adventure friend!) Kellie and I walked into the lobby area, and were greeted by a bartender, the all-blind waitstaff, and the musicians. We were asked to kindly switch off our phones, so that we would actually TALK to each other and emotionally prepare for the experience of dining in the dark. We were given a bottle of wine, and got to mingle with our fellow diners and the staff for about 15 minutes before going into the pitch black dining area.
Our assigned waitress, Jen, whom we’d gotten to know during the “mingling” time, is an albino. She has beautiful (soy) milk-white hair and purple-y blue eyes. She explains to us that she is the only waitress there who isn’t 100% blind; she has the vision of a newborn, where things have to be in her face in order to see them. One thing I notice is that Jen is an open book; seemingly completely candid about everything from her college experience (did you know that Stephen F. Austin college is one of the most blind-friendly colleges in the nation? They have talking crosswalks, etc.) to her feelings about Tinder as a blind woman. When the time comes to dine, she grasps my hand and– with her cane in her other hand– leads Kellie and me down a pitch black hallway. It feels exactly like when you first walk into a haunted house, which I say aloud as Jen giggles. You guys… When I tell you that the dining room totally dark I mean it. You are engulfed in nothingness. Kellie seemed at ease with herself (as she is in any situation), while I began to freak out just a tiny bit. I ask Jen where the exit is, “in case something happens.” I feel vulnerable and overwhelmed. Kellie encourages me to feel the table, “its just a normal table, Molls, with normal chairs” and to take a couple of deep breaths. I did, and I became more relaxed.
The dinner opened with a Q&A session where the group of diners got to ask any question we wanted. We learned that, as a rule, our blind waiters had dated both sighted and blind people. That they used Tinder and Bumble like anyone else; their phones spoke to them. We learned that they did in fact care if their partner was cute, even if they couldn’t see them (I found this to be confusing, and asked them why; they explained that societal values still applied to them, and that they live in a sighted world.). We learned that blind people have a very high unemployment rate. That they are given lessons on daily coping that ANYONE could benefit from (for instance, I will absolutely be safety-pinning my socks together from now on before I toss them into the wash).
The food was DELICIOUS. Afterwards I asked Rosh, the man behind the whole event, why he chose to serve all vegan cuisine. He said that he had dated a woman before who was vegan, and he wanted to be as inclusive with the menu as possible. LOVE IT. We had a delicious quinoa chili dish, veggies, strawberry and spinach salad, fruit, and chocolate mousse. Eating the food while not being able to see was not as hard as I had anticipated; you become very aware of your surroundings. You subconsciously begin to keep track of your wine and utensils, because you have to. I did hear a nearby couple spill their bottle of wine, at which point good natured Jen gave them another. “Love this place,” I thought to myself.
Listening to music in the dark, which I haven’t done since childhood, was a very cool experience as well. Rosh performed first, with soft and relaxing tunes; then an awesome country group called Constellation Prize who had us on our feet dancing in the dark, completely uninhibited by what anyone might think.
I cannot say enough about Dining in the Dark. It was the coolest part of my month, hands down… Kellie and I couldn’t stop talking about it on the car ride home. It was a heartwarming and interesting and fun and delicious experience. It was also a “first” that I will always remember. Sadly, we don’t get enough “firsts” of anything these days, and I think it is good for the soul.
Available pop-ups for 2016:
Dallas, Austin, Boulder, Salt Lake City, Napa Valley, San Fran, Seattle