The guests queue up single file, place one hand on the shoulder of the person
in front and are then led to their table for a most unusual dining experience.
Smoking is banned. So are flashlights, matches, lighters and even luminous
watches. What makes the Blind Cow Restaurant in Zurich,
Switzerland, unique is
that it is completely staffed by blind people and operates in total darkness.
The owner, Rev. Jorge Spielmann, believes that the entire "blind"
effect for the sighted guests would be spoiled by even the merest chink of
light. The only concession to seeing guests are lights in the toilets. However,
the sighted must be guided there by the staff in the same way as blind diners.
The idea for the restaurant came from dinner parties held in Rev. Spielmann’s
home. Blind himself, he would sometimes blindfold his sighted guests to give
them a chance to experience the world of the blind. He said: "The sighted
guests commented that being blindfolded made them give more emphasis to the
food and listen more intently to the conversation around them. There were no
visual distractions, only intense concentration."
Rev. Spielmann, along with four blind colleagues, raised money from local
businessmen and the city council and, in late 1999, opened the Blind Cow
Restaurant in a old church building. He wanted to provide jobs for blind people
and offer sighted people an opportunity to experience a world without vision. The
restaurant name comes from the Swiss equivalent to the children’s game blind
The idea is so popular that 37 year old Rev. Spielmann is being urged to open
branches of the Blind Cow. The restaurant has already been visited by several
"concept" designers from New York
and Los Angeles. However, manager
Adrian Schaffner feels that the Blind Cow idea will most likely expand in Switzerland
and Europe before it catches on in America.
Mr. Schaffner said: "People thought it would be just a novelty and would
wear off, but we are booked solid for months ahead for the evening sessions,
and most lunch times are packed to our capacity of 60 as well. Both sighted and
blind customers are willing to wait to experience what is perhaps the oddest
dining adventure in Europe. People crave the new
experience—and besides, when you eat blind you sometimes have to be a bit of a
caveman. Many blind people prefer to pick up a piece of meat and gnaw on it
because that’s easier than using a knife and fork. Many sighted people join
The daily menu offerings are posted on a chalk-board in the lobby. For the
blind guests, a staff member will recite the choices. The menu is a la carte,
with a selection of salads, entrees and desserts. A selection of wine and beer
is available. The cuisine is made up of traditional German dishes such as beef
in red wine, dumplings, sauerkraut, roast chicken, pigs knuckles and apple
strudel. At the end of the meal, the bill is paid in the lighted lobby.
Most of the sounds are characteristic of any restaurant: wines being poured,
the scrape of cutlery on porcelain, the clatter of chairs on a hardwood floor.
However, heard throughout the room is the unusual sound the jingle bells worn
on the shoes of the wait staff as they make their way among the diners. The
noise level can sometimes be intense because diners usually over-compensate
with their voices for the loss of sight.
Surprisingly there is no more dish breakage at the Blind Cow than at other
One of the diners mentioned surprise when she tore off the top of the sugar
packet that accompanied her coffee and a little puff of escaping phosphorous
momentarily glowed a ghostly green.
"Blind" dates are a big hit at the Blind Cow, and several dating
agencies arrange for people to meet in the total darkness of the restaurant
where they can ask questions and be themselves without once seeing the person
opposite. Later, if they choose, they can reveal themselves in the lighted
Not all dining experiences are pleasurable at the Blind Cow. A few people have
become overcome by an attacks of claustrophobia brought on by the intense
darkness. An elderly guest mentioned that the darkness reminded her of being
transported, in a totally dark box car, to a concentration camp during WW II.
Several diners complained that, without sight, the food was tasteless.
"Darkness encourages practical jokes," waitress Christine Wegmueller
said with a laugh. "Recently we had a party of three couples where the
women all got up to go to the wash-room together. When they returned, the men
had changed seats and all leaned over to give their wives lingering kisses.
"I heard one woman shout: ‘Stop, stop! You’re not my husband.! You taste
different!’ The others couldn’t tell the difference, or if they did it didn’t
deter them, because they kept right on kissing."
The popularity of the Blind Cow is growing, making it a hot destination spot
for locals and visitors alike.
"Although we wouldn’t wish blindness on anyone," said Rev. Spielmann,
"we just want people to have the opportunity to experience our world on
Blindekuh Restaurant (Blind Cow)
8008 Zürich–Seefeld, Switzerland
Tel: 01/421 50 50
fax: 01/421 50 55
Tram 4, 2
Bus 33 bis Höschgasse
The restaurant is open:
Monday, dinner only 6:30 to 11 PM
Tuesday to Friday, lunch 11:30 AM to 2 PM
Tuesday to Saturday, dinner 6:30 to 11 PM
The menu is a la carte and a dinner including starter, entree and dessert is
around $32.00. Drinks are extra.
Musical events are often held at he Blind Cow, including regular programs
called "Blind Monday’s for special guests." The musical offerings
range from classical to folk to modern. The musical evenings cost between $38
and $55 for dinner and concert, without drinks.
A calendar is available at the restaurant or online.