Some of these aren't, strictly speaking, freak restaurants, although a few certainly qualify. But at all of them you can find dishes so weird, so gross, or so over-the-top that they can only qualify as novelties. Which doesn't mean they are bad.
I don't mean to sound stuck-up, but pay no attention to what anybody here says about the Carnegie Deli. One guy complains because he didn't like the macaroni and cheese (!) and other because it's too touristy. Here the deal: the Carnegie Deli IS touristy. It IS expensive. You are not coddled by the wait staff. But it is the Federal Reserve of deli. You go in and order a juicy pastrami (code for fatty) and you will get greatness, every time, and in copious amounts. Don't get combination sandwiches, which are ludicrous, and don't get macaroni and cheese. Get pastrami sandwiches and extra bread. Eat. Take some home or share. And then thank your lucky stars that this place exists.
To be honest, I kind of hate Max Brenner New York. But if you have kids, you probably need to go there. Everything in the place is made of chocolate; there's even a chocolate pizza. It's not the best chocolate you'll ever have, but you'll never find so many forms under one roof.
Cheap, weird, and utterly authentic, this is a Chinese restaurant you want to go to with a large group of serious foodies. Not everybody is going to love the frog porridge or shrimp swimming Miracle Whip, but the mere fact of having tried them will be something to boast of for years to come.
Julian Medina's wildly successful high-Mexican concept delivers refined restaurant food that draws strongly on the flavors of rural Mexico, minus the rough edges. This is very good Mexican food, but only for people that are not really that into it -- which is to say Midtown diners. That said, the man did put grasshopper tacos on the menu, so he deserves some street cred!
Are pig's feet your favorite food? Well, allow me to introduce you to your dream restaurant: Hakata Tonton, which serves a menu made up more or less exclusively of the delicacy, served from a variety of pan-Asian perspectives.
Formerly an obscure stall in a Flushing food court, this offal specialist attracted first the attention of local bloggers, then Manhattan food writers, and finally Anthony Bourdain, whose praise led to a Manhattan outpost. Which is just as good (and weird) as the original.
A very fine, very authentic Queens Korean restaurant, Ski Gaek is a place I go to for one dish in particular: live octopus. It's so fresh that the suckers will try to choke you on the way going down. It's just an "Oldboy" moment you could never get in Manhattan.
Korean grilling, for most non-Koreans, tends to appear mostly as little marinated pieces of steak cooked over gas grills. At Takashi, they are using gas grill -- there's nothing you can do about that -- but on the other hand the man does every imaginable part of the cow, including three different kinds of stomach. Talk about snout to tail! It's all good, too.
For carnivores only! An army of waiters bringing a succession of body parts impaled on spikes defines this restaurant experience -- an orgy of roasted, salted pork, beef, and chicken. Just an meat freakout. Go immediately.