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33 Places Where Dinner Is the Show

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Kzenon/shutterstock

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

It's almost always cheaper to prepare a meal at home than eat out, but there are ways to making eating out worth your while. Whether at a bricks-and-mortar restaurant or an annual event, a live experience can be much more valuable than an ordinary meal. At these lively restaurants and festivals, you'll be treated to plenty of entertainment that will make the splurge of dining out feel worth it. 

Related: 50 Belly-Busting Food Challenges That Offer Winners a Free Meal

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Courtesy of benihana.com

BENIHANA

Benihana is a nationwide chain of teppanyaki restaurants known for coordinated chefs preparing orders of steak, shrimp, fried rice, and more on a steaming-hot steel grill. Their food is usually rich with umami flavor and served in generous portions, and the chefs are skilled entertainers.

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MedievalTimes/facebook.com

MEDIEVAL TIMES

The nine locations of Medieval Times enthrall families with nightly theatrical performances of knights battling on horseback with swords and shields. Regular admission is $62 for adults and $37 for children but includes a hearty meal with choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic libations.

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thecourtoftwosisters/facebook.com

THE COURT OF TWO SISTERS

A culinary institution in New Orleans' French Quarter, The Court of Two Sisters is popular in part because of its jazz trio, playing every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a lush courtyard as seasonal Creole specialties such as turtle soup and shrimp étouffée are served.

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Charles C./yelp.com

BARN DINNER THEATRE

At the nation's longest continually operating dinner theater, the Barn Dinner Theatre in Greensboro, North Carolina, the night begins with a traditional buffet, including salad bar and carving station. Then a stage descends from the ceiling and the night's performance begins. Prices vary by seat location and date, starting at $43 for adults and $21.50 for children.

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gunshowatl/facebook.com

GUNSHOW

Chefs at Atlanta's Gunshow restaurant wheel dishes to diners on wooden carts from an open-style kitchen, then assemble them tableside. It's a fun process that makes reasonably priced dishes such as Berkshire pork belly and seared steelhead even more mouthwatering.

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Minh T./yelp.com

CHIKALICIOUS

You may not get a full meal at this dessert-only bar in New York, but you can watch pastry chefs prepare artfully realized desserts such as a sparkling wine sorbet float or churro ice cream cone in ChikaLicious' central open kitchen. A three-course prix fixe menu is $16.

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BigBBQBlockParty/facebook.com

BIG APPLE BARBECUE BLOCK PARTY

Pit crews roast whole hogs against a backdrop of Manhattan skyline at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Claiming to be the nation's largest festival dedicated to barbecue, the free event encompasses several blocks around Madison Square Park in June and has a stage with live performances all weekend long.

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Kristen S./yelp.com

THE HARVEST VINE

The Harvest Vine is a hearty Basque kitchen in the heart of Seattle's Central District, renowned for its wine selection, sheep's milk cheese plates, and tapas such as salt-cod-potato mousse. Sit at the counter to watch chefs carve meats in an open kitchen, chatting with guests in their downtime.

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Courtesy of Cheapism

WORLD'S BIGGEST FISH FRY

The World's Biggest Fish Fry is a landmark free event that takes place annually in Paris, Tennessee, in the final full week of April, centered on a two-hour grand parade and a "fish tent" that serves more than 12,500 pounds of catfish. Other entertainment includes races, rodeos, dances, and art booths.

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Jasmine L./yelp.com

JONGRO BBQ

In Korean barbecue, waiters brings marbled raw meats to the table so they can sizzle atop the gas grills installed in each table before being eaten. There are two Jongro BBQ locations in New York -- in Koreatown and Flushing -- to try; some call it the best Korean in Koreatown.

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Maxine C./yelp.com
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Courtesy of Cheapism

FLYING J RANCH

Celebrate cowboy culture and cuisine at Alto, New Mexico's Flying J Ranch, a seasonal family dinner experience with souvenir shops, a blacksmith shop, pony rides, a pistol shoot, and staged gunfight. Admission ($27 for adults, $15 for children) also buys a chuckwagon meal of brisket and baked beans and live Western music.

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Rita L./yelp.com

SID GOLD'S REQUEST ROOM

Head to the back of Sid Gold's Request Room in New York to find a piano bar where guests are encouraged to request their favorites and even lead the crowd in a community rendition. With some of the city's best karaoke comes a bar menu of pizzas, salads, and high-end cocktails.

Related: Cheers to These Unique Bars in All 50 States

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thesmokedaddy/facebook.com

SMOKE DADDY

Chicago barbecue and blues come together at Smoke Daddy, a Wicker Park restaurant with briskets and burgers cooked in a "lil red smoker." Alongside daily specials on draft beer and barbecue favorites, the place hosts live jazz and blues seven nights a week.

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Courtesy of sushiroxxnyc.com

SUSHI ROXXX

The waiters are the performers at New York's Sushi Roxx, inspired by Tokyo nightlife, where staff pause their service to partake in a multimedia music and dance performance. This club-like dining destination boasts fresh sushi and fusion dishes such as tuna flatbread pizza.

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Ching H./yelp.com

NICOLA'S RESTAURANT

Nicola's Restaurant is just a homey and authentic Lebanese restaurant on most nights, but on Fridays and Saturdays after 8 p.m., the Atlanta dining room becomes a backdrop for bedazzled belly dancers. Don't be surprised when people join in after finishing their shawarma.

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OuttaControlDinnerShow/facebook.com

OUTTA CONTROL MAGIC COMEDY DINNER SHOW

Admission at Orlando, Florida's Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show ($30 for adults, $20 for children) includes all-you-can-eat pizza, drinks, salad, and more, as well as a performance usually headlined by Tony Brent, known for his improvisational skills, impersonations, and penchant for involving the audience in the show.

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Courtesy of aburiyakinnosuke.com

ABURIYA KINNOSUKE

New York's Aburiya Kinnosuke has an authentic ambience with Eastern-style table seatings, and an open kitchen where guests can watch chefs carefully slice sashimi or grill high-quality meats over smoky charcoal grills.

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Cristina H./yelp.com

NIKKO

Nikko is a New York teppanyaki restaurant where guests can simply enjoy hearty food and cheap happy hour drinks. Ordering the special service means watching theatrical chefs make a lively show of cooking on steel grills -- and sometimes even shoot sake from a bottle into diners' mouths from a distance.

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kingandduke/facebook.com

KING + DUKE

King + Duke uses wood fire in a 24-foot open hearth to prepare American fare, so guests seated at the chef's counter won't just be entertained watching "Good Breed Chicken" and roasted vegetable toast be made -- they'll likely be warmed as well.

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hbhchicago/facebook.com

HOFBRÄUHAUS

Hofbräuhaus Chicago is a faithful recreation of Munich's own 400-year-old Hofbräuhaus, featuring the familiar enormous beer steins, staff in lederhosen, and breaded schnitzel. Featured bands play the spirited beer hall seven nights a week and move outside to the traditional biergarten in summer.

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Tayson H./yelp.com

UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA

The decor and entertainment is minimalist at San Francisco's Una Pizza Napoletana, where the tables are arranged around an open kitchen. Chef Anthony Mangieri prepares the same five traditional pies (six on Saturdays) nightly while diners watch the dough being formed and pizzas bake within a wood-fire, tiled brick oven.

Related: Where to Get Delicious Pizza in All 50 States

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Jim E./yelp.com

WU'S OPEN KITCHEN

A stainless-steel exhibition kitchen is the centerpiece of Wu's Open Kitchen, with two locations around Portland, Oregon. Order familiar Chinese dishes never done better (try the kung pao chicken) and watch the chefs chop and fry from the comfort of your seat.

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Edward L./yelp.com

THE WIENER'S CIRCLE

The Wiener's Circle is a hot dog stand renowned for cheap, Chicago-style dogs and other simple fare, but also for the verbal abuse traded by customers and employees. It's rude, profane live entertainment that's hilarious to the right kind of diner.

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Courtesy of groupon.com

REDLAND FISH FRY & SEAFOOD FESTIVAL

Chefs prepare seafood with unique international flavors at Miami's Redland Fish Fry & Seafood Festival in November. Admission of $8 for adults (free for children) includes music and activities set in a tropical botanical garden. The event is announced annually in October.

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Aubrey L./yelp.com

VICTORIO'S RISTORANTE

Authentic Italian comedy meets authentic Italian food in North Hollywood every Friday at 8 p.m. The Meatballs of Comedy features some of the nation's best Italian-American stand-ups, improvising and interacting with Victorio's Ristorante diners of all ages.

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International-Bar-B-Q-Festival/facebook.com

INTERNATIONAL BAR-B-Q FESTIVAL

Every second weekend of May, Owensboro, Kentucky, hosts hickory-smoke fires and hungry diners at the International Bar-B-Q Festival. There's free entry to a park full of booths with barbecue competing for the Governor's Cup, as well as crafts, shopping, and entertainment such as square dancing and live music.

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MurrysDinnerPlayhouse/facebook.com

MURRY'S DINNER PLAYHOUSE

The performances at Murry's Dinner Theatre in Little Rock, Arkansas, range from famous musicals to little-known comedies, and each is paired with a themed buffet meal. Prices start at $33 for adults, including meals with such dishes as pit-roasted beef, chicken marsala, and savory bread pudding. Children's admission is $23.

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Felix L./yelp.com

AATXE

The "bullpen" kitchen at San Francisco's Aatxe gives diners at dual counters a view of chefs preparing hearty Basque dishes of marinated seafood and Spanish fried rice with impressive technique.

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PiratesDinnerAdventureorlando/facebook.com

PIRATE'S DINNER ADVENTURE

Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Orlando, Florida, and Buena Park, California, lets families participate in staged swashbuckling aboard a replicated 18th-century ship. The feast included in the admission price ($62 for adults and $37 for children) comes with non-alcoholic beverages and appetizers, as well as a vegetarian option.

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Takuya N./yelp.com

OYSTER HOUSE

The family-owned hole-in-the-wall Oyster House in Studio City, California, has some of the best values for seafood and stand-up comedy in the Los Angeles area. Come enjoy cheap oyster shooters ($1.25, or a half-dozen for $6) and free comedy every Wednesday night from 9:30 to midnight, when comedians regularly featured in Hollywood's hottest clubs perform without the typical two-drink minimum.

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Thi T./yelp.com

BETTER HALF

Watch gourmet seasonal meals come together at the chef's counter in Better Half, a casual foodie's paradise in Atlanta. Guests can watch from just across a counter as chefs staff sear flank steaks and prepare their signature silk-handkerchief pasta.

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Courtesy of barbecuefestival.com

BARBECUE FESTIVAL

Lexington, North Carolina, backs a bold claim of being the barbecue capital of the world with a free, annual one-day Barbecue Festival, when as many as 200,000 attendees sample signature specialties such as hickory pork shoulder and enjoy animal races, car shows, golf tournaments, and live music.