Two seasoned restaurateurs have married their experience in the industry with their love for escape rooms, opening the culinary-themed Esscape Room in Long Island City — which is centered on a nightmarish restaurant scene.
It’s the city’s first restaurant-themed escape game, with the first edition dubbed the Real Kitchen Nightmare, and it’s all thanks to married couple Kyle Radzyminski and Melanie Lemieux. They’re the duo behind LIC bars and restaurants the Baroness and the Huntress, as well as the music school New York Stage of Mind, and after visiting escape rooms all over the world, they decided to open one of their own.
The six-room experience takes place in the same building as their music school, at 24-11 41st Avenue in LIC. They’ve built an eerie narrative surrounding a slightly deranged chef and his closed Michelin-starred speakeasy, which is now reopening and hiring new sous chefs — the participants in the game.
The hourlong experience takes groups of two to six players through rooms outfitted in real restaurant equipment that the owners have stacked up over the years, like griddles, fryers, and an entire bar set up with liquor bottles. To make the game as real as possible, they’ve hired actors to be part of the experience.
“Sometimes they’re really cheesy,” Radzyminski says of escape games. “We went more immersive and more realistic.”
As for the “nightmare” part of the game, Radzyminski says special effects are meant to mentally break down players; some rooms get hot all of a sudden while things jump out to scare them, and the puzzles are based on logic. It’s even caused participants to drop to the floor, he says, “because certain things kind of get to them.”
So far, only one group has made it out, and others have returned to for second tries. “It’s had a very low success rate, but that’s not a bad thing. You want it to be hard,” Radzyminski says.
Radzyminski and Lemieux have been making strides in LIC for the last few years. They first opened the Baroness at 4126 Crescent Street six years ago and followed up with the Huntress last year, bringing nightlife options to a stretch of the neighborhood he says is lacking.
Next they’re gearing up to open the Dutchess, which will serve gourmet burgers with influences from Lemieux’s native France. Plus, there may be more escape rooms to come, once they’ve got the first one figured out.
Each escape game costs $30 per person and can be booked online. The business runs from Monday to Saturday; games run from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday.