It takes my eyes a few beats to adjust to the purple-tinged gloom. I begin to see skulls, and blood-covered tiles, and …. is that a guy with a chain saw? And another, shirtless, covered in gore and eating fresh sausage to the beat of New Order’s "Blue Monday?"
"Can I get you a drink?" asks a server in a tattered gown, looking as if she’s been undead (or a vampire) since at least the 18th century. Blood trickles from the corners of her mouth, and I instinctively cover my neck as I scan the choices: The Blood Chalice, The Overlook 77, The Occultist. "Um, I still need a minute," I say as politely as possible.
Parking in Long Beach’s West End is scary enough on a Friday night, but a few steps inside The Beach House for their "Nightmare on Beech Street" pop-up dinner series is akin to entering an alternate horror universe — kitschy at times but merry and immersive, from pounding music to cackling clowns.
The October-long dinner event is the first Long Island venture for Blood Manor, a New York City company that runs an ultra-creepy haunted house every fall. This year, it has partnered with The Beach House’s owner Max Feinberg to transform the restaurant into the gory stage for three-course meals punctuated by zombielike teenagers, visits from a blood-covered chef and a skeletal hand covering your "Booo-ffalo" style cauliflower florets.
When my Blood Chalice (gin lemon, grenadine and soda) arrives, it’s garnished with a severed finger that turns out to be … edible. As is the floating eyeball in a tiki drink called The Witches Brew, which my companion eats with such relish that I worry.
Those cannibalistic details, though, make the experience charming. Guacamole spills from the mouth of a jack-o'-lantern; faux human bones jut from a plate of squid-ink spaghetti with surprisingly tasty meatballs.
"Afraid Mignon," only one of two dishes to incur an upcharge from the $60 prix-fixe cost, is cooked perfectly to order atop an especially cheesy risotto. No one is leaving hungry, at least — if we get to leave at all.
By the time dessert arrives, something called the Brain Hemorrhage, I’m saturated with enough Halloween spirit to grab the mallet and smash the molded chocolate brains to bits.
The guy who was eating sausage of questionable origins dancing alongside a (faux) headless cadaver, a diner may or may not have disappeared, and thankfully, I am not yet among the undead. Or at least I don’t think so.
Outside, a long line of patrons awaittheir fate.
Nightmare on Beech Street at The Beach House, 912 W. Beech St., Long Beach. 516-705-8674. nightmareonbeechstreet.com. $60 a person for a three-course meal, through Oct. 30.