Panica – Culinary Escape Rooms in Israel

The culinary escape rooms at Panica in Tel Aviv combine classic escape room mechanics with in-room dining experiences. Solve puzzles to unlock various food ingredients and prepare an entree, dessert, or cocktail by the end of the game. Many of the puzzles are themed around food, and a few even use real food items in their solutions.

I love boundary-pushing hybrid escape room experiences, and this particular pairing was especially delectable.

As of my visit in May 2022, however, only one of Panica’s games, Eurovision Pizza Party, was fully available in English. But, with the assistance of some Hebrew-speaking teammates, I was able to play three other rooms at Panica: Mega Burger, Ice Cream Blast, and Free at the Bar.

While I didn’t review the explicitly non-English-playable rooms from my trip, I couldn’t pass up sharing some brief reflections on each of these unique experiences. Bon appetit!

A tiki bar with a beer tap.

Mega Burger

Mega Burger easily takes the cake for my favorite room at Panica.

Themed around McDonald’s, the gameplay followed a clean progression through a fast food restaurant: starting with Happy Meal toys and messy customers in the front of house, progressing behind the counter where we dealt with drive-through orders, and finally making our way back to the kitchen where we ultimately prepared burgers and fries for ourselves.

A McDonalds-esque MegaBurger counter with a frightening clown statue.

The theming was cohesive. The narrative flavor was hilarious. The puzzles were creatively designed around fast food customer behavior, items you’d find in a restaurant, and of course, the food itself. Everything flowed swimmingly, and the gameplay was packed with delightful moments and unexpected interactions.

Panica’s other experiences hit a variety of high notes; Mega Burger merged these strengths and provided a polished Combo Meal. With this winning recipe, I can’t wait to sample whatever Panica cooks up next.

That said, this room may not be best suited for the coulrophobes out there. The various Ronald depictions still haunt my dreams.

Food Notes: The instructions for operating the burger cooker machines and air fryers were simple and clear. The vegan burger option (a Beyond burger) was delicious, and I greatly appreciated that the room had separate grills for meat and plant-based burgers. My teammates were a bit less enthused with the taste of the meat option, but we all enjoyed the fries.

Ice Cream Blast

In Ice Cream Blast, we prepared ice cream sandwiches in order to prevent a disastrous explosion. I’ve disarmed plenty of escape room bombs in my time, but the process had never been quite this sweet.

A ceiling covered in candies.

Ice Cream Blast is the smallest escape room in Israel, set in a short and narrow hallway. It was quite interesting seeing the creative ways in which they packed a decent amount of content into the tiny space. Ultimately, though, I found that this tiny footprint was to the game’s detriment, at least compared to Panica’s other offerings. While the puzzles were enjoyable, there wasn’t nearly as much discovery or intermediate food-theming, and the set looked a bit more haphazardly assembled.

Located just down the hall from Eurovision Pizza Party, Ice Cream Blast would make a tasty add-on if you have the time and a player who speaks at least a bit of Hebrew. (We didn’t actually find that this game required very much Hebrew comprehension compared to the others.)

Food Notes: Ice Cream Blast was the one room at Panica that didn’t have a vegan option, so I wasn’t able to taste the cookies or ice cream myself. My non-vegan teammate was somewhat disappointed with the cookie recipe: the instructed bake time yielded undercooked cookies that weren’t as yummy as the food in some of Panica’s other rooms. Still, they certainly made for a sweet-smelling escape room!

Free at the Bar

Cultural appropriation aside, I love a good tiki bar. I’m even a member of certain rum-centric secret society at my favorite tiki bar back in San Francisco.

The premise in Free at the Bar was simple: we were visiting Hawaii, and our friend had said we could stop by his bar for a few drinks. But they hadn’t yet opened, so we had to find our way in through, um, alternate means.

Free at the Bar was a bit different than Panica’s other rooms, offering more physical exploration and only introducing the cocktail theming in the final chunk of the game. I was skeptical at first of the less food-centric theming choice, but it made sense in the story and provided a delightful adventure.

Exterior of a small tiki bar on a tropical island.

The puzzles were strong and more varied in physical presentation than in some of Panica’s other designs. I love when escape room sets reproduce outdoor environments, and the island area outside the bar was compact yet attractive, subtly concealing some vaguely Survivor-esque secrets. Once we made it inside, the gameplay returned to a more recognizable Panica style as we unlocked the various items needed to make our cocktails with cleverly thematic puzzles.

One puzzle, the only puzzle in the game that required extensive Hebrew knowledge, had our heads spinning. While the solution ended up being reasonable, the direction of a thematic pointer felt like a red (wine) herring.

While tipsy at cocktail bars, I’ll often try to “solve” my surroundings. It was lovely to finally find a setting where the eclectic decor was actually was full of puzzles!

Food Notes: You’ll earn access to a full bar by the end of the game, complete with standard garnishes and mixers. Non-alcoholic options are also available.

Tips For Visiting

  • The food offerings at Panica, especially the pizza in Eurovision Pizza Party and Holy Pizza and the burgers and fries in Mega Burger, provide a reasonably filling meal. Don’t play these rooms back-to-back if you plan to eat in each room (unless you have an enormous appetite!)
  • Most of the rooms at Panica have plant-based options if you ask in advance.

Book your games at Panica, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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