Inspired by a similarly minded venture in Taiwan, a food establishment in Los Angeles has stumbled upon an intriguing business strategy: a restaurant gimmick so deliberately repulsive, it precludes enjoyment of the meal at hand.
That would be the Magic Restroom Cafe, a Taiwanese joint whose initially puzzling name says it all: it's poop-themed, more or less. Those are the, erm, tables and chairs above. More detail, via LAist:
The Magic Restroom Cafe has toilets for seats, showerheads and urinals as decoration, and mini-toilets used to serve food out of. Plates are named after various kinds of shit (literally): According to Eater LA, there's "black poop" (chocolate sundae), "smells-like-poop" (braised pork over rice), and "constipation" (zha jiang mian).
Okay, we get it: it's a culinary endurance test of sorts, one that revolves around the atmosphere far more than it does the food. But despite all the attention being heaped on the place, the food, apparently, is not very good.
So says Yelp, at least. "Food not that great service a little slow," writes one patron. "Just a big novility [sic] of food being served on toilet ware." Another reviewer says it's "worth [it] to try to seat [sic] on the toilet to eat," but hopes the staff will "improve the quality of their food." And a third concurs: "Love the decor," the diner writes, but "food needs a little improvement."
By most accounts, the food is "standard Taiwanese fare," so could it be that it's the surrounding flourishes—and not the food itself—that's making it so unenjoyable? The human capacity for disgust is a fascinating, and powerful, thing—just think how easy it is to be grossed out by an unused diaper or clean barf bag, merely by the psychological associations they bring up. That's the engine this establishment runs on: grossing out its customers. And just as a "silent dinner" reportedly enhances the act of eating, a dinner amidst toilets and poop-themed menus accomplishes just the opposite.
Frankly, even authoring this post alone has been a thoroughly unappetizing experience, squelching any thoughts I've been having of dinner—and I'm unlikely to eat anything so colorfully named as "black shit" or "bloody stool," both desserts at Magic Restroom. Hence the paradox with the restaurant: the concept gets lauded and the food itself criticized, but you can't have your "bloody stool" and eat it, too.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.