Hi, Kim Fielding here for my monthly column. Recently, I wrote a scene in which my characters eat at a trendy restaurant where all the food is served on things other than plates. The food comes on slabs of wood, on plastic shovels, suspended by hooks over mini cauldrons…. You get the idea. This was inspired in part by some real meals I’ve had, including a salad in a flower pot. I encountered that one in Portugal, and it was quite charming, if a little silly.
But this also got me thinking about theme restaurants. You know—the kind of place where the food might be secondary to the concept. Some of these are aimed at kids, like Chuck E. Cheese (shudder), but many are also aimed at adults. Some, like Rainforest Café and Joe’s Crab Shack, are chains. Here are a few memorable theme restaurants from my past:
–Kon-Tiki Ports. This place was in a hotel in Chicago and, as the name suggests, had a heavy Polynesian theme. We only went there once or twice when I was a kid, but I recall being very excited about dressing up, going into the big city for dinner, and drinking Shirley Temples.
–Bette’s Oceanview Diner. This is place is in Berkeley, and there’s no view of the ocean (the Bay is a few blocks away, though). As the name suggests, there’s a retro diner theme going on. The food is actually excellent and I’ve eaten there many times, although wait times can be long.
–Some place near Visegrád, Hungary. I can’t recall the name because I ate there 15 years ago. It had a medieval castle theme, which makes sense since it’s near medieval castles. They want you to wear paper replicas of the crown of Saint Stephen. My group of American university professors refused, although the drunk Germans at the next table scolded us for being spoilsports. Dishes and goblets are replicas of what medieval royalty might have eaten from, and the food is mostly game animals hunted nearby and served family style. (Hey! I found their website! https://renvisegrad.hu/en/)
–For Sale Pub. Also in Hungary, but this one’s in Budapest. You need to see photos of this place. It’s cavelike and claustrophobic, and the food is typical heavy Hungarian fare. The time I visited, Budapest was in the midst of a heatwave and I had what turned out to be morning sickness, so I can’t say I truly enjoyed my chicken paprikash. But a band was playing “Hotel California,” and you can throw peanut shells on the floor.
–The Rheinlander. This restaurant was in Portland, Oregon (sadly, it recently closed). It had a German theme, of course. Wait staff in lederhosen and dirndls, plus a wandering accordion player. I ate here on my 21st birthday.
–Heidi’s. Also in Oregon, but east of Portland. Heidi’s had a Swiss theme, and in addition to the restaurant, there was a bakery and gift shop selling items like cuckoo clocks. I adored this place when I was little. The dessert tray might have had something to do with that.
–Al Johnson’s. Okay, I ate there only once, decades ago, but it was memorable because there were goats on the (sod) roof. It’s in Door County, Wisconsin and the theme is Swedish. I don’t remember the food, though. Just the goats.
–Novela. It’s in San Francisco, and it’s a bar rather than a restaurant. One guess what the theme is! I couldn’t resist, of course. The walls are lined with packed bookshelves.
Okay, it’s your turn now. Have you visited a fun theme restaurant? Tell us about it in the comments!
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
A complete list of Kim’s books: http://www.kfieldingwrites.com/kim-fieldings-books/