Perhaps the Magic Restroom Cafe is magical in part because it has done something other restaurants have yet to do: require patrons to sit on a toilet while they dine. According to the restaurant’s owner, Yo Yo Li, restroom-themed restaurants have been a hit so far in her native China and Taiwan. Their surprising success influenced her decision to open the Magic Restroom Cafe in City of Industry, California – just east of Los Angeles – on October 11.
The Magic Restroom Cafe‘s tables are outfitted with actual toilets (never used, not hooked up) as seats. But the restroom theme doesn’t stop there. The restaurant’s lobby showcases both urinals and toilets. The cafe’s signature dish is called “golden poop” rice. They also serve dishes with titles like “black poop,” “smells-like-poop,” “bloody number two,” and “constipation.” The food itself arrives to the table in a miniature version of a floor toilet.
So this all begs the question: would you pay to eat bowel-movement-themed food while sitting on a toilet?
As part of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” show, Anthony Bourdain went to New Mexico to check out Santa Fe’s Five & Dime General Store, which is very well known for its Frito Pie. It didn’t end well.
Holding the bag of Frito chips covered in chili and topped with cheese, Bourdain proceeded to refer to it as “warm crap in a bag.” Granted, he was just trying to give viewers an idea of what Frito Pie feels like when you hold it, and he did say himself that the dish was “delicious.”
Bourdain has gotten a bit of flack since the episode. For one, the episode claimed that the dish was made with Hormel chili, when in fact Five & Dime makes its own. Bourdain apologized. But it raises the question: Do people care what Anthony Bourdain has to say about food?
We have a strange relationship with food, and when we see an odd food combination in the national spotlight, we’re often compelled to try it. Just look at the cronut trend.
Is it more important for Bourdain to like the dish he tries, or just to get the dish onto national television? I would wager that there are just as many people who are tempted to try different dishes simply because Bourdain has put them in the spotlight, regardless if he actually likes them or not. Certainly, he should get his facts right, but at the end of the day, isn’t all publicity good publicity?
Be honest: you want to go and try it for yourself. So book a trip to Santa Fe to eat some Frito Pie. Or just make it yourself.
There’s nothing better than exploring a new culture through the lens of food, be it crepes on a street corner or ordering an unknown item at the market. But any self-respecting food-lover should travel well prepared, and there are a few key items you should always have in your luggage. Here’s the essential packing list for anyone that’s ready to eat their way through wherever they’re traveling.
1. Reusable bag
Come well prepared for market shopping. You have to have something to put all that local produce in.
2. Ground coffee + coffee filter
Rule number one of traveling: never, ever, ever be without coffee. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a hotel or hostel with mediocre coffee options, so bring your own. MSR makes a cool reusable filter that fits right into your mug, so all you have to get your hands on is some hot water.3. Tea bags
Another good item to add to your “just in case of an emergency” collection are tea bags. This way you’ll always be able to brew a mug after a long day out on the town.
4. Reusable containers
When you’re headed out for a long day of exploring, it’s smart to take some provisions with you, and a good reusable container will keep all your food in one spot. I find they are particularly helpful for carrying fruit, protecting it from bouncing around in your backpack. The MC2 from Innate is perfect, as the silicone lid doubles as a bowl.
5. Corkscrew/bottle opener
Particularly if you’re in a country known for wine, you’ll want a corkscrew opener on hand, and the same goes for bottle openers in beer loving countries. This way you can buy a few libations at a market or grocery store and do your own local tasting. Just remember to put it in your checked luggage, or if you’re traveling light with carry-on only, snag one upon arrival.
Whether you’re slicing off fresh cheese from a French market, cutting into artisan salami in Italy or slicing a mango in Thailand, a knife will serve you well. A classic is the good ole Opinel. Just be sure it’s packed in your checked luggage.
7. Tea towel
Tea towels can do wonders for impromptu picnics, giving you a small tablecloth that you can spread out wherever you’re sitting, keeping your food items off the ground.
Note down where you ate, what you ate and everything in between. A small journal is perfect for tracking all of your culinary experiences and keeps you from saying “what was the name of that cute hole-in-the-wall?” a few years later. Coffee, beer, wine or whiskey lover? Consider the 33 Books series which has specific journals for each drink.
If you’re eating on the go, a reusable spork is indispensable. It keeps you from having to waste a bunch of flimsy plastic forks (that never feel good in your mouth anyway) and you’re always ready to eat, be it airport food or street food. I prefer a metal one, like the titanium one from SnowPeak, because you don’t have to worry about it breaking in your bag.
It’s certainly not impossible to travel as a vegetarian, but it’s not always easy. Not only do I not eat meat, but I usually try my best to refrain from animal products of any sort. Navigating this kind of diet abroad can be tricky, but airlines could do their part to make it easier. On one of my most recent flights, my husband was literally mocked for wanting meat-free food, even if that just meant a piece of bread. All maliciousness aside, what always gets me upset about the pitiful selection of vegetarian food on flights is the pure logistics of it from an airline’s standpoint.From a purely business perspective, it seems like a no-brainer that airlines would serve vegetarian options. Everyone eats vegetables (or should). Not everyone eats meat. In fact, some of the latest estimates say that there are more than 400 million vegetarians worldwide. While both meat and vegetables can rot or become otherwise tainted, the risks of contamination are higher with meat, especially when stored for long-term use, not to mention that the meat that does have a long shelf life isn’t usually the popular choice — give me canned beans over canned Spam any day. Meat is also expensive!
I realize that passengers can usually request food that meets their personal dietary restrictions for flights in advance. What I don’t realize is why plant-based food should be a special request. It seems to me that increasing the availability of vegetarian food on flights wouldn’t just satisfy the millions of vegetarians who travel as well as many non-vegetarians who are more than happy to eat plants, but it would be good for the bottom line, too.
Whether you like to hunt down the hidden hole-in-the-wall eateries, the popular street food stalls or the city’s best haute cuisine, you probably agree that food is an important part of the travel experience. But if there’s one aspect of travel dining that is universally loathed, it has to be airport food. Bland, congealed — not to mention overpriced — airport meals seem to be an inevitable part of the journey.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that one country has decided its airport food is so good that it is part of its marketing campaign. Sweden believes the fare at Stockholm Arlanda Airport is so nom-worthy that it is loading up food trucks with the airport cuisine to tempt the taste buds of the city’s residents and visitors.For $10, hungry patrons can dine on dishes like braised veal, pulled pork, truffle risotto, lasagna and ramen soup with wasabi-marinated smoked salmon. Those behind the concept say they believe people will be surprised by the quality of the food, and will hopefully be encouraged to get to the airport earlier to sample more of the cuisine on offer.
The food truck will make rounds of Stockholm for several weeks, but may stick around longer if the idea proves a success.
What do you think of airport food? Would you try out the Arlanda Food Truck?