Eat, drink and be theme-y

Every big city, especially the tourist destinations, has big theme restaurants – a Harley-Davidson Cafe, a Planet Hollywood, a Rainforest Cafe, a Hard Rock Cafe. These are the kind of places where meals cost $25 per person, and the sweatshirts you buy to prove you’ve been there cost $35.

And any celebrity worth his or her salt now has a restaurant or owns a piece of one. Michael Jordan, Jimmy Buffet, Robert DeNiro, Justin Timberlake are just a few of the famous folk who no longer have to eat TV dinners at home, alone.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity, or even a chef, to open a restaurant these days. All you need is a really catchy theme. Something that makes diners forget about the food and think about what they’ll be buying at the eatery’s gift shop. These are some in the planning stages right now:

The NASDAQ Cafe: Where prices change while you eat. The wild-mushroom risotto at the table was on the menu at $68.22, but by the time the bill arrives, 45 minutes later, it might be $75.04. Diners will be allowed to trade what’s on their plates for things that look better at other tables. There’s no tipping, but the restaurant charges $9.99 for every transaction. Don’t forget to try the “Buy Low, Sell High Chili.”

The Supermodel Lounge: They will only serve brown rice and tofu in tiny portions. Prix Fixe $180. An hour. The ladies room is enormous, big enough for 20 model wannabes to purge at once. The men’s room has one toilet. No one in the place will make fish eyes if two guys excuse themselves and go to the men’s room together.

Cooking the Books: Motto: “Where everyone’s treated like a CEO.” You don’t pay for your meal, you make a tax-deductible “donation” for it. Say the meal costs $100, we give you a receipt for $200. Expense accounts have never been this much fun. Pick your own cow, we’ll tie it up and let you “hunt” it. Cigar smoking, drinking and fanny-patting the waitresses encouraged. Try everyone’s favorite, our famous “Perk Burger.” It’s got so much extra stuff piled in it you can barely find the beef.

N’Oleans: This theme restaurant will be easy to spot from the highway because the roof of each restaurant will be covered with a bright-blue FEMA tarpaulin. The dining room will be covered in 12 inches of hot, smelly water that you sit in while you eat. Kids will love it! The dirty rice is actually dirty, and you can pick out the crayfish you want to eat right off the floor. High-and-dry second-floor dining available for Members of Congress only.

The Sunday Joint: It will look just like the dining hall at Harry Potter’s boarding school, Hogwarts. They’ll serve typical British comfort food – bangers and mash, smashed peas, pasties, shepherd’s pie – on long trestle tables. All food is served at restaurant temperature (which will be about 54 F). Salads not available. No menus. You’ll eat what we give you and bloody well like it.

America’s Got Talent Cafe: The entire staff is composed of wannabe actors, singers and dancers. It’s really your local Applebee’s, all they’re just changing the name.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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