“What do you mean you only have baked potatoes? Are you an Irish farmer?”
~New York Restaurant Patrons
Since the turn of the century, the restaurant business in America has constantly evolved. We don’t remember 1999 too well because alcohol and constant internet stimulation has pretty much decimated our ability to hold onto memories to a degree that would make people really sad and go, “Aww” if we were old instead of just young(ish) and irresponsible. But, if memory serves (it doesn’t) back in 1999 people only ate at Taco Bells giving out Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace action figures, and if you wanted to impress your date right out of her flannel shirt you’d take her to a nice French Bistro and try to tell yourself that the shear amounts of butter being used was enough to forgive the food for it’s French origins.
Since then, there’s been a foodie revolution in our country, which has brought us wonderful culinary delights as well as pretentious shit that makes us roll our eyes. And one of these trends, for better or worse, is single-item eateries, restaurants that only serve one specific dish. Sure, opening an eatery that only sells, say, overpriced baked potatoes might not be the most sound practice, but some places manage to find enough excitement in their ability to do one thing really well that they thrive. Even if you can’t fathom how enough people could manage to support a place that solely exists to give you pudding.
But hey, if you’re in New York you might as well be doing something other than waiting in line at 4AM to get a fucking doughnut, so sure, we’ll help you out by telling you some of the more unique and unusual single-item restaurants out there. Technically in America, but let’s be real, this concept totally spent the last 8 years radiating outwards from New York.
America’s Unusual Single-Item Restaurants
Most Americans crave diversity. The reason why Walmart became so popular was because they exploit their labor pool to offer low prices are the only place where you can buy a Virgin Mary candle, a shotgun, and a case of beer without having to walk more than 25 feet. We created food courts because sometimes you don’t want to decide between a pizza and a burger so you’d rather put your Whopper on top of your Sbarro and call it a greasy day. But that doesn’t faze the following enterprises from saying, “No, we only sell French Fries. Yes we are serious.”
Cereality was a national chain, and you probably might even recognize it from that time one opened near your college campus and everyone was all, “Oh man, it’s a restaurant that only sells cereal? I might have to try that just for the lulz” but then you kept forgetting because, man, you’re hungry and a little buzzed and holy shit there’s almost no line at the Chipotle right now LETS GET SOME BURRITOS BITCHES and then the next year someone went up to you and said, “Hey, did you hear that Cereality closed?” and you said, “Cereality?” and they said, “Yeah, that place that only sells cereal,” and you were like, “Oh man, a restaurant that only sells cereal? Damn, I wish I had tried that, just for the lulz.”
So yes, this place just sells cereal, and no, they are not making their own cereal. They literally just sell you boxes of cereal you can get at any grocery store. Now, they do have toppings you can add, and even offer combinations for your choosing (the Jump Start, for example, combines Special K, Cheerios, peaches, and honey). While we’re sure there are some delicious cereal combinations you can choose from, we can’t say we’re surprised that only two locations (one in Texas and one in Virginia) still exist, since it’s honestly easier and cheaper to just buy a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and eat it on your couch in your boxers while watching ESPN Sportscenter.
Dozens of Soup Restaurants
We all know that there are restaurants that only serve soup because we’ve all seen Seinfeld and they exist in literally every major city. But just because they’ve been established for years, and they’re by far the most visible single-item establishments out there, that doesn’t change the fact that, at their very core, the concept of a restaurant that only sells soup seems strange. Soup is not exactly a dish that you have a hard time finding. Yes, a place that specializes only in soup is bound to have really good soup, but you can get pretty good soup at most national chains that sell sandwiches, and at that point you can actually get a soup with a sandwich, which most people in the lower 48 states might recognize as being “an actual meal as opposed to a side dish that’s primarily composed of liquid.”
The point being, if you’re only selling soup, why not buy some bread and Boar’s Head deli meats and toss together some halfway passable sandwiches while you’re at it, so all your customers don’t have to eat the same lunch as someone who just had their mouth wired shut? We all love soup, but everyone loves soup with a sandwich even better. Just saying.
The Meatloaf Bakery
While we spent our introduction ragging on New York for their tendency to have single-item restaurants, it makes sense that the Chicago-based restaurant to make this list would do something as unhealthy-but-actually-delicious sounding as selling cupcake shaped meatloaves. They ask “why does a meatloaf have to come in loaf form” (because they clearly have a difficulty grasping things like “the definition of words”) and molded up some meat…uh…upcakes, which would then get “icing” out of ingredients like pasta, mashed potatoes, or stuffing because, actually, that sounds pretty damn tasty.
These hunks of meat, which range from salmon loaf to bacon-cheddar-onion-mustard-ketchup-pickles-burger loaves, come in bite-sized, cupcake, and loaf sizes, though a whole loaf sets you back between 35 and 50 dollars and sometimes is referred to as a pie, cake, or tart. Ultimately, the continued existence of the Meatloaf Bakery proves that they’re probably very good at baking ground up meats into shapes other than “meat” while also giving us hope for our plan to someday open a restaurant specializing in erotically shaped meats.
Rice to Riches
And now we get to New York. In the context of this article you wouldn’t be faulted for guessing that Rice to Riches was a restaurant that sells only rice, or maybe some sort of alchemical means to turn rice into gold. The answer is better (more tasty) and worse (more obscure) than either of those options, however.
Because Rice to Riches only sells rice pudding.
Honestly, we’re sure that they make divine rice pudding. It’s a viable company that has enough demand that they ship out 40 ounce servings at a time. Again, this is 40 ounces of rice pudding. They have flavors such as “Coast to Coast Cheesecake”, “The Edge of Rum Raisin”, and “Sex Drugs and Rocky Road” but at the heart of the matter, they’re selling a food item that 99% of the population views as good, but never worth going out of their way for. Take a moment to consider the last time you ate rice pudding. It’s probably been at least several months, and let’s be honest for most of you it’s been a couple of years. You saw it at some pot luck and ate some, and it was pretty tasty, and then it skipped your mind and you forgot about its existence as a viable food option, because never once has someone said, “Man, remember rice pudding guys? I haven’t had it in so long, I need some right the fuck now.”
Naturally when it first came out, people were losing their shit, because New York.
There are actually several places that sell just French fries, which you might remember as that side dish that sometimes comes free with your hamburger and that you don’t mind when your friends pick them from your plate. French Fry Heaven is a specialty shop that only sells French fries with fifty different kinds of fries, and found enough success to expand into a national chain. But, we’re not here to focus on unhealthy ranch-soaked Texas fries, we’d rather focus on the fact that New York has a fries-only restaurant called Pommes Frites that has been open for 10 years and still have a line out the door. The only time we’ve waited in line for a French fry was at McDonald’s, and even then that was just because it was during their Monopoly promotion and we wanted to get four playing pieces.
People flock to spend between $4.50 and $7.75 for Belgium style fries with your choice of sauce, and while we don’t take issue with people putting curry or wild mushroom mayo on French fries, we just hope that people only eat it for snack or lunch purposes. Because we’re imagining a family of five dressing up and hopping on over to that fancy fries place the young folks nowadays seem to like for their one dinner out all week as their kids excitedly are told they can get the medium size just this time because daddy didn’t go to the bar on Wednesday after work, and now we’re just incredibly sad.
It’s fucking oatmeal, people. Oatmeal. Yes, this one is New York too, since apparently people will flock to spend between four and seven dollars on oats mixed with boiling water. Oat Meal uses only oats in every aspect of its menu, which sort of pisses us off when we realized that oats can absolutely be used to brew beer. Those bastards.
There are sweet oatmeal dishes, like Pomegranate Pistachio, and savory ones, like Bacon Pumpkin. Do you remember how in the 90’s no one even knew what a truffle was? Well, now you can get truffle oil and shaved Parmesan shoved in a cup of oatmeal like that’s a completely normal thing. “What, you don’t eat your oatmeal with dried figs, crumbled Gorgonzola, and a balsamic vinegar glaze? Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were raised on a farm. Careful in the street, the giant shiny monsters are called ‘cars’ and they can injure you.”
At this point, there’s no fighting it. In 100 years, there’ll be one restaurant that sells every possible type of food, and every other restaurant will sell just one thing, so we might as well embrace it and be the first to start a restaurant that sells only our favorite thing.
Oh wait. We already have that. It’s called a liquor store. Well played, economy. Well played.
When I visit Sarah Walker in Chicago I expect, no demand, that we eat at the Meatloaf Bakery! And when she comes here, Cereality! Yay for the RVA with one of the last two of those in the world.