I’m probably the last person you would expect to be defending the type of establishment that has come to be known as the breastaurant. You know: the Hooters, Twin Peaks and Mugs ’N Jugs of this world. They’re pub-style chain eateries that specialize in wings, burgers, beer and a little mammary innuendo.
The Associated Press recently reported that these types of restaurant are experiencing a mini boom, with three major Hooters-type chains seeing 30% or more growth last year alone. Well, duh. These eateries are relatively cheap, super friendly and focus on boobs. What’s not to love?
Well, as any feminist will tell you, the tata theme is offensive. I should know. While I never sported the bright orange hot pants and tight white tank with the nipple-eyed owl — and requisite push-up bra that is the uniform at Hooters— I did work at a cleavage-required bar for the better part of my college career. Some of the experiences I had there you could say were degrading. A guy I knew from school came in once and offered me $20 to kiss him on the cheek; I took the deal, knowing that it satisfied him in a creepy way. But the $300-plus a night I took home in tips on average helped assuage my shame.
Now that the days of fat-cash tips from customers whose gaze was permanently fixed some six inches south of my face are behind me, I feel differently about bust-required bars. The fact is, they’re easy to hate on – especially in New York City, where I live, a place with only two Hooters (ahem) for 8 million people, the main branch of which is largely frequented by tourists.
I myself have been to the local Hooters on a lark – ironically, if you will. In that Michael-Scott-from-The Office-would-totally-love-this kind of way. But once I got there, the joke seemed stale. But it’s not the knockers that nagged at me.
What’s so tacky about Hooters and its ilk is the same thing that’s tacky about Chili’s and T.G.I. Friday’s. They’re big, sterile chains with no soul and – despite all the kitschy flair – no style. Why must breasts be Disney-fied, neutralized by garish colors, uninspired décor and uniformity? Where is the Hooters for hipsters? Don’t foodies like fun bags, too?
In Chile, you find cafés con piernas (literal translation: “coffee with legs”). These are cafés that offer decent coffee served by long-legged, scantily-clad women. There are chains like this, but also independent ones. You can bet your bottom that the girls here make more money than in a regular café. It’s the same deal in breastaurants: if a girl has the rack to get hired here, she can clean up in tips.
And it’s precisely the feminist in me who believes she has every right to. Of course, I’m from Montreal, a city known for its sex-worker activism, where a giant strip club sign for “Super Sexe” is one of our most iconic downtown fixtures. (I used to go there with friends for the free buffet in college: makes Hooters look like McDonald’s Playland.)
So, I’d like to challenge some melon-loving visionary out there to come up with a breastaurant for the rest of us. If burger joints, taco stands, beer bars and other casual-food spots can step up their game, why not a jubblies-themed grub hut? Burlesque has made its comeback, with shows cropping up in sophisticated supper-club settings; cocktail bars with cleavage or gastropubs with gazongas seem like the next logical step. Since birth, we’ve know that food and boobies go together. Now that we’re all grown up, aren’t we mature enough to enjoy the two in style?
More Big Ideas on Food Republic: