They’ve earned the catchy nickname of “breastaurants” -- casual dining chains like Hooters, Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt Pub. These restaurants do well in Texas. This year, a new restaurant opened in Dallas, and instead of female waitresses wearing miniskirts, it features male waiters in bikini shorts.
Let’s start with the name: Tallywackers.
“I thought it would be funny and, you know, it’s a southern term,” Rodney Duke says. He's the owner and creator of Tallywackers.
The place almost looks like your average sports bar. There's football on big TV screens. Girls in heels are at the bar picking at fries.
'Hot Food And Hotter Servers'
But then you see the buff, shirtless men in skin-tight short-shorts carrying trays of hot dogs. Welcome to Dallas' new chestaurant.
“My goal here was to create a place where if you wanted to come and have a great time, and have hot food and hotter servers, that we could offer it to you,” Duke says.
Duke wanted to attract both women and gay men. When Tallywackers opened in Oak Lawn in May, the line was out the door, and there were families, too.
“We’re a family restaurant,” Duke says. “There’s not anything inappropriate going on here.”
Twenty-two-year-old birthday girl Maria Munoz came to the restaurant with family from Fort Worth. While the waiters sang, danced and flexed their muscles for photos, her friend Isabelle Hinojosa bottle-fed her baby girl.
Hinojosa says Hooters is fine, but “it’s about time they made one for women! A place for women to go to.”
Ice Cream Saloons, Breastaurants, Chestaurants
The first restaurants that catered specifically to women opened in the 1850s, and they didn’t have shirtless male waiters.
“They offered ice cream, which was thought to appeal to women, as well as light meals,” says Paul Freedman, a professor of history at Yale. These restaurants were called ice cream saloons.
“And this is what you find still today, the notion that women are sort of finicky when it comes to salads or tofu,” he says.
Most breastaurants are known for their wings and burgers. At Tallywackers, salad is on the menu, and so are more hearty options: chicken fried chicken, shrimp and grits, the S & M burger – that’s for Swiss and Mushroom, of course. And there are lots of hot dogs.
“The food actually is really, really good,” Anthony Richardson says.
Richardson is sitting with his friend Julia Drue on a black leather couch in the lounge area. They just finished crab lollipops and are sipping on tally ticklers, a cocktail with apple vodka.
Richardson is gay and Drue is straight. They both are enjoying the eye candy.
“It’s a male version of hooters and a male version of BJ's -- I don’t know but I like it," Richardson says.
'Wanted To Do It Here In Dallas'
Texas is home to several casual dining spots with women in skimpy outfits. Redneck Heaven, Bone Daddy’s, Twin Peaks. Then there's Hooters, which does its best business in the Lone Star State, according to Mark Whittle, senior vice president of global development.
Still, Duke, the Tallywackers owner, was still a bit concerned about turning the tables with Tallywackers.
“I mean, we are in a very conservative state,” Duke says. “I was a little fearful when we first opened this up to make sure it was the right place, but Dallas is my home. I felt comfortable here. I wanted to do it here in Dallas.”
In Dallas, A History Of Hunky Male Servers
What’s funny is this isn’t a completely new idea in Dallas. In the 1940s, men dressed in short shorts and cowboy boots served up women at a drive through across the street from Love Field.
Why? Paula Bosse with Flashback Dallas says it was a response to the sudden rise of sexy carhops.
“Women who were dressing in scanty outfits, hula skirts, midriff-baring costumes, to serve drive-in customers," Bosse says. "There was a big outcry against this and at some point some woman piped up, saying 'well, you know, this doesn't really do much for women, we want to see men, we want to see the legs of men, not the legs of girls.' So, some enterprising man who owned one of these restaurants said 'yeah, that's a great idea.'”
Bosse says the hunky male server trend was short-lived – partially because men were enlisting for WWII.
Duke is confident Tallywackers will catch on. He says they’ve already gotten inquiries about franchising from Asia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
For now, in Dallas at least, this restaurant is uniting people -- men and women, gay and straight -- over a common love for hot dogs.