Remembering Tallywackers: Hooters But With Dudes
From Eater: Who would have thought monetizing male objectification could prove so difficult?
There are more than 300 Hooters locations in the United States, coupling a chain restaurant experience with gaggles of lightly dressed, flirty women as servers. What if you’re looking to get that same experience, but with men, though? You have zero options. None whatsoever.
That wasn’t always the case. “What if Hooters, but with dudes?” is a thing that existed, shirtless and in the flesh, in Texas. In the spirit of “breastaurants” like Hooters and Twin Peaks, it was named Tallywackers — the name, an oblique reference to the ’80s sex comedy Porky’s, evokes imagery of the restaurant servers’ junk, while simultaneously appearing to mean nothing at all. (“Tallywhacker” is in fact 18th-century British slang for penis, yet it never solidly fell into the vernacular on either side of the Atlantic.) At Tallywackers, staff wore uniforms that went a little higher up the scanty scale than at breastaurants Hooters and Twin Peaks: Per the local health code, servers were required to wear tank tops (at least until later in the evening, when most went shirtless). Below the waist, the guys — the Wackers? — wore only fire-truck-red or grey boxer briefs that conveyed more than just a hint of what was beneath the fabric.
Now, Tallywackers is just a faint memory of abs and underwear. Opening in May 2015 in the Dallas gayborhood of Oak Lawn, the restaurant’s location unsubtly implied a target demographic of thirsty homosexuals; firsthand accounts affirm that the clientele was indeed, fairly gay, but it also featured a mix of genders, straight women among them. Much like its more widespread counterparts, Tallywackers was sexualized, yet firmly not a strip club: The only things officially getting wacked were customers’ appetites — yet some were reportedly ejected for groping servers, and staff were banned from hooking up with diners.
As the underwear party uniform suggests, Tallywackers pushed euphemism and sexual innuendo further than your garden-variety breastaurant. The menu, filled with phallic foodstuffs, featured “abb-itizers” and “cock-tails,” as well as the S&M Burger (Swiss and mushroom, duh), and the Tallywacker sundae, complete with a prominently displayed, uh, banana. Despite the silly food names, Tallywackers’s menu actually seems somewhat appealing, if urbane: Between fried Brussels sprouts, flatbreads, and a croque-monsieur, it was hardly groundbreaking, but still on a different plane of existence than the masculine standards of a breastaurants’ burgers, steaks, and wings.
Yet all the croque-monsieurs and thinly veiled dicks in Dallas couldn’t keep Tallywackers open: It closed after just a year in business. Owner Rodney Duke told local media that Tallywackers was simply moving, yet it never reopened.
There have been successful hospitality ventures adjacent to Tallywackers that have met some success. Most notable is Boxers, with three locations in New York City. But Boxers defines itself as a gay sports bar — Tallywackers never sold itself so precisely, and was spiritually closer to a Hooters in format than a bar.
Why hasn’t anybody else ever tried to open another so-called “chestaurant” (as Tallywackers was dubbed)? After all, if North America can support ridiculously niche concepts like a Garfield-themed restaurant or an entire chain dedicated to chicken salad, it seems like “Hooters for people who like men” would be a no-brainer. “Ogling men in skimpy underwear” maybe not the end goal of feminism or gay rights, but there’s certainly an imbalance to be corrected: America’s gays and girls should have that same opportunity afforded to the Hooters crowd.