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Lien Nguyen, owner of Poop Café – opening on Sept. 7 in Toronto’s Koreatown – holds a toilet-shaped bowl imported from Vietnam. The restaurant specializes in poop-shaped fare. (Julien Gignac/The Globe and Mail)
Lien Nguyen, owner of Poop Café – opening on Sept. 7 in Toronto’s Koreatown – holds a toilet-shaped bowl imported from Vietnam. The restaurant specializes in poop-shaped fare. (Julien Gignac/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto’s Poop Café to serve up ‘beautiful’ excrement-themed desserts Add to ...

After a vulgar moment at the dinner table, most people – backs straight, brows furrowed, forks suspended in midair – would unblinkingly utter, “I’m eating.” But Toronto will be the first Canadian city to host a restaurant where excrement-shaped food is a selling point.

Poop Café, as it’s aptly named, opens on Sept. 7 in Koreatown. Once inside, a bar – shaped like a giant red toilet – looms over you on the left. Chalk drawings of swirly, beady-eyed poops adorn the black walls. A dozen ruby red toilets function as chairs (not to worry: there’s still a bathroom).

Co-owner Lien Nguyen, a recent graduate of George Brown’s culinary arts program, will serve a variety of desserts, like patbingsu – a dish adopted from Korea that combines ice, bean paste and different fruits. The only difference is that it will be presented in a toilet-shaped ceramic bowl (Ms. Nguyen also has miniature urinals and bathtubs for serving food). Another item is a milkshake topped with chocolate chip cookie dough that unequivocally looks like poo.

Since word of the restaurant spread, Ms. Nguyen says, she has been receiving daily phone calls and texts from curious potential patrons, she says. “It’s just fun,” she says. “A lot of people, when they think of poop, they think, ‘Oh that’s disgusting.’ But the food is beautiful. The quality is important.”

The concept is an import from Asia. The first bathroom-themed restaurant opened in Taiwan in 2004, Ms. Nguyen says. Since then, it has caught on in many countries, including the United States. “People really like it,” she says. “That’s why we brought it here. Maybe they think it’s crazy, funny.”

Daniel Molnar, Ms. Nguyen’s Canadian husband, who is also the restaurant’s co-owner, first experienced the zany theme when he visited the Modern Toilet in Taipei two years ago. When he looked down at his noodles served in a bathtub bowl, it made him feel nervous at first, he confesses, “but once I sat down and tried it, I felt fine.”

That nervousness sprang back with his wife’s plan to introduce the concept to Canadians, he says.

The feeling settled down, though, “once the idea evolved into a dessert bar,” he says. “I started to feel more comfortable with it because I think desserts would match the theme better than full meals. With desserts, it’s already fun.”

Ms. Nguyen says Asian cuisine is vibrant – likened to entertainment for its experimental spirit – which could explain its eccentric food fads.

Asked where the poop theme originated, Ms. Nguyen says it was likely inspired by Dr. Slump – a popular Japanese cartoon that aired in the 1980s and 90s. The show features a pink, excreta-like character wearing white shoes and gloves.

“This show is part of my childhood, everybody knows about it,” she says reassuringly, flashing a screengrab of the cartoon on her cellphone. “See, having fun with a poop every time.”

Ms. Nguyen posits that certain cultural superstitions in parts of Asia – like how a bird pooping on you is a sign of good luck – could have a part to play in the concept.

“I know that we’re weird to [North Americans],” she says. “Everybody has their own culture. Respect them.”

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