What exactly is a Theme restaurant and do Stephen Starr places qualify?
I would say that Stephen Staff places are a good way to define "themed" restaurants. They are exactly that- a restaurant encompassing a theme that is shown in every aspect, from the menu to the decor. Jones would be a perfect example, as it has the sixties theme, with food and decor that is a play on items from that era. Chocolate cake with milk, down to their sugar and napkin dispensors. Buca de Beppo would be another good example, with how they play on the "tacky" concept in every area.
Not all Starr restaurants are theme restaurants.
Striped Bass isnt.
All the rest are.
Theme restaurants are places that are created with food as an afterthought and decor and general vibe being the most emphasised elelments.
As a customer, you generally have to feel indebted to owners and employees of theme restaurants for allowing you to be hip enough to eat there.