HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


When you open your fantasy restaurant...

I don't want people to think that this thread is for hijacking restaurant ideas, but you've got to admit that as 'Hounds, you've thought about opening your own space. So, with that in mind, would anyone like to share? Where are you opening it, and what type of food are you going to serve? And if you're not afraid to run the risk of someone borrowing a great idea, what will be it be named?

Personally, I love Los Angeles, and would love to one day open a high-end Filipino restaurant here (which paradoxically, no Filipino would ever visit). My general rule of the thumb is No One Goes Broke In LA Doing A High-End Version of Something That Already Exists.

Don't know what I'd name it yet, but I know that I could just take a quick glance at my kitchen and come up with a name like "Peppercorn" or "Whisk" or whatever, so I'm not worried about that.

So, when you open your fantasy restaurant, where'll it be and what'll it be like?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. my SO and i would like to open our own place one day. not sure what type of food but we want a great wine and beer selection.

    i would love to be in a position where i could pay my servers more than minimum server wage. now there's a fantasy.

    1. I would love to open a fried food and Champagne bar. Tempura veggies, french fries things like that with lovely small grower Champagne selections. Hell, I don't need to open it but I wish someone would here in LA. Something about the combo makes my toes curl.

      1. I have often thought about opening a small café. Not sure about the name, but I really like your choice of "Whisk". Location would be more rural or village-like, rather than a big city. I would not have a set menu, but would offer daily specials...whatever's in season and at the farmer's market, which means it would help to be in a warmer climate. Serve breakfast and lunch, only, with takeout for dinner. No more than 10-15 tables. Great big muffins, breads & pies. Good soups, stir fry, salads. Taking everything I've learned in the past 30 years and serve it up. (This sounds really good!)

        A couple of places come to mind that I've been inspired by...Alice Water's place, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. Rebecca Rather's, Rather Sweet Bakery in Fredrickburg, TX. Real people, real food.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sonofoodie

          Your place sounds a lot like Olga's Cup and Saucer in Rhode Island which I saw a picture of years ago and saved all this time. I never got to visit there but I'm glad to see it's still around.

          1. re: Chowpatty

            I've been to Olga's. Really cute place...and tiny, tiny. I don't know how she get's all those baked good done in that building. I discovered it on a trip to RI. I saved that same article...many years ago in one of the cooking magazines. That would be another fantasy. Like a roadside stand that is an oasis for weary travelers. Love that idea!

        2. I'd like to have a combination café, tearoom, pizza place, frozen yogurt shop, with a touch of health food--salads, granola, fruit smoothies. And I've often thought I'd like a gift shop attached (maybe something like New York's Serendipity, which I have read about but never been). I'd sell all the pretty things you never see anymore--English bone china figurines, Delftware, cranberry glass.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Angela Roberta

            I would have a soup cafe. All sorts of soups made from organic ingredients. Our specialty would be Lobster Bisque. (Because it's my specialty) I'd also serve/sell organic breads that were made on premises. I'd call it Soup Kitchen. Mmmmm. I can smell the kitchen from here....

            1. re: OrganicLife

              OrganicLife...care to share your Lobster Bisque recipe? I tried making it one time, followed a recipe seen on the Food Network. They made it look easy and delicious, but they steered me wrong. It was so awful...dishwater would have tasted better! There is a restaurant in Newport, RI that claims the secret is lobster shells....lots and lots of lobster shells. Cook them down for hours to extract the best lobster flavor. That's all they gave me. What do I do from there? I'll understand if you're keeping it a secret. (Let me know when and where you'll be opening the Soup Kitchen...I'll be your first (maybe) customer...;-))

              1. re: sonofoodie

                Ahhh lobster bisque. There's nothing like it, right?

                My recipe is a little different because I like to keep the flour out of it. I'll do my best to write it out because it's usually all eyeballed.

                4 2-3 lb lobsters

                12 white potatoes peeled
                5 stalks celery
                2 carrots
                5 shallots
                2 bottles of sherry cooking wine
                3 tbs paprika
                2 tbs minced garlic
                1 tsp cayenne pepper
                sea salt- to taste
                10 leaves fresh taragon chopped

                Boil lobsters in large pot, when done remove lobsters to platter and retain boiling broth

                In another large pot or giant sautee pan add veggies, spices, and one bottle of sherry along with 2 ladels of broth. Cover and simmer low until all is soft.

                WHile it all simmers begin removing lobster meat from shells. Retain everything that might fall out of the lobster...the fat, the juices, the gunky innards...all of it. Toss it into the sautee pan/pot. Toss the large shells and small legs into the pot too. The idea is to get the veggies soft, and the liquid intense with flavor.

                once all of the meat is out of the shells, and the veggies are soft, get out the blender. Remove all shells and legs and discard.

                Begin to puree all of the sauteed ingredients along with 1/2 the meat and ladels of lobster broth. Puree very well until all is smooth. Pour into another large pot and return to stove to simmer on low heat. It should be a pretty thick mixture.

                Add second bottle of sherry, one cup of heavy cream and 1/4 stick butter. Simmer on VERY LOW heat until desired thickness. Crumble up remaining lobster meat and toss into bisque.

                I hope that's somewhat clear...I wish I had better measurements but I kind of played around with this recipe over the years and now I have no idea how much I use of anything. Basically I thicken the soup with the pureed veggies and lobster meat. And you can never have too much lobster meat.

                Good luck!

                1. re: OrganicLife

                  Oh and the potatoes do absorb a ton of flavor so that's why I use so much sherry but they also give it a silky texture that other thickeners don't.

                  1. re: OrganicLife

                    Thanks a bunch...I will give it try and let you know. I was wondering about the two full bottles of sherry...interesting.

                    Makes the fantasy seem like a reality...Dream A Little Dream Café.

          2. It'll be close to where I live, and it'll be a sushi bar called "Eat My Sushi". Instead of the typical japanese or Korean run places, this will be a sushi bar run by a white boy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

              Did something similar -

              When I retired from the military, my wife (Korean) and I opened a Korean restaurant. We didn't specialize in any one type of dish as so many Korean rests do. Rather we served a "homestyle" menu that incuded grilled, stir fry, soup, and rice dishes.
              You should have seen the priceless expressions on peoples faces (both American and Asian) when they walked in for the first time and were greeted by an average white american male in his late 30's. Many people simply turned around and walked out.
              Many others stayed and we built a fair base of loyal regulars who would recommend us often. We also became popular with the Asian college students in the area who would often bring their parents and family members who visited the US while the student was here attending college.
              This actually resulted in my restaurant being better known in places like Pusan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong than in the local area. I was even recognised while shopping in Korean Markets 300+ miles away from where my rest was located.

              Thirteen years later we sold the rest and I have to say that while it was a lot of fun, it was also very hard work and I will not go into the biz again.

            2. My restaurant will accommodate both Jack Spratt, who could eat no fat, and his wife, who could eat no lean.

              The menu will have several selections of each of low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free, well-balanced, vegan, and also it's really-good-but-not-as-good-for-you.

              Haven't thought much about names other than if it's eponymous, R.B.'s, then that'd just be asking from a cease and desist letter from somebody's trademark counsel.

              And as long as this is a fantasy, I don't have to work 20 hours a day, and I make a profit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: AreBe

                Great idea! How about you call it "Spratt's"??

              2. I would love to open a Mexican restaurant that delivers in Virginia Beach. Everyday I hear of a new pizza/sub shop that delivers the exact mediocre food as the next. Fresh tacos and margarita mix (virgin, of course) would be great to order anytime.

                1. My restaurant would serve breakfast foods from around the world. And it would serve them all day. There'd be great coffees and teas, plus a variety of brunchy cocktails (and the traditional breakfast beer, Guinness).

                  I'd want the decor to be low-key but cheerful - bright (but not flashy) walls, comfy pillows, and at least one communal table and a window seat. As much natural light as possible. And, of course, there'd be free wifi and lots of outlets for computers.

                  1. It's not a restaurant.. it's a deli...

                    It's called pg's and the logo is a purple circle with pg's in the centre, in antique gold.

                    On the wall is a Sistine Chapel rendition, but of a fat, middle aged chick with long flowing red hair (with a purple flash in it!), handing a breadstick to the people, and instead of being surrounded by seraphim and teraphim, she's surrounded by eggplants and fish and cakes and pumpkins and zucchinis.

                    Classic 50's "Music to Watch Girls By" will be playing on the stereo, or maybe the sound track from "Big Night"

                    We don't do table service.. we serve the best local produce... artisanal cheeses, bread, amazing cured hams and salamis, artichoke hearts and octopodi...and dried tomatoes that pg has FINALLY learned to dry in her oven

                    But our REAL "thing" is the take away food....

                    In the freezer, right between the wall of cookbooks and the racks of spices and unusual indredients are our take-aways... Balinese style pea soup, Moroccan lamb shanks on cous cous, chicken marsala, beef and Guinness pies (with mooshy peas).... and so much more.

                    You can purchase one of our take away meals and team it with one of our salads... they change every day.. maybe a kumara, chickpea and beetroot salad with toasted pine nuts or a thai-style cold beef salad....

                    The fat, middle aged chick with long red hair (with a purple flash in it) behind the jump will tell you what's good and fresh and what will be in tomorrow.

                    And maybe you'd like a huge slice of lemon curd pie to go with that?? (Made with pg's free-range eggs of course)

                    And also, we've just got a fresh batch of pg's famous dukkah and some new balsamic vinegar syrup (This one's flavoured with chili and star anise **wink*).. how about some of that, too...

                    And it will be on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, in a little town called Dromana.

                    1. I'd transport NanBanKan up to the bay area. Great yakitori for 25+ years and making money the whole time. Manageable size and staff.

                      I'd probably try to come up sith the Japanese equivalent of "Northern Barbarian" as a name. Keep the same basic menu but add seasonal skewers.

                      The only other attractive idea to me would be the equivalent of Kushinobo (long departed from LA). It was much like NanBanKan but the sticks were breaded and deep fried. A little easier to sell to the masses but higher prep costs.

                      I've toyed with an Okinomiyaki idea a few times, but the table turns vs square footage rent costs can eat you alive. Pricing high enough to cover it wouold make it seem a bad value for most people.

                      1. I'd love to open a place with organic healthy food and lots of vegan and gluten free options. I think more people should eat this way and don't realize that healthy can be delicious. It would definitely have to be on the West Coast or somewhere else with a healthy outgoing public. Either Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, LA, or Boulder would work.

                        It would simple yet elegant and affordable. People appreciate value and a lovely atmosphere. I haven't given any thought to a name.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lisaf

                          There's a few successful places like that in NYC, too.

                          1. I thought of opening a place set up like a real 50s ranch house. It wouldn't just be regular restaurant rooms in an old house like many are, but instead you would eat on couches in front of the TV in the living room, have drinks in a bar room decorated with my collection of cocktail shakers, play pool or pingpong and have cocktails in the rec room, get served by grandma in the tradtionally decorated dining room, etc. Of course it would have to be kind of 50s comfort food, but hopefully with some interesting twists. Since Home and the House and Abode have already been done, maybe call it Split Level or something.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chowpatty

                              I love it--it's a place that's just begging to be opened in the Rose Park neighborhood of Long Beach.

                            2. My restaurant would be part Chinese tea bar and dumpling house.

                              The tea bar would specialize in "old man tea" ... a very sort of ornate ceremonial exercise in tea consumption with miniature sets of tea cups and sets.

                              The dumpling house side would specialize in everything dumplings -- steamed, boiled, pan-fired -- with all sorts of gourmet fillings like geoduck, shark fin, etc. And the dumpling skin wouldn't be just the normal white flour variety, but would include whole wheat, sesame, buckwheat, etc.

                              That would be my fantasy restaurant.

                              1. My dad and I were toying with the same idea, SauceSupreme--a high-end Filipino restaurant in LA. But, given that we live in the real world, that fantasy has not yet come to pass.

                                I'd love to serve re-invented Filipino food, kind of like Bistro Luneta up in San Mateo, only maybe a little more upscale. And wine pairings! Must have wine pairings...

                                By the way, I think many Filipinos would frequent a place like this. High-end, low-end, in-the-middle...it seems not to matter, so long as there is good food and large tables or private rooms for those raucous family parties!

                                1. it will have walls lined with lead so guests can't talk on their cellphones or use their blackberries.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    ha ha hotoynoodle you just made me chuckle, and I'm at work, so I needed that, thank you. On another note: FWIW My restaurant will be called Aplomb, but the food we will serve is a closely guarded secret. I think the high-end Filipino thing is an excellent idea. Tell me when you carzy kids open it, because I want to eat there!

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      How refreshing would it be to finally have an entire meal without one of my dining partners pulling out a Crackberry to return an email and ignoring the rest of the party for 10 minutes? As long as the leaden walls don't affect camera usage, I think my Filipino family would love the idea.

                                    2. My restaurant would have a very seasonal menu, and an emphasis on local produce and sustainable and humanely raised seafood and meat. I don't know how commercially viable it could be, but I imagine having to improvise constantly to take advantage of what is available, in season, good quality, and low in price. I also think about giving it a very personal theme: our favorite wines on the list, dishes that I grew up eating or that I ate on my travels. Kind of like going out to a restaurant and having an experience that is more like a dinner party. I don't know what i'd call it.

                                      1. My husband and I keep talking about opening a trio of restaurants in Minnesota---all with a Mexican slant and probably connected in some way.

                                        A faster-food taco/burrito place like Chipotle, only with a little better quality and some really great fresh salsas; a formal restaurant with more of a family style service, including freshly made tortillas and great seafood; and a bar/lounge with fresh, light food and the best selection of tequilas around.

                                        1. Mine would be a Mexican restaurant on the Maine coast, with windows all around for views. There would be a section for people with dogs (though there would then presumably have to be something for the dogs to eat besides Mexican... I should work on that). Nice airy room(s) with a terrace and perhaps an outside bar as well.
                                          Oh, and no children allowed. :)

                                          1. OK here's another two, right across from my office on Wilshire, I want an Asian quick service place that's a notch above Famima. It would have grab and go sushi, but the chef would be making the sushi right there so you know it's fresh. It would have a noodle bar kind of like at Whole Foods where you could choose ramen, soba, etc. with various toppings. Also a selection of freshly made salads and dumplings, but some could be prepackaged in case you're in a hurry. A place like this in L.A. would be mobbed.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Chowpatty

                                              My two grains of salt: choose a name that starts with a, b, c, or d!

                                              I own a rather successful and eclectic cafe in DC and named it snap. With the internet around when ever anyone does a search by area or food type the results appear in alphabetical order!

                                            2. I don't really know a location, really. But it would be a family operation: My sister, who's an accountant and also has a degree in human resource management, could be the big boss. My dad would be in charge of front of house and general schmoozing. My cousin is a chef, so he gets to run the kitchen. I'll supervise folks, do the printed stuff like the menu, help Chris in the kitchen.

                                              I envision just regular food, but with specials thrown in from various cuisines. There'd always be at least some vegetarian/vegan items on the menu. For breakfast there will have to be the usual stuff (eggs over easy, omelets, biscuits & gravy, pancakes and waffles, that kind of thing), but I'll try to do a few other things as well, like huevos rancheros since I make pretty good ones. At noon, plate lunches. I just love plate lunches. We'd always have beans and cornbread available, and some good soups and salads, maybe sandwiches (I'm not a huge sandwich fan but I know some folks think lunch=sandwich). I imagine there'd be some set rotation of dinner specials (like at the cafeteria when I was a kid it was turkey and dressing on Sunday, chicken and noodles on Saturday, enchiladas on Tuesday), but some other specials also as I mentioned before. Fish of some kind on Friday, at least during Lent. We would, of course, be open on Sunday for late breakfast/brunch/lunch, but probably closed in the evening.

                                              I have no idea about a name. My dad's cafeteria was George's, but his name is Bill. (He bought the place from George.) It would depend on all the other people involved and what they thought.

                                              1. OK, I would want to be a consulting chef (not actually have to day to day work..)

                                                The food: everyday there would be a wood-fired pizza, shish-kabab, pasta, salad (summer) and soup (winter), with daily special's of what-ever is interesting. Expect to be highly influenced by French Bistro via California.

                                                The wine: a great selection by the glass... including lots of Champange.

                                                Last: no TV's and no smoking!

                                                1. In the 80's I operated a breakfast in bed service. A one woman, door to door delivery, breakfast ordered like a floral bouquet. Fresh juice, coffee/tea and a choice from three unique breakfast styles. Served on a bamboo tray along with the days newspaper and a red rose. 65-125.00 per order. I sold my customer list and idea to our floral supplier our 5th year. Birthdays, anniversary's, Valentine's day, Mother's Day, "forgive me" and "thank yous" were the most popular reasons for ordering a BiB. It was a great deal of fun, took over my weekends and turned a nice profit.....I've yet to see a similar setup anywhere...and it turned out the florist didn't have the knack.

                                                  My fantasy (retirement) job would be to resurrect the business, expand the menu and hire a team of servers to handle door to door delivery.

                                                  1. Ooh great question! I've been talking about this for years! I would open a bakery called "Just Cake" and of course serve only cake.....cupacakes, big ol layer cakes, mini cakes etc.
                                                    No cookies, pies, tarts, brownies....and no gimmicky Ace of Cakes type stuff either. Square or round, layered or sheet, tons of flavor combinations and all types of frosting (but no fondant).
                                                    I love cake!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: HungryRubia

                                                      I love the simplicity of the name "Just Cake", but for some reason this makes me think to open a bar and have a drink on the menu called "Not Poison" to see how many people would order it.

                                                    2. I would open a coffee shop/diner type place that specialized in homemade comfort food: Meatloaf, lasagna, omelets and home fries, tuna melts, hardy soups and chowders, and fresh baked pies and brownies.
                                                      It would be open 24 hours, and ideally it would be located near a college campus to take advantage of late-nite studiers and Sunday morning hangovers.
                                                      It would be the kind of place where when someone walks in out of a rain storm, we automatically bring them over a cup of hot soup, because it makes them feel better.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ajs228

                                                        Thats such a good idea ajs228! I could see that being very popular, I know I'd definitely go there.

                                                        1. re: ajs228

                                                          Around my community we call that a diner.

                                                        2. It's my win-the-lottery plan (which has even less chance of happening than you might think because I don't play the lottery). I'd spend the first half of my fortune on the building and grounds, and the second half paying knowledgeable, passionate people a good wage.

                                                          I'd find an old farmhouse twenty minutes outside of town, and renovate it so it had seating for 20 people and a beautiful kitchen that opened into several acres of organic gardens and pasture. Guests could wander the gardens before dinner, and the waitstaff would consist of people who loved food, gardening, and cooking. They'd work in the kitchen, gardens and greenhouses as well as the dining room, so they'd know about how things were grown and cooked. We'd can and preserve in the summer, so we could serve our own produce and meat year-round.

                                                          1. I have this reoccuring dream of a (CenCal Style) bbq place along the I-5, half-way between L.A. and S.F. The dream also involves planting lots of trees, a petting zoo, kitchen gardening, and building super adobe architecture like this:

                                                            I think a good name for it would be something simple like: Central

                                                            1. I've got two ideas depending on where this fantasy restaurant would be.
                                                              First, in Denver, I would have a lunch place in the Denver Tech Center called "Home for Lunch." When I was working, I always wanted to go home and have lunch there. HFL would serve soups (my specialty-Baked Potato), chili, big sandwiches, made and dressed to order salads, cheese and cracker plates, and small, sinful desserts. Comfy chairs, magazines, books, nice low jazz music.
                                                              We send most of our time at our home in Mexico since we retired. Food here is very predictable. Most of the Mexican restaurants have just about the same menu and the chains are chains. I want a southern restaurant. The name would be "Jive Guajalote" or Jive Turkey. We would specialize in deep-fried seasoned turkeys. Again a lunch place with great big juicy turkey sandwiches on pan integral (whole-grain bread) or a turkey dinner with all the southern fixins. Nothing like that here.

                                                              1. It will be a cupcakery called Little Miss Cupake. Maybe we'll have pastries too, but probably not. Cupcakes and coffee. And maybe 3 layer cakes because I love those too.

                                                                In reality: it won't be a restaurant, it will just be my house every weekend, and I'll invite over my nieces and nephews to eat sweets--since I am never having children. This would give my brother and sister some "me-time" since they are very giving people, and surely they will not take time for themselves once they have children.