As legend has it, Rodney Duke, a bar owner and Dallas businessman, was enjoying a meal at Hooters in 2005 when he was confronted by one of the world’s great mysteries, a question so profound it has vexed some people for decades.
“Everyone has asked themselves the same question over time when visiting all these other venues that are related with female eye candy,” Duke recently told the syndicated “Kidd Kraddick Morning Show,” recalling the moment inspiration struck. “Why is there not a male equivalent?”
So he decided to do something about it.
Enter Tallywackers, the world’s first, uh, male-themed “brestaurant.”
Minus the breasts. And the bikers.
But plus a slew of chiseled hunks in red tank tops and a “custom brand of scantily short shorts” — men who would love nothing more than to flex their muscles on command (which they actually do) and flirtatiously serve you items such as “The Tallywacker,” a one-pound, all-beef frank on a fresh bun.
Also available on the menu: The “S&M Burger” and the “Famous Flamer,” a hamburger patty with a spicy kick.
“The thing that has got my attention is the grilled romaine Caesar salad,” Jeannette Johnsen, the establishment’s accountant and human resources manager, told The Washington Post. “We have a wood grill that cooks things so you get that outdoor smoky taste. And they make all dressings in-house.”
To be fair, not all the servers are ripped, Duke told Kraddick and friends. But the 24 servers were whittled down from a pool of more than 120 applicants who learned about the job on Craigslist. Unlike Hooters, Duke noted, Tallywackers allows diners to choose their preferred waiter before sitting down to order.
“We want to hire a wide variety of men,” he said. “Everyone has a different type. The younger ones, the older ones, the muscular ones, the not-so-muscular ones. We want to have eye candy for everyone.”
The Tallywackers Facebook page regularly uses the amazing hashtag: #guycandy.
The restaurant opened Saturday night in Dallas’s upscale Oak Lawn neighborhood, which is also known among locals as the “gayborhood.” The opening-night crowd was evenly split between women and gay men, according to staffers’ estimates. The restaurant, they said, is already popular among bachelorette parties, some of which have been trying to reserve tables for months.
More and more upscale restaurants are hiring good-looking employees to attract customers, according to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, an industry research firm. It can be an effective tactic, Tristano said, but not enough to keep the doors of Tallywackers open, especially if the restaurant plans to rely on female customers who drop by for special occasions.
Tallywackers will need to make inroads with male customers, too, whether they’re gay or straight, Tristano said, noting that about 20 percent of the customers at restaurants such as Hooters are female. To be successful, he said, Tallywackers will need to ensure that it offers quality service and food at a good price.
“Men are far more likely to visit a restaurant that has attractive, scantily clad women than women are to visit a restaurant that has attractive, scantily clad men,” Tristano said. “Getting males — who are heavy users of these types of concepts — is going to an interesting part of their business challenge. Certainly gay males may be a good target.”
He added: “I do think there’s an opportunity here.”
Tallywackers would appear to agree. The venue features live entertainment several nights a week, including “female illusionists” and artists who specialize in show tunes. Although waiters may jump on stage and take off their shirts from time to time, Tallywackers employees scoffed at the inevitable Hooters comparisons. Unlike Hooters, Johnsen told The Post, Tallywackers has tablecloths and a kids’ menu.
“We’re not a dance bar, and we don’t have people stuffing money in the servers’ shorts,” she said. “They’re very nice-looking young gentleman.”
She added: “People are wanting to pull us down into a porno level, but we’re a respectable restaurant with a high-spirited staff.”
By law, Duke said, employees are required to put their shirts back on before serving food.
Assuming things take off, Duke said, he’d like to expand the restaurant to other cities. There is a loose precedent, of sorts. Hooters has been around for 32 years, and Twin Peaks — fresh off a mass shooting that claimed nine lives and injured 18 — passed the decade mark earlier this year.
For now, Duke prefers to keep the public’s expectations in check.
“There’s not any groping going on or anything crazy,” he told the radio hosts. “It’s going to be a lot of clean fun and great entertainment.”