But let’s make one thing clear: Tallywackers is no Hooters. There are no street signs, sports pennants, or neon-lit beer signs along the walls of this establishment. I learned that firsthand at the Tallywackers grand opening, which I attended last week.
Sending a single straight man to report on the Tallywackers grand opening hardly seemed fair, so I invited two female friends, Brittany and Myranda. We met with Daily Dot contributor Greg Stevens and his partner Jon at their apartment. After a round of cocktails, we were on our way to check out some man candy.
Nestled on Lemmon and Wycliff Avenue at the periphery of Dallas’ historic “gayborhood,” the restaurant was completely decked out for the event. Men in tight briefs wandered around the comfortably lit room carrying hors d’oeuvres trays. Most of the customers mingled around the oblong bar inside.
“I had a hundred lined up here before we opened the door,” Jeannette Johnsen, a Tallywackers investor, told us as we walked inside.
We met with one final waiter, Alex, a 21-year-old who also self-identifies as straight.
“How did you get discovered?” Greg asked him. “Did you have to send in shirtless pictures of yourself?”
Alex laughed. “No. You can see we have a wide variety. There’s no judgement of how you look,” he said.”We have the old to youngest, we have fit to not fit, we have straight and gay, we have everybody here, big boys and small boys.”
Alex also insisted that unlike Hooters, Tallywackers placed more of an emphasis on food and fun, rather than sex appeal. “We’re not strippers,” he said. “This is a restaurant, first and foremost.”
Sure, Tallywackers is all about the food and fun, but part of the reason why it’s generated so much Internet buzz is because in a conservative state like Texas, a restaurant devoted to the male anatomy is an audacious political statement.
But that’s not to say that Texas isn’t also home to progressive political views. “This is such a conservative state that it’s almost as if the liberal has [more] swing,” said Kris Martin, who’s been involved with gay advocacy for over 15 years and directs Tallywackers’ public relations.
“We have the largest Black Tie Dinner in the world,” she said, referring to the organization that’s been fundraising for the LGBT community in 1982. “We’ve got this culture that is almost like a resistance. It’s as if the gay people were more empowered because of the conservative base.”
But although Martin is interested in the restaurant as a progressive social phenomenon, in the end, the draw of Tallywackers won’t be its politics, or even the novelty of being served by hunky shirtless men.
“I think people look for good entertainment. It’s convenience, it’s good food, it’s a fun time,” she said.
If Tallywackers delivers on that core promise—and it looks like it will—then it looks like the restaurant should be able to turn its niche idea into a big, huge, throbbing success.
Photo via Boss Tweed/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)