Paying for the experience at themed restaurants

A look into two restaurants, Magic Time Machine and Dick’s Last Resort


Samuel Damon

The Magic Time Machine restaurant building lies near the intersection of Broadway and 410.

If you tell me my waiter dresses up as a character or insults me I am immediately intrigued. This is what draws people like me into themed restaurants as a whole. The allure comes from seeing waiters, who are normally perceived one way, doing something out of the ordinary. While I acknowledge that this is the point of paying to go to restaurants like this, my experience, along with others, reveals issues in the way that some waiters stay in character at the expense of the patron’s enjoyment.

Just off Highway 410 at around 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, I found myself in the parking lot of a building that, from the outside, was poorly lit and looked run-down. Frankly, it made me want to turn around and go right back to campus. This place is none other than Magic Time Machine, a restaurant known for its fun, family-friendly environment and its waiters who dress up and stay in character throughout the dining experience.

As a patron who was expecting to find a fun, friendly environment and character actors, I was not impressed by the exterior. I was also confused by the interactions between us and the waiter.
Our waitress, “Lady Gaga,” acted crazier than her character. While she did sing “Applause” and had us dance around the table with her, she also did unrelated things, such as squirting ketchup in my mouth and balancing a cup on my friend’s head while she poured her drink. She also crossed a line when she proceeded to smash another friend’s face into a whipped cream cookie dessert even though she was asked not to.

I had trouble seeing how this was related to her being in character. I mean, yes, Lady Gaga is an oddball celebrity, but this is a stretch if being in character goes against someone’s wishes. There are only so many artistic liberties a person can take and that should not include making a person feel uncomfortable.

Magic Time Machine isn’t the only themed restaurant in San Antonio. Dick’s Last Resort, a restaurant in which you can pay to get insulted by your waiter, is another.
Following the pattern of themed restaurants, people expect a certain experience when they go to Dick’s, and while they did not disappoint on this experience like the Magic Time Machine did, they took the experience too far.

Kate Klein, first-year communication and international studies double-major and local Instagram food blogger (, discussed some staples of the restaurant, which included getting a lap dance from the waiter and receiving hats that the waiter writes insults on. I understand all of these things are meant to be in good fun and are expected parts of the restaurant, but in my opinion they often get taken too far. It’s difficult not to find an older waiter giving lap dances to teenage girls uncomfortable.

Some of the things written on the hats were pretty obscene. They included things like, “#1 in the boys locker room,” “future stripper” and “swallowed more kids than Pennywise.” I chose to exclude one of the things a hat said because it was more insensitive and did not need to be repeated. These comments cross a line because they were not just insulting, but degrading of Klein and her friends. The waiter was making jokes which put them down for no other reason than that they are women. These same “jokes” would not be used against men, nor would they be slut-shamed for sleeping with multiple women.

While I understand that both of these restaurants are very clear about the experience they offer and patrons expect this, it seemed to me a way to excuse behaviors that might not otherwise be considered okay. Magic Time Machine barely delivered on its promise and made us uncomfortable, while Dick’s took their insults too far.

I feel that Magic Time Machine could improve its experience by acting more in character and listening to the needs of their patrons. Dick’s Last Resort could be improved by straying away from misogynistic comments and sticking with what they are known for — insulting people. In this way, the restaurants could stay true to their standards without causing harm.