Cartoons inspire Cosplay Restaurant in Scarborough

Dec 18th 2006:

The only cartoon-themed restaurants that I've eaten at have been at theme parks and the only memorable one was Marvel Mania at Universal Studios, Hollywood. It has since closed down (probably because the food wasn't that great), but it was kind of entertaining to have Spidey hanging out at the dinner table. Perhaps drawing inspiration from that one selling point - that it is fun to sit with the characters - from such themed restaurants, a new cartoon-themed restaurant has opened up in Toronto that takes the theme further.

iMaid Cafe is a cosplay restaurant, which basically means that all the staff members are dressed in costumes and play a certain role. In this particular case, that role is of a maid from Japanese anime cartoons. "I call them maids not waitresses," said 24-year old Aaron Wang, the owner of the restaurant who is originally from Beijing. "They smile a lot and they are cute. I want somebody cute like the characters from cartoons -- big eyes, long hair and young."

Feedback from customers over the past few weeks has been nothing but positive, as both men and women come to enjoy the costumes and the atmosphere.

Scarborough cafe takes customers 'inside the cartoon'

A young business student has brought a Tokyo trend -- the cartoon-inspired Asian maid cafe -- to northern Scarborough.

At iMaid Cafe, a petite, wide-eyed Asian girl in a frilly French maid costume greets you at the door and then never strays far.

The cafe, which opened in July, is the first of its kind in Canada. Owner Aaron Wang, 24, a native of Beijing and York University economics major, saw the growing market for the cafes in Japan.

Located at the corner of Kennedy and McNicholl, the cafe is already a hot spot for trendy Asian youth.

It is decorated completely in black and white: minimalist black and white tables and chairs and a checkered tile floor.

The latest Japanese pop music plays loudly, as Asian Pepsi commercials and music videos play on the plasma television.

Mr. Wang said it follows the "cosplay," or costume play craze, that is booming in Japan. He paid $300 for each of the maid outfits.

"People love cartoons," he said, "so when they come to the restaurant they are inside the cartoon."

Mr. Wang said in Japan the maids address the customers by "my lord," and while he said this formality is not necessary, he still wants his guests to feel like gods.

When he first put up a Help Wanted sign, girls flocked to the position, he said; his main criteria: cute, young and perky.

"When I choose a maid, I don't choose a girl who is beautiful. The waitresses have big eyes, long hair, and they smell really sweet."

Cindy Wang, 20, has been a maid since the cafe opened.

"I saw the sign and I was waiting for it to open so I could start work," she said. "I like the uniforms. They're very cute."

The cafe offers a mix of traditional Chinese and Western grill specialties at prices comparable to the many other Asian restaurants in the area (the Pacific Mall is about a kilometre away).

He said he keeps the motif of the cafe modern, with the latest video games and fashion magazines. Mr. Wang said he tries to cater to his customers, mostly young Asians.

"We come because of the costumes," said 18-year-old Rea Labata as her and her three friends finish their strawberry bubble tea.

"When the customers come in and the maid smiles and says hi to them, I can see their happy face and I get happy, too," Mr. Wang said.

The staff brush off suggestions of sexism and say it's a great job. They are pleased to be recognized outside of work.

Mr. Wang said he has turned down offers to create more of the themed cafes.

"If you open up a second one it's a bad idea because it's not special any more."

Website Design + SEO by ~ Owned + Edited by Suzanne MacNevin