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More than ten years ago, the restaurant industry went nuts with themed restaurants. The success and expansion of the Hard Rock Cafe franchise led to the launch of many more themed restaurants, most of which didn’t survive more than five years. One of those theme restaurants was the Marvel Mania restaurant in Hollywood, California — well, actually, it was located in Universal City outside Universal Studios, which is a short drive over the Cahuenga pass from Hollywood into the San Fernando Valley.
The restaurant was a lot of fun, although the food wasn’t spectacular. Truly the best part of the restaurant was the bar, which had a great selection of martinis. Where the restaurant itself was geared towards families with super bright colors and massive murals featuring Marvel’s greatest heroes, the bar area was dimly lit mostly with black lights and the walls were covered with Marvel’s most dastardly villains. The bar was truly a very cool place to visit if you were a comic fan and if I recall correctly, Los Angeles’ alt-weekly newspaper LA Weekly named it one of the Ten Best Bars in town the year it opened. Or best bar for martinis. It was the best of something, I know that much. The “Monstrous Martini’s” had names like “Negative Zone,” “Asgard” and “Savage Land.” There were also alcoholic beverages served under headings like “Curious Concotions” with drinks called “Journey Into Mystery” and “Dead of Night” or the “Web-Shooters” which were served in a small souvenir take-home beaker. Drinks like “Clobberin’ Time,” “Gamma Slamma” or the “Dimension Distorter” could be ordered.
Recently I was going through my second room at home and found the menu for Marvel Mania Hollywood in a box. Now, yes, clearly I’m a criminal — I snuck the menu out of the restaurant as a keep sake. I’m certain I’m not the only one, but who could blame me? It featured fantastic art from Mark Bagley, inked by Jesse Delperdang with colorists Paul Mounts and Bongotone. Cross Grain Coneptual Design and fishbrain…graphic design pulled all that art together and created this fabulous menu.
Food items all had names that were similarly comic themed. “Astonishing Appetizers” such as “Namor’s Calamari” or “Gambit’s Ragin’ Cajun Quesadillas” could be found on the menu, as well as salads with questionable names like “The Marvel House of Ideas Salad.” There were plenty of “Super Hero Burgers” and “Stanwiches” to choose from, all served with “Fantastic Fries.”
But truly some of the best names for food were stuff like “Archangel Hair Pasta,” “Luke Cage Linguini with Mighty Meat Sauce,” “Mutants ‘N Cheese” which featured X-Men pasta, “Doc Ock’s Wok” stir fry and “Sub-Mariner’s Sesame Salmon.”
Then of course there was the “Stellar Sweets” deserts section which featured “The Galactus.” Here’s the description:
“You’ll need to be the devourer of worlds to tackle this titan. Twelve scoops of ice cream topped with marshmallow, hot fudge, raspberry and caramel sauce; nuts, cherries and whipped cream. A titanic treat, perfect for any party or Super Hero family.”
“The Galactus” could have been yours for only $34.95.
Sadly, Marvel Mania Hollywood had a very short life span. According to <a href=”http://www.thestudiotour.com/ush/attractions/food_marvelmania.shtml”>this site</a> it opened on February 18th, 1998 and closed up shop September 10th, 1999 for “financial reasons.”
In the mean time, enjoy these camera phone photos of the menu. One day, if I can find an oversized scanner to borrow, I’ll prep proper scans of this menu. It really is a beauty.
With the success of the Marvel brand in the mainstream today, you have to wonder if Marvel Mania restaurants could succeed today? The food would have to be a lot better, but I think it’s a possibility.