A Brief History of Dining in the Nude
From ancient Rome to present-day London.
By now, you've heard the news, yes? London is getting a clothing-optional restaurant. Buoyed by their success running a popular Breaking Bad-themed bar (ABQ), the folks at the British collective called Lollipop are launching this pop-up eatery, "The Bunyadi," early this summer. You can read all about it on the website, And if you want to be notified when tickets are available, you can surrender your email addresses. More than 11,000 people have already done so.
Is this a new idea? Not at all. Technically, Adam and Eve were the first people to dine in the nude. But they didn't know they were naked, and there were no cultural norms, so they don't count. Below, we offer a highly selective timeline of nude dining around the world.
60 C.E. (Rome)
Ancient urns show men and women dining in the buff—in a way that idealizes the leisure and pleasures of the convivium (AKA Roman banquet). "Feasts of the senses" were encouraged in elite private quarters. Vomiting optional.
1200s+ (Age of Samurai)
A new art form is born in Japan: Nyotaimori (AKA "female body arrangement)" becomes a thing in geisha houses to celebrate battle victories. The practice today would be referred to as "nude sushi modelling," though it's important to note that sashimi is a viable alternative. When men are the models, it's called nantaimori.
Édouard Manet paints Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass), in which a nude woman is casually picnicking with two dudes. Quel scandale.
Paul Zimmerman opens Free Light Park, the first naturist resort, near Hamburg, Germany. "Don't order the soup" jokes abound. Wiener references hit an all-time high.
Streaking becomes the national fad and "drive-in restaurants advertised streaker specials," according to writer Mark J. Price. The following year a man named Jamie Oliver (AKA the Naked Chef) is born. Coincidence?
The first Hooters opens in Clearwater, Florida, pioneering the concept of the "breastaurant." Technically, not nude dining, but titillating nonetheless.
2005 - 2008
San Francisco bans nude dining. The city's Board of Supervisors forces nudists to "place a cover on public chairs and benches before they sit down." Public nudity, however, was deemed OK and, in fact, "is particularly popular in the Castro neighborhood."
There's a sudden rise in "nakations," says Sue Nerud, spokesperson for the American Association for Nude Recreation. Pro tip: "Most nudist resorts will hold traditional barbecues, and first-timers need to be careful around the weenie roast," according to Tom Mulhall, owner of Terra Cotta Inn in Palm Springs, California. Thanks Tom.
Lollipop, the London company behind the Breaking Bad-themed bar ABQ, announces it will host a clothing-optional, pop-up restaurant in June. On the menu: vegan and a non-vegan tasting menus "cooked on wood fire." Those no-soup jokes experience a fierce comeback.