The Kellogg’s-branded restaurant dedicated to bowls of cereal curated by Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi is now open right off of Times Square. The concept of the small restaurant, co-owned and operated by Per Se alum Anthony Rudolf and partner Sandra Di Capua, seems ridiculous — why would anyone pay $7.50 for a bowl of something that they can get a whole box of for less than $5?
But Rudolf and Kellogg’s marketing guy Andrew Shripka say Tosi’s use of ingredients that can easily be purchased at the grocery store is kind of the point. Cereal sales are down, and Tosi’s addition of simple ingredients like pistachio or raspberries is to show people that they can do more with cereal than just eat it with milk, Shripka says. "We hope that people go back and think about new ways to eat cereal at home," he says.
One way to convince people to go to a restaurant for cereal was to tap into people’s sense of nostalgia, a feeling that Rudolf had after eating Froot Loops for the first time in years, he says. The restaurant is lined with brick, chalkboard, and wood tiles to feel "familiar and comfortable," he says. Cereal comes out of a series of red cabinets in grocery bags, a way to mimic carrying home boxes of cereal from the store. And prizes come in the same plastic bubbles that grocery stores sometimes offer for a quarter, with a tchotchke inside. "We want to create these emotional references," Rudolf says.
The nostalgia worked for some of the people who came in on Tuesday morning. One Upper West Side woman hadn’t eaten cereal since she was a child. She bought a bowl of cornflakes with banana slices to accompany her grandson Harrison Okun, 15, who was the cereal fan and had ice cream topped with white chocolate chips and Frosted Flakes. "It’s really a treat, I must say," she says.
For the slew of tourists in the restaurant on Tuesday morning, going was a fun shtick to try while in town. The Fisher family from the Bay Area put it on their "must try" list after reading about it online last week. "Most places, cereal is an afterthought," Joseph Fisher, 54, says. "There’s nothing like a hot food trend in New York," Ora Fisher, 53, adds. They even tried to go on opening day on Monday, but by the evening, the shop had closed.
Most people didn’t bat too much of an eye at the prices, either. Several tourists said they expected the pricing from the Times Square area, and others said it’s comparable or even cheaper than breakfast at other restaurants in New York. "Compared to some breakfast in New York, it’s a good value," Joseph Fisher says. "It’s an experience, not just the food," says Sam Fisher, 14, who bought a bowl of frosted flakes with bananas, chocolate chips, and cinnamon.
Still, it’s not clear if the people going to the restaurant will bring Tosi’s tactics back home. Harrison Okun, from Long Island, says his parents don’t let him eat a ton of cereal at home. "It’s more of a grandma treat," he says. And 10-year-old Joshua Walfenzao went nuts with an $11 custom bowl filled with Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, bananas, marshmallows, dark chocolate chips, mint, and Pop Tart crumbles — but only because it was a special treat. "I just wanted to go crazy," he says. "I’m not allowed to have much cereal at home." His dad Jose Walfenzao, 43, confirmed. "Too much sugar."