Rusty Krab experience brings SpongeBob mania to Houston


The Krabby Patty formula is one of television’s best-kept secrets.

It’s the burger of choice for the citizens of Bikini Bottom, the fictional home of SpongeBob SquarePants. The comic book icon is a cook of fries at Krusty Krab, where he serves them daily and thwarts Nemesis Plankton’s attempts to steal the recipe.

A Houston pop-up has cracked their own Krabby Patty formula. And it’s not that mysterious. It includes a beef patty, American cheese and a wonderfully soft bun. (Bacon and a fried egg cost extra.)

You can get it and meet SpongeBob himself until August 1 at the Rusty Krab Experience, an interactive pop-up and restaurant in downtown Houston. It opened in April and has since been extended several times due to its popularity. Kids are welcome, sure, but it’s a 21+ party after 9 p.m.

Owner Sam Chand says he got the idea from his 9-year-old daughter, a big SpongeBob fan. The same space, next to Capitol Lofts, hosted a Harry Potter pop-up in October and one inspired by “The Office” earlier this year.

“People loved it and we kept going,” says Chand, a former club owner. “It was something that I was ready to jump into, experiment with and see how it works.”

Hours: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to August 1

Or: 711 Main, Ste. 100

Details: $ 30 for 15 and over, $ 20 for children 5 to 14, free for children under five; does not include food and drinks; reservations are strongly recommended; 21 and over after 9 p.m.

More than food

The Rusty Krab is, unsurprisingly, its most successful pop-up to date. “SpongeBob SquarePants” debuted in 1999 and quickly grew into a global phenomenon, appealing to children and adults alike. It is Nickelodeon’s highest-rated show and the fifth-longest-running animated series on American television. Three feature films were released and it was adapted into a critically acclaimed Broadway musical. The show generated $ 13 billion in merchandise revenue, according to a 2019 version of Nickelodeon.

The Rusty Krab menu includes everything from chum (chicken) nuggets and pizzas to SpongeBob-themed drinks. Brunch includes chicken and waffles, shrimp and oatmeal, and French toast. The condiments are offered in pastel colors inspired by the sea.

But the food is not the attraction here. This is the place itself, a marvel with two levels of color and detail. Bright pink jellyfish accent the walls. You can pose inside a boat or on a stationary bike. And you can sit down for your own “Bottom of Bikini” driver’s license photo.

Self-proclaimed “Nickelodeon and SpongeBob Fan” rapper Los Fidel came from Connecticut with his girlfriend to visit the Rusty Krab. The entire trip cost them about $ 1,000.

“It was worth every penny,” he says. “If you are from the area you should definitely go. It was the best day of my life. “

An “ artistic adaptation ”

It is a clean and welcoming space. Current COVID-19 guidelines include socially distanced tables and a maximum capacity of 100 guests per time slot. (Normal occupancy is 240.) Guests scan QR codes on the boards for the menus, and they are also in large print on the wall. Sofas, handrails and interactive exhibits are sanitized between time slots. Guests can remove masks for photos, but must wear them when not seated.

A meticulous recreation of SpongeBob’s home includes his living room and bedroom, where you can pose for Instagram-worthy snaps. SpongeBob himself regularly appears for photos with fans.

“Kids just go bananas for that,” Chand said.

The Rusty Krab, however, is “not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way formally connected with Nickelodeon, or the SpongeBob brand directly,” under a disclaimer. Instead, it’s dubbed a “artistically adapted recreation of an amazing series that added value to our childhood.”

This explains the slight difference in names. Rusty Krab, not Krusty Krab; Bikini bottom, no bikini bottom.

This isn’t the first SpongeBob-inspired restaurant. Other Krusty Krab-inspired restaurants have opened in the Palestinian Territory, Costa Rica and Moscow. Much closer to home, a Texas federal judge blocked a Houston company from opening a restaurant called Krusty Krab in Kemah in 2018, citing trademark infringement.

So far, navigation has been smooth for the Rusty Krab. Reservations are optional but strongly suggested and must be reserved in addition to purchasing tickets for specific two hour slots. It offers birthday packages and daily treasure hunts, as well as weekly karaoke, trivia, and cosplay nights.

Inside the main dining room, it is a noisy and bustling atmosphere. “SpongeBob SquarePants” clips play on multiple screens. DJ Brody features hits from Lizzo, Bruno Mars and Outkast. The servers switch to “The Cupid Shuffle”. When the DJ plays “Wobble”, a young girl dances enthusiastically alongside her mother.

“The most important thing for me is that people have fun here. They spend a lot of money to spend. We have people coming from out of state just to experience it, ”says Chand. “I want them to be happy with the photoshoots, the exhibits, the interactive games, the food and drink – the whole enchilada.”

Or, more appropriately, the whole of Krab Patty.

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About James Almanza

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