We're closing off 2021 re-sharing some of our favourite pieces of the year. In March, we ranked London's restaurant mascots. It was a very serious endeavour.
The other day I was walking down Hackney Road and a thought crossed my mind that I just couldn’t shake. It was one of those moments that some people might describe as ‘the catalyst of genius’ or ‘typical of a highly intellectual and serious journalist’. But please don’t, I’m too shy for that kind of praise. Anyway, the thought:
‘Who would win in a fight: the Dom’s Subs sub mascot or the Yard Sale pizza-box dog?’
Would the sub’s superior reach be a difference-maker? Can the dog hold a pizza cutter in its paw, to use as a deadly weapon? Or would the dog just grab the sub by the bun and chuck him to a fiery death in the oven?
Then I started to think about how a whole wave of new London restaurants have mascots. (It’s a thing now, to have a little dude or dudette who appears on your merch and on your delivery packaging.) And then I thought some more about which ones looked hard and which ones didn’t. And that’s how we ended up here, with our new annual power ranking of London’s restaurant mascots. It’s like the Forbes Power List but much tougher to get on, in that you have to be a cartoon connected to an eating establishment.
Some notes before we get started. Our decisions about ranking placements were made fairly via criteria including Mascot Vibe, Mascot Body Build and Mascot Weapons. Decisions were made by a respected panel of Time Out journalists in our respected work Slack thread. It was a long, gruelling process that took almost 15 minutes but the decisions we’ve made are final and will remain in place until next year’s power ranking. We’d also like to mention Bone Daddies’ cheeky face, Black Axe Mangal’s skull, the cutie on the back of the Mam Sham T-shirt and the happy girl in the Chubby Dumpling logo as highly commended mascots. They’ve put in the work, shown up on logos and done their bit for their brands in the past 12 months, but, let’s be honest, none of them would fare well in a nine-way fight. Some of them don’t even have bodies.
Right, let’s get down to business. Ranked from ninth place to first, this is the inaugural Time Out restaurant mascot power ranking.
9. The Dom’s Subs running sub
Strengths: Rangy. Big hands.
Weaknesses: Fearful. Perpetual cowardice
Yeah, yeah, Dom’s Subs is cool. It’s perhaps the coolest sandwich shop in London right now. But this bread roll is a coward. I’m sorry, but someone had to say it. He saw the big knife coming towards him to cut him open and fill him with premium deli meats and he was like ‘Fuck this, I’m booking the next flight to a tax haven and living out the rest of my days getting toasted on the beach.’ It’s embarrassing, really. Especially as, look at the arms on him! With those levers and (strangely giant?!) hands he could have tested the chins of many a mascot. Instead, he just showed himself up as a big spongey baby.
8. Zia Lucia’s Auntie Lucia
Strengths: Authoritarian vibe
Weaknesses: Advanced age, presumably brittle bones and such
Ho, ho ho, look at lovely Auntie Lucia... Doesn’t she have a kind face? And did you know she’s based on one of the founders’ real aunties: an apparently ‘warm and generous’ figure in her community. It makes sense. Mascot Lucia does have friendly eyes and a welcoming smile. Perhaps too welcoming. We’re not saying she’s the ‘American Psycho’ of the restaurant mascot world. I’m sure we’re not going to stumble upon her going full throttle with a pizza cutter in a plastic-sheeted penthouse. But she does very much have the vibe of a gentle older woman who would 100 percent know the exact telling off that would leave you crying for mummy. Not a strong contender but, let’s be honest, crybaby Running Sub doesn’t stand a chance.
7. The St John pig
Strengths: Access to a deadly Michelin Star
Weaknesses: Prostrate. Possibly dead
No mascot divided judges’ opinion like the St John pig. Some described him as ‘pathetic’ and ‘just waiting to be eaten’. Others believed he was playing possum or more of a defence fighter, waiting for the other mascots to tire themselves out scrapping before he led a final charge at the end. ‘Sleepy pig – hard to move’ was a keynote from one of our team. An interesting theory, but hard to prove without an actual pig to hand. One thing that is unquestionable, though is that, thanks to his St John connects, this guy almost definitely has wealthy mates. Expect him to bring in back-up, even if it’s just a slightly overweight shy Tory who works in publishing.
6. Breakfast Club’s ‘Winner Winner’ running man
Strengths: Sneaky. Fast. Easily underestimated
Weaknesses: Annoying energy may make him a target
I have quite a visceral hatred for this racer. I’m not sure if it’s the big doe eyes or the fact he’s smiling while running (strange!) but he has a Machiavellian energy. He looks like someone who’d be more than happy to cheat his way to the top. He’s the Nasty Nick Bateman of Time Out’s inaugural Restaurant Mascot Power Ranking. The Ric Flair. The Jafar. He’s not bothering to fight, he’s whispering to Running Sub that the St John pig described him as ‘worse than a meal deal’ and lacing Auntie Lucia’s pizza sauce with polonium. So yes, maybe he deserves a higher spot on this list than this, but I’m not going to let him into the top five because I’m sick of men like him winning everything.
5. Gordo’s Legalise Marinara stoner
Strengths: Huge arms. Potential magic powers
Weaknesses: Could be too high to move?
First things first, this geezer is hench. If this was a competition of just brute strength – rather than tactics, speed, weapons – this would be our winner. He’s got the energy of that lad from your year at school who was constantly kicking off in town and is now banned from all Tiger Tigers, Vodka Revses and Flares across the country. That said, I’m not sure he’s got the X Factor needed to win this battle. For a start, he looks fucked. Like proper 9am, sobering up at a house party surrounded by strangers, balloon canisters and 90 missed calls from an unknown number, fucked. Then he’s got a bit of a belly on him. Sure to slow him down. Esteemed Time Out staff member Huw Oliver has another theory though. ‘Definite witch in disguise,’ he says. Could be a game-changer.
4. The Lucky Chip crew
Strengths: Unpredictable chaotic vibe
Weaknesses: Unpredictable chaotic vibe
I watched a documentary about prison at the start of this lockdown and in it there was this cackling group of meth-heads who kept all the other prisoners awake all night by screeching until dawn, but no one said anything because you really don’t want to mess with someone with a history of violent crime who’s also five rocks into a methamphetamine binge. Anyway, the Lucky Chip crew strongly remind me of them: unpredictable and potentially dangerous, but possibly a bit disorganised. Look at the milkshake’s jaunty grin!
3. The Yard Sale pizza dog
Strengths: Experience with fire. Nice dungarees
Weaknesses: Appears to work full time and may not have the availability for this fight
Do not be fooled by the softboi dungas on this pizza-cooking hound. He’s a monster. See that pizza oven? He lives in there. And while it might already be full to the brim with limited-edition LCD Soundsystem LPs, unread Monocle magazines and vintage football shirts, he’s more than happy to shovel anything in there and fill it up some more. And by ‘anything’ I mean his fellow competitors. And by ‘in there’ I mean ‘to a fiery death’. Then off he’ll go, whistling while he works, ready to find another mascot. There’s such a thing as ‘too chipper’ and this is it right here.
2. The Dark Arts Coffee Satan
Strengths: Is Satan
Weaknesses: Has cups in both hands
A number of idiot Time Out team members were suckered in by this guys schtick. ‘Ooh, he looks really friendly. Is that a pair of slippers he’s wearing?’ said one. Another tried to make out that he was just a bumbling, clueless guy who’d come into work hungover and lost track of who had ordered what. ‘He looks totally chill’ apparently. Hmm… A potentially evil man written off as bumbling and clueless, hey? Pretty sure I’ve heard that one before and it didn’t work out that well for humankind. What I’m saying is, lads, this guy is literally Satan. The Lord of All Fevers and Plagues. The Morning Star. He’s on his little tippy toes because he’s dancing on someone’s grave. Those aren’t coffees in his hand; they’re individual pots of lava he’s going to boil a sinner’s eyes in. He will fuck up whoever needs to be fucked up. He only misses out on the top spot because it looks like he’s already got his hands full.
1. Rice Error’s eating man
Strengths: Not hungry. Very big mouth
Weaknesses: None. A flawless fighter
You know what, on the surface you might not have had Eating Man down as a contender. He does, after all, appear to be a) either sad or deeply pissed off while eating a big bun, and b) geometrically impossible. But look at the massive mouth on him. This is a man who has not only been carb-loading since the day he was first drawn but who can open his jaw so wide it looks dislocated. He’s 8-bits of pure power ready to chomp through the competition like a ’roided-up Very Hungry Caterpillar. Expect food-based mascots gone in seconds, animals and human ones probably a bloody mess very quickly too. And once he’s finished – the floor a mass of half-eaten mascot carcasses – you know what he’ll do? Go back to his buns and enjoy his last few bites in peace. This guy is the boss. Winner.
Get a first glimpse of Dom’s Subs new spot in the City.