Mahjong Pizza has a long tradition of allowing a certain amount of employee innovation. It was hard to forget how the business had been founded on the back of Chad Martinez’s innovations while working at a Hopewell, Michigan Pizza House even among the esoteric college kids who usually donned the red-white-green uniforms. If Martinez could transform the pizza delivery business through his amateur time and motion studies, anybody could.

As such, Anna Grimaldi had to sit through a monthly “innovation meeting.” It meant an extra half-hour on the clock for most people, but the innovations therein tended to be on the prosaic side (multiple magnetic “shark fins” for foggy days, offering a five-pack of breadstick dipping sauces for a reduced fee). Anna’s ideas tended to run afoul of the legal department, which 86’d her idea of the cook writing a personal message on the box of each Mahjong pie, as well as her co-workers, who hadn’t been enthusiastic about writing personalized messages in the first place.

At the February “innovation meeting,” she had another idea: “The florist next door is always throwing out flowers. Why not grab a bunch of them for a few pennies and keep them on the counter for Valentine’s Day? Then everyone who comes in for carry-out can get a flower. Make them feel loved or something.”

“I think we should let people our customers are seeing give them the flowers,” her manager said.

“Come on now,” Anna replied. “Do you think anyone who’s getting carryout pizza on Valentine’s Day is seeing anybody?”

The flowers were out in a crystal vase by 8:02 AM February 14.

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There was nothing sinister about 1123 Adams St.

Once a private residence, it had been bought out by developers when Adams had exploded after the highway went in around 1995. But their neighbors in back refused to sell no matter the price, meaning that the builders had to make do with a thin strip of land–not until the occupant died in 2006 were they able to acquire the rear property, and even then their backyard neighbors refused to sell either, and there was no room for expansion on either side what with the other businesses that had developed there.

So you had a very attractive building with all its parking out back, an arcane arrangement that meant most people on Adams could never figure out how to get in at all. That, and its tantalizing location so close to the shopping district, the student ghetto, and campus, meant that every restaurant that filled the space inevitably failed.

The first occupant (sliding in a year after construction began) was 6 Dudes Pizza, which quickly became a campus legend due to their beer-battered breadsticks (served with a pitcher of beer and beer nuts). They didn’t deliver, though, so eating in was the only option; despite the efforts of a handful of devotees, it folded after a year and a half. Drunken freshmen with the munchies couldn’t be relied upon to figure out its tiny and arcane lot (or the parsimonious solution of parking next door).

Next was The Vegan Fork, which sought to capitalize on the tendency of those with extremely particular dietary wishes to orbit university campuses like asteroids around the Sun. Those who wanted to eat food that had never been, had never had the potential to be, and had never been produced by anything with motor neurons could surely be relied upon to walk or cycle there, making the parking situation irrelevent–right? Wrong. For all their pouring of blood on the fur-wearers of Sigma Qoppa Nu, they tended to drive the same Land Rovers. The Vegan Fork capsized after twenty-two months.

A college entrepreneur with a little venture capital remade no. 1123 next as Movie Eatery. Each booth was transformed into a mini theater with a big screen, and diners were able to select either a full-length movie or a TV episode or two to watch while they noshed (in theater-style seats no less). The rather slim selection of entertainment dinged Movie Eatery somewhat, as did a nuisance lawsuit by indie distributor Shutter Features. Dreadful advertising and amateur signage didn’t help, and Movie Eatery was belly up before the local annual film festival could come to its rescue.

Locals who had been providing barbecue to tailgaters at the university bought the location next and turned it into Big Jim’s University BBQ. The joint earned rave reviews for its sauce, which had long been an open secret among the ‘gaters, and its meats were locally sourced and slaughtered, which played well with the granola crowd. It earned less than rave reviews for cleanliness, though, and the state health department shut it down after a surprise inspection. Big Jim, without the capital to make the needed improvements, slunk back into the world of back-alley BBQ where there were no inspections.

And who could forget Hrvatska, the Croatian restaurant that occupied the site and expanded the parking lot? It was trendy for a time among the avant-garde who wanted to boast about a cuisine that the bourgeois had never heard of. The revelation that zagrebački odrezak was actually veal hurt their cachet among that demographic, and the overwhelming preponderance of lamb-based dishes eventually became tiresome to most.

Today, the site is occupied by a local independent maker of submarine sandwiches, and locals have begun taking bets as to how long it’ll last in what locals nerds have begun calling the “Defense Against the Dark Arts” building, as no restaurant there seemed to last much more than a year.

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Are you a member of the living dead looking for a world-class dining experience? Is the bother of chasing down victims interfering with your enjoyment of their still-living entrails as you tear them to shreds? Do the John Qs and Jane Does you catch lack the cachet of truly classy meals?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then the Zombie Cafe is for you. Conveniently located in the heart of the tri-state area, the Zombie Cafe offers everything from quick meals to full top hat and tails dining experiences. Our crack staff of zombie chefs and terrified thralls inedible due to disease or infirmity hunt down fresh living victims daily and prepare them to order. Everything from fresh cadaver for older or newly risen zombies to free-range humans hamstrung to make pursuit and capture a breeze!

And if you’ve the cash or the clout, Zombie Cafe offers a choice of gourmet off-menu meals kept on premises. The rich and famous of the human world are kept alive and succulent for your dining pleasure as a whole meal. Or why not split the check and carve up a star with a group of interested friends? Why, just last week Zombie Cafe staff served Kanye West to a consortium of powerful zombie politicians. And the couple that took Nicole Kidman’s severed arm home last week agree that it’s her best part yet!

The Zombie Cafe: Bite Into a Legend™.

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Though much of the collection was off-limits to anyone without the proper credentials, the Kochenarchiv did have a large annex with research assistants, photocopiers, scanners, and access to less-important portions of the collection.

Ramsey was particularly interested in one of the sub-units, the Ungenießbar collection, which served as a documentary record of the worst cooking of all time. Most people knew about entries like the legendary Concrete Cakes of Zurich, the 1000 Screaming Demon Death Fugu of Kagoshima, and of course the Six Day Colon War Latkes of Kibbutz Shlomi. But Ramsey uncovered further events in the Archiv that had been officially suppressed for years and were only now opening to scholars.

The so-called Doom Salad of Vancouver, for instance, was apparently able to spontaneously generate salmonella bacteria even in a sterile environment. 50 people had been sickened by it in 1981, so many that the Canadians had feared a biological weapons attack. Ironically, the cook, one Esther Grumaüt, had later been recruited by the Intelligence Branch to study the weaponization of her food as an area-denial weapon during the Cold War, an effort only abandoned when Ottawa signed the Convention Against the Use of Noxious Foodstuffs in War in 1990.

Ramsey was most interested in the case of Suzanne Mayotte, though. It was a case cross-referenced with the Zaubereiarchiv in Munich but one for which many of the incidental details had been censored. A call to the Zaubereiarchiv confirmed that no records like the ones the Mayotte file cited existed (at least not that they were willing to admit). An Australian, Mayotte had apparently inherited a knack for sorcery and cantrips from a distant ancestor who had been sentenced to penal transport for buying goods with unstable faeriegald.

During a study abroad in East Germany circa 1985, Mayotte had been cut off from the extended family and network of restaurants which had thus far sustained her. Forced to cook for herself using the ingredients her communist hosts made available, her knack had resulted in unpredictable “wild magick” effects. One batch of pasta taken to a potluck resulted in 13 hospitalizations for acute newt-related injuries. An apple strudel caused a fellow stident’s eyes to be opened to the infinity of the cosmos. One particularly nasty loaf of bread transubstantiated everything in a 500-yard radius.