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Lethal Eatery

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"Let me just tell you now, I would never, never have put a spoon of anything in my mouth if I knew this was taking place!"

A large number of comedies feature restaurants and other food service venues that would give any self-respecting health inspector a heart attack. Food is sold months or even years after its expiration date, it's often prepared by an uncouth cook who manages to get a great deal of hair and bodily fluid into whatever he's cooking, murky Mystery Meat (which usually contains vermin or something else nobody would ever want to take a bite of) is used, and certain delicacies may even have a life of their own. In terms of beverages, expect Bad to the Last Drop coffee, Shoddy Knockoff soft drinks, and, if it serves alcohol, A Tankard of Moose Urine beer. Usually, this means that Even the Rats Won't Touch It.

Generally, this trope can come in two distinct flavors:

  • A single street vendor or establishment, probably situated in 'the bad part of town' or a Wretched Hive, which produces infamously bad food designed to be as cheap as possible using less-than-edible alternatives for ingredients.
  • A deeply unscrupulous chain (usually serving as a Take That! to one in Real Life) on a mission to extract as much profit from chumps stupid enough to eat their fare as possible, caring little for how often their product induces food poisoning. The food, served by Burger Fools, naturally, might also contain bizarre polysyllabic chemical additives with an improbably high chance of causing cancer or all sorts of other nasty diseases.

A Lethal Eatery may employ a Lethal Chef or two, but in some cases the food tastes alright... At least until the unlucky customers discover exactly what was in it.

Compare Greasy Spoon, a less extreme variant of this trope, and the Sister Trope Foul Cafeteria Food. Compare and contrast Poverty Food and Reduced to Ratburgers, being similar situations Played for Drama where the only food people have is of abysmal quality.


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    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Chew, a sushi restaurant that is actually a front for organized crime discourages legitimate customers by never changing the sushi. Unfortunately for Tony Chu, his investigation requires him to eat some.
  • Viz has "Hen Cabin", whose proprietor's rule is that anything can be covered up with batter and anything that doesn't need to be covered up with batter is too expensive to make a profit on. Also, the unnamed bakery in "Drunken Bakers", due to the proprietors' crippling alcoholism rather than malice.

    Comic Strips 
  • Irma's Diner in Garfield. To say the place is not up to code would be an understatement. The soup has hair in it with rollers, the coffee tastes like turpentine, there is a hoof in the meat loaf, the cows for the hamburgers are burned alive, and dozens of other examples over the years. There was even one strip where Irma claimed the cook was home sick with anthrax.
  • Richards Poor Almanac has a recurring series of "Restaurant Closings", listing different colorful eateries and their equally colorful health code violations.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Baseball Game," more than half of the Prairie City Schooners baseball team is laid low with food poisoning the day of the final game of the Single-A World Series, thanks to dining at a sketchy barbecue joint the night before. Given that one of the menu items is called "Ptomaine Tasties," they should have known better. When the team runs out of players, honorary Mascot Bolt is pressed into playing duty.

    Film — Animation 
  • In The Mitchells vs. the Machines, the family stops at a diner over Katie's objections that it has really bad Yelp reviews. Cut to them all throwing up.
  • Gusteau's is wrongly thought to be this in Ratatouille when a rat is seen inside. It costs Anton Ego his job.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Spaceballs, it's implied that the customer of a space diner contracted the alien parasite from the food he was served. The scene is an obvious reference to Alien with John Hurt even reprising the role.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, not only is Mrs. Lovett a self-confessed terrible cook who makes "the worst pies in London" (never bothering to improve on anything) with meat from dead animals found in the streets, her shop has bugs everywhere, some of which she smashes with her rolling pin (and then she uses said rolling pin to make more pies). Sweeney Todd's attitude and face in that scene say it all.

  • A man goes into a run-down diner and orders a cheeseburger. The cook, a huge, greasy man with flies buzzing around him, grabs a handful of ground meat, shoves it under his armpit to flatten it into a patty, then empties his nostrils on the patty for the cheese. The horrified customer points this out to the waitress, who shrugs and says "You don't want to know how he puts the holes in the donuts".

  • The Ghoul's Diner in Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. would qualify if a large percentage of the customers weren't already various forms of undead. The living customers are nearly all various Unnaturals who do not have the same vulnerabilities to food-borne disease as humans would.
  • Most of the restaurants in Discworld's Ankh-Morkpork are like this, and the narration claims that trying to have public health laws would be like "installing smoke detectors in Hell."
    • Especially C.M.O.T Dibbler's infamous 'sausage inna bun'. The precise composition is a disgusting pork-product mystery, and it's often alleged consumption can have debilitating if not lethal effects for those unaccustomed to it. In The Fifth Elephant, serving Dibbler-style sausages is stated to be a capital offense in Überwald, and accordingly no Dibbler equivalent appears in the country.
  • Ratburger: The villain Burt is a shady fellow who owns a burger van and sells to pupils at the protagonist's school. As one might expect, it turns out the patties are made from ground-up rats.
  • A medieval-era example: the Lazy Eel in A Song of Ice and Fire is an inn that offers the oldest whores and vilest wine in White Harbor, along with meat pies full of gristle and lard that are inedible on good days and poisonous on bad ones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Cheers Norm's favorite restaurant, the Hungry Heifer, is sometimes described like this. He goes there because the food is cheap and tastes OK, but there is the occasional stomach-pumping incident.
  • Daredevil: Josie's Bar has health violations all around, but since Nelson & Murdock are loyal patrons who've helped Josie out of legal troubles, they're allowed to have a huge tab there and overlook the moldy water pipes.
    Matt Murdock: See that... that's why we, uh, keep our cocktails neat.
    Foggy Nelson: Pretend you're abroad. On vacation someplace exotic, but no mojitos. Josie just throws mint in the beer.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Marshall and Lily get food at an unhygienic deli and have gotten food poisoning more than a few times. They continue to eat there because the food is that good. And because they give them free soup every time they get sick from it.
    • There's also the infamous Gazzola's, a Chicago pizzeria that was a favorite of Ted and Marshall's in their college days. The food is generously referred to as "underdone", they get horrifically ill every time they eat there, and rats are not an uncommon occurrence. The place ultimately ends up getting shut down for good by the city.
  • Kitchen Nightmares is more Comedic Sociopathy; at some locations, Gordon suffered food poisoning and openly stated he could have been killed by the, ahem, cooking. In the US version, food safety violations forcing Gordon to shut a restaurant down was a relatively frequent occurrence.
  • Torgo's Pizza in Mystery Science Theater 3000, ultimately closed down due to sanitation problems.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look featured "Didldidi", a cheap "bargain" supermarket parodying Lidl and Aldi, where all the food on sale is unfit for human consumption or past its sell-by date (or both.)
  • You Can't Do That on Television has Barth's Burgers, serving the only burgers in town with, as the slovenly chef/proprietor is always proud to point out, "spit in the mixture." The skit usually ends with the kids joking about non-cow animals (or even people) ending up in the burgers, which always prompts the response from Barth "I heard that!"

  • French-Canadian series Les 2 Minutes du Peuple has "Snack Bar chez Raymond".
  • King Crimson: "Cat Food" is about a supermarket full of low-quality food, with the narrator describing "a tin of Hurri Curri" as "poisoned especially for you," claiming that the products are "not even fit for a horse" and "drowning in miracle sauce," and bitterly comparing meals made from them to cat food in the choruses.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife (1996) has a few of these as options for Gluttony punishments. The better examples of this trope include "Pinhead Pizza" (where everything tastes good but is full of throat-ripping metal), "The Pandimensional House of Vermin" (which teaches you rats do NOT taste like chicken) and especially the "Ecoli Shack" ("Two words: Cow Sushi").
  • Alpha Protocol has a Gelato shop that's actually a front for the NSA (maybe). The place is covered in an inch of grime and the stork clerk/handler walks out of the back licking the gelato scoop and then scratching himself with it. Mike, who can potentially have 20 years of field experience depending on the background, has a look of muted horror and revulsion on his face.
    Mike: "I think I got salmonella just walking in here."
  • In Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, the track Drive-thru Danger involves the warring Gasmoxian restaurants Toxic Burger and Nuclear Pizza. While not much is said about the latter's food, the bored-sounding intercom operator at the beginning of the race indicates that Toxic Burger lives up to its name:
    Thank you for choosing Toxic Burger. How can we poison you today?
    Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to disclose the nutritional value of any items on our menu. Thanks for understanding.
    Toxic Burger's not responsible for any irritation, burning or permanent loss of esophageal muscles, blah blah blah...
  • Cyberpunk 2077: The Buck-A-Slice pizza chain seemingly has this reputation in Night City, with the pizzas themselves described as having a lot in common with styrofoam. In fact, V is able to determine the location of a Snuff Film producing ring based on the presence of the pizza in one of their recordings, given that nobody would go out of their way to get it.
  • In the original Fear Effect, there's a stealth sequence which requires you to get through an impossibly disgusting kitchen, with the chefs breaking any and every health regulation they can think of. Get caught? You die instantly - turns out this is a Triad-owned kitchen, and every chef in the place has a gun and very little tolerance for trespassers.
  • Freddy Fazbear's Pizza in Five Nights at Freddy's is due to be closed down because of concern over public health risks to diners - parents have reported blood and mucus oozing out of the mascots. Plus, there's the whole issue of the animatronics being possessed and homicidal...
  • Hector: Badge of Carnage has Chez LeBouffett. The place is swarming with flies and if you complain about the meat on your plate the waiter will grab your half eaten meal, dump it back into the buffet cart and then serve you a new plate from the ensuing pile. Hector does some horrifyingly disgusting things in the game but he refuses to eat the food at the restaurant.
  • The Dur-T Cafe in Mother 3 appears to be a former Greasy Spoon that rotted into one of these; luckily, it no longer actually sells food (or drinks), but its sheer filthiness alone would easily be able to kill someone in real life. Also, its women's restroom has quite-literally been used by wild cows (well, one wild cow, at least).
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Stinky's Diner specializes in making the worst possible foods imaginable. Grandpa Stinky even takes great pride in the culinary dark arts to the point that his granddaughter who is also named Stinky was literally born from a cake called "The Cake of the Damned".
  • In Shadowrun: Hong Kong a series of Shadowland forum posts paints a dire picture of "Uncle Tse's House of Pork". One poster mentions that they've been stuck on the toilet for two days straight, only being able to post thanks to the wonders of portable networking. The other "reviews" aren't very encouraging either.
  • The first Ty the Tasmanian Tiger game has you lasso Shazza's turkeys in the Outback Safari to prevent then from reaching Greasy Gus's Diner. According to Shazza, the last time they ate there, they were sick for a week.
  • The entire point of We Happy Restaurant is selling highly dangerous food to people and watching them mutate and die while spending all their money at your restaurant.

    Web Animation 
  • BIGTOP BURGER: Zomburger prides themselves on making burgers so bad and inedible that people only buy them to make humorous Instagram posts about them. They're markedly more successful than their rival Bigtop Burger, which sells regular burgers.
    Frances: The worse the food, the better the sales.
    Cesare: Bad food sells burgers, Steve. Bad food sells burgers.
  • The Grossery Gang webseries takes place in the Yucky Mart, a near-abandoned convenience store where the food has rotted so much that they have gained sentience. The store is rated F from the health department, and the food served is literally vomit-inducing.
  • In the Ever After High webisode “Duchess Swan’s Lake”, the lake is being polluted from a filthy restaurant run by an ogre-like creature that spills sludge into the water. There are frogs bathing in one of the pots. The restaurant understandably gets shut down for health violations. For a show about fairytale characters, this just seems unnecessarily sickening, especially when poor Duchess falls into the disgusting water.


    Western Animation 
  • Beavis and Butt-Head: When the titular characters work at Burger World, something usually goes wrong. If it isn't that the boys have decided to deep fry some earthworms, it's that Beavis has used the spatula to scratch his jock itch. The two hooligans have come close to burning down the place more than once and even managed to cause an epidemic from their tainted food at one point.
  • Daft Planet: In the episode "Snitchy and the Phobe", Ched and Harley get jobs at Hudson's dad's TV network. In it, they investigate the kitchens of restaurants across Maple City, exposing them as this.
  • Daria: Jake develops anasakaiasis after a business lunch at a sushi bar called Tokyo Toby's. After pulling a worm out of Jake's throat, his doctor complains about how that 'worm farm' should have been closed by the Health Dept by now.
  • Futurama: For similar reasons as found on The Simpsons, also created by Matt Groening.
    • Panucci's Pizza follows this trope, among other things the owner scratches himself with a pepperoni roll, blows his nose with pizza dough, and uses his pizza paddle to spank his employees and kill rats.
    • Elzar's is also crawling with roaches despite being a gourmet restaurant.
    • There's also the Cygnoid pizza shop. The restaurant uses manure in its pizzas due to a gross ignorance of Earth cuisine.
  • The Great North: MomaPoppa's, Lone Moose's local Italian restaurant, is this in spades. While working there temporarily, Ham finds out that they rinse and re-use uneaten noodles, horrifying him and the family. Their dining area is nice enough, but their offices are lined with algae-ridden fish tanks, with several of the fish in them dead. Ham is later tasked to pick up a salad starter for Momma...from the floor of her car, which is filled with trash and a birdcage with multiple birds living in it. Even after Ham and Judy expose them in the local news, people continue to eat there as the townspeople believe the food is good enough to be Worth It.
  • Invader Zim: Every restaurant is caked in grime and filth and staffed by disgusting uncouth slobs. All part of the hilarious misanthropic atmosphere of Invader Zim.
  • The Loud House: Flip’s Food and Fuel; Flip is shown to sell expired products and soak his feet in the nacho cheese. The Loud family would gladly purchase food and fuel elsewhere, but seeing as it’s the only known gas station in town, the family has no choice but to keep going there.
  • Kaeloo: In Episode 64, Mr. Cat starts a fast food restaurant where trash from the dumpster is served as food if they run out of ingredients, the toilets haven't been cleaned for so long that a giant sea monster lives inside them, and the counter is dusty.
    Pretty: (after eating there) I had a small intestine graft, a pancreas graft, and a colon ablation.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "The Patrick Show Sells Out", Patrick starts his own restaurant that only serves one food: rocks with jelly put on them. They shatter the teeth of whoever attempts to eat them. But it's the only restaurant left at that point, after Mr. Krabs and Plankton moved businesses, so the citizens are left with no other options.
  • The Simpsons: Juat about every restaurant is dead guilty of being this.
    • There's the Kwik-E-Mart where nearly every perishable item is past its expiration (yet Apu charges exorbitant prices anyways).
    • Moe's Tavern is home to herds of rats, has cockroaches swimming in its pickled eggs and occasionally uses old hypodermic needles as martini straws. In one episode, the health inspector dies after eating one of the pickled eggs. That isn't even the worst part, when a new health inspector shows up a week later, the corpse of the previous inspector is still there.
    • Then there's Krusty Burger, which isn't above using mad cow beef or stapling together half-eaten burgers for resale. In "Treehouse of Horror XX", they cause the Zombie Apocalypse from their burgers.
    • Captain McCallister's restaurant, The Frying Dutchman, has its food crawling with giant cockroaches and got a D rating from the health inspector.
    • In the movie, Lard Lad's Donuts was shut down by the health inspector and so they give away all their donuts for free. You can spot a rat running off with a donut in its mouth.
    • According to Mayor Quimby, all fast food restaurants in Springfield were rated Awful to Mediocre.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The Chum Bucket, owned by the show's antagonist Plankton. The food there is so hazardous that people who eat it can die of food poisoning.
    • The Krusty Krab is often, if not equally, as guilty of being one too.
      • In "Born-Again Krabs", Krabs wanted to sell a rotten Krabby Patty to save a few cents, refused to let SpongeBob make another one until he had sold the rotten one and then got severe food poisoning when he ate it himself to prove it wasn't so bad.
        Squidward: SpongeBob, can I get one with less... fog?
      • Another episode had Mr. Krabs focusing the marketing on SpongeBob after a food critic praised him, culminating in him selling "Spongey Patties" which were krabby patties with a sponge pattern and color... from sitting out of the freezer.
      • And another had Mr. Krabs force SpongeBob serve pure grease to the customers instead of meat and bun.
      • Another had Mr. Krabs get Sandy to develop a new kind of krabby patty that ends up turning everybody into krabby patty zombies.

     Real Life 
  • In 1993, an E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants sickened 732 people and killed four children. The event was a turning point in the restaurant's history, as well as for food service and food safety overall. Jack in the Box overhauled its operations after the incident and set new standards for food safety.
  • The fast-casual chain Chipotle has acquired this reputation after suffering from a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness, which is commonly thought to be due to the company's preference for sourcing organic ingredients.