Fool’s Cafe – A Surprise Dinner Tradition

Thank you to Log Cabin for sponsoring my post about updated traditions in my household. To learn more about Log Cabin Syrups (which are all free of High Fructose Corn Syrup), breakfast for dinner, and other new ways to update traditions in your home, click here. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 I’ve been wanting to share the insanity that happened over at our house on April Fools Day (night) with you for a while, so when Log Cabin asked me to blog about an update of a family tradition, I thought this was the perfect time to share…

Surprise Dinner Menu April Fools

Family Surprise/Mystery Dinner
(Great for April Fools or any time!)
My sister Trina, explained some of the history behind these mystery dinners in her guest post here. My mom used to hang a sheet up in the kitchen, so we wouldn’t be able to see any of the menu items. She would have all of them set out labeled with the appropriate number for quick serving. Then she would give us menus similar to what you see above (though not printed on a computer) and we would order our courses making the best guesses that we could as to what the items we were ordering, really were.
My kitchen is a bit too open for curtain hanging, but I did put up a foam core blockade and moved the table in to the front room so no one could see what was happening in the kitchen. I created these menus in publisher (I’m sharing below), and let them have fun trying to decipher them. The key is to have everyone order all four courses (or how ever many you serve) at the beginning, before anyone has been served anything. I had a mix of menu items that I thought were pretty simple and some that were rather obscure and difficult to guess. I was fun to see the orders come out. I was afraid BSB would have figured it out and have a normal boring meal, but that may have only lasted for one course. He was having to scramble like everyone else when his course came out looking something like these…
This course consisted of The Titanic’s Demise (ice cubes), Idaho deconstructed (mashed potatoes), colony builders (ants on a log), sugar transporter (spoon), and perfect coin place (mint–really it should be a mint mint per my clue). This one isn’t too bad, because you can use your spoon for the mashed potatoes, but there is nothing to do with the ice cubes since no water or soda was ordered, you might want that spoon for another course, and what will you do with the gravy that didn’t get ordered.
You could do this with breakfast foods and serve the syrup separately from the waffles or pancakes, like I did  with the gravy and mashed potatoes, and also the chocolate syrup and ice cream (I’m so mean!).
Here are some other sample courses…
My son had to figure out another way to eat his vanilla ice cream, since he didn’t order any utensils with that course.
Oh, but my daughter has a knife for her ice cream in this course. Much better!
Here’s the menu I made. If you want to use all of my menu items, you are welcome to print this and use it for your own personal use on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper–landscape orientation. Cut the paper in half and then cut the side with the courses into fourths. (Right click to save image).
Answer Key:
1. Ice
2. Deviled Eggs
3. Mashed Potatoes
4. Gravy
5. Jello
 (Utah consumes more per capita than any place else).
6. Goldfish
7. Cucumber Wheels
8. Ants on a Log
(Raisins on Peanut Butter on Celery)
9. Ham slice
10. Corn
11. Fork
12. Spoon
13. Knife
14. Toothpick
15. Water
16. Napkin
17. Ice Cream
18. Chocolate syrup
19. Mint 
20. Lemon-lime soda
If you don’t get any of them. I’d be happy to explain. I think BSB took issue with a few of them, but I’m ok with that, since there comes a point when you just have to get the menu done! Despite eating corn with a knife or slurping gravy or chocolate syrup, my kids, their friends and even BSB had a great time with this dinner! Each course that was brought out to each person was a great surprise for everyone at the table! Watching each other figure out how to eat each course, was highly entertaining!
 This idea could be really fun for an end of school celebration, or some silly fun with friends over the summer. Trina wrote about a few different adaptations for particular themes or events. They did one menu all by states and food that each state is known for. That could be a great educational tool. I’m sure there are countless other ways to customize it or adapt it for your circumstances. I didn’t have all day to spend in the kitchen, so I had a few more ready-made or easy to make menu items, than my mom would have had. Also, filling all of the orders and serving everyone is a big job. You might want to enlist a partner in crime, if you attempt one of these dinners. I remember LOVING the mystery dinners like this one that my mom used to make when I was a kid, and this was a huge hit with my kids, too! Some things don’t change much over time.
Have you ever thrown or participated in a meal like this? Can you think of a fun occasion to try it?
UPDATE: I’ve posted another menu (and a printable blank menu) and restaurant sign on this post.
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  1. Sara @ Mom Endeavors says

    I love this!!! When I was a kid, our youth group put on a big dinner just like this and we all loved it! So so cute–I just stumbled it! 🙂

  2. Fun! My mom used to do this for us as kids and I can't wait until mine are a little older and I can do it for them…definitely a tradition I want to carry on! 🙂

  3. Lissa (Bellenza) says

    Wow, sounds like huge fun! Great family tradition your kids will remember fondly, just as you do!

  4. hollie marie says

    This is a great idea!!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. Awesome idea, thank you!

  6. Thanks for the ideas, my son’s birthday is April 1st so we like to have fun, I would suggest though, instead of ice, iceberg lettuce!

  7. i still remember a friend’s birthday party doing this when i was around 8 years old – we all thought it was so fun. sooo doing this for my kids on april fools day! thanks for sharing!

  8. Just a fun twist on this idea. Plan a potluck with friends at one person’s house. As the dishes arrive, number them and put on buffet table along with untensils, napkins, toothpicks, etc. All guests get a number for each item but must put 5 numbers in their env. and go to buffet. For that course, they choose the items on buffet cooresponding to the numbers in their env. After that course, they draw five more numbers and repeat until all numbers are gone. How well I remember one guy eating his peas with a toothpick! Fun evening!

  9. Mary Kate says

    Just wanted to share our “Mystery Dinner” we did tonight with our church youth group. Orginally they wanted a real mystery dinner theater…a ‘whodunit’ evening where everyone were different characters and tried to solve the murder case…..but that wouldn’t work with a small group so I came across your website and remember doing this type of ‘Mystery Dinner’ when I was a young adult. It was so fun and knew it would be a blast with the youth. I took some of your ideas and your sister’s to create our own themed night. Just wanted to share our menu for other readers who will come across this awesome idea and help spark their own menu! It was titled “Mormon’s Cafe”. We had 4 courses and 16 items. 1. Not in Hell(ice) 2.Testimony Firmly rooted (carrots) 3- Heaven’s food(bread…manna from heaven) 4-This before the meat-cold and sweet(ice cream since it was made from milk and we get milk before meat….) 5-Shaky Foundation (jello or instant pudding) 6-Gonna need a miracle(goldfish crackers) 7-Ammon’s Arms (mozzarella sticks and maranara sauce…i believe your sister did this with french fries and ketchup)8-Herd of Swine (little smokies sausages)9-Laban’s sword (knife) 10-Buried Treasure (spoon) 11-Decision Point (fork) 12- Before the rainbow(water) 13-Buffalo Roam (ranch dressing-the only non-scripture reference…) 14-Death by fire (hot salsa-wanted to include Abinadi’s story somehow…)15-Jaredite vessels (tortilla ‘scoops’ chips) 16- Cup Overfloweth (Sprite)
    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    • These are great, Mary Kate! I’m going to save your menu for future use! I’m sure there is a youth activity or something in my future that this would be perfect for! Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Emily Jellick says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! We copied your exact menu and my kids enjoyed this so much! I let my kids (4,4,7 & 8) work on the clues together upstairs while I set everything up. They all ordered different courses though so it was fun. We were about halfway through and my daughter asked if we can do it next year. When they woke up this morning they were still excitedly talking about it and making up their own clues. This will be an April Fools tradition in our house. I also think this would be a fun way to get picky eaters to try new things. My oldest is not a big fan of celery or cucumbers but he quickly ate everything to get to the next course. Super fun night!

    • Yea!! Thank you so much for sharing your experience! So glad your kids loved it and even tried new foods! We’ve done it a couple of times where invite a different family to do it with us each time. It is fun to see someone trying to eat with out utensils for the first time!

  15. Thank you so much. I was looking for something different than the fake out foods. This is perfect.

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