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Bube's Brewery

13 of the Strangest Restaurant Spots in America

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Bube's Brewery

There are few places today’s Americans can go without being bombarded by food. We have restaurants in our parks, our furniture stores, and sometimes our gas stations. But even in the U.S., there are still a handful of places where it would feel unnatural to chow down. That wasn’t enough to stop these business owners from choosing some rather unconventional locations to open their eateries.

1. THE YURT AT SOLITUDE 

If you ever dreamed of eating a four-course dinner inside an authentic yurt, now you don’t have to travel to Mongolia to do so. The Yurt at the Solitude Mountain Resort is located about 30 miles outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, but diners are still required to make a bit of a trek before they can sit down to enjoy their meal. Patrons are guided on an “evening snowshoe adventure” that lasts a little less than half a mile through a lantern-lit forest. Then for $125 per person, a group of no more than 24 guests can enjoy a gourmet meal that chefs prepare right in front of them. After trudging through the snow to get there, we’re sure anything served warm would taste delicious. 

2. CHICAGO SWEATLODGE

“Restaurant” and “sweatlodge” are two concepts that should never cross paths, but unfortunately they already have at this Chicago establishment. Male guests at the traditional Russian bania begin the experience by sweating out toxins in the sauna as employees come around to beat them with a bundle of leaves. They then rush into a cold-water bath, a shock that’s supposed to be good for the circulatory system. After spending the day sweaty and naked, they can then retreat to the café for delicacies like borsht, marinated herring, and steamy chicken soup

3. TWINS CREEK CAFÉ AT FRANK KENT HONDA

Few things are more American than cars and burgers, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a place in Texas that sells both. The Frank Kent Honda dealership in Fort Worth is home to the Twins Creek Café, a classic eatery that serves burgers, salads, and even breakfast foods. Their signature menu item is the “OMG” Burger that’s made with a secret blend of ground beef cuts and can come served on a jalapeño bun. Even if you don’t leave with the car of your dreams, at least you can go home with a full stomach. 

4. THE AIRPLANE RESTAURANT

Dave Dugdale, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 

The dining experience at this Colorado Springs restaurant is far from a typical in-flight meal. For one, the 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker never leaves the ground, and the renovated interior provides significantly more legroom. The inside of the 275-seat airplane restaurant, also known as Solo’s, is covered with pictures and memorabilia commemorating aviation history. Diners can enjoy such flight-themed menu options as their “runway crunchy chicken strips” and “air tower nachos.” 

5. HARVEY WASHBANGERS

 

At this Laundromat/restaurant, diners don’t have to rush home if they spill gravy on their nice shirt. A “state of the art” Laundromat is connected to Washbanger’s bar and restaurant, which serves up gut-busting fare like their jalapeño cream cheese burger and coconut pecan pie. Located next to Texas A&M University, the establishment mainly serves college students, who are notorious consumers of both self-service laundry and greasy foods. The concept is actually a brilliant way to get patrons to spend more money as they’re waiting for their clothes to dry. Maybe more Laundromats should start serving burgers.

6. AQUARIUM RESTAURANT

Guests at this undersea-themed restaurant in Nashville have the pleasure of dining in the presence of a floor-to-ceiling, 200,000-gallon aquarium. The atmosphere is the perfect way to get diners in the mood for menu items like fish and chips, fried calamari, and grilled mahi mahi. The possibilities for “see food” jokes are endless.

7. FIFE & DRUM

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Fife & Drum in Concord, Massachusetts is the only restaurant in the country serving meals made by prisoners. Customers must go through security before entering the restaurant located inside the Northeastern Correctional Center. They can then enjoy a prix fixe, made-from-scratch meal, all for the price of $3.21. It’s part of the minimum-security prison’s culinary program, which is meant to equip inmates with the skills they’d need to work in a restaurant after their release. 

8. RATTLESNAKE SALOON 

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The restaurant’s website describes itself as “the watering hole under the rock,” and that’s pretty much what it is. The Tuscumbia, Alabama establishment is built beneath a cliff overhang and has outdoor seating so guests can get the full experience of dining among the natural beauty. The saloon adheres to an Old West theme, serving up fare like “giddy-up sticks” and “chuckwagon nachos.” Some nights they even have live bands utilizing the cave’s natural acoustics.

9. TEMPLE CANTEEN

Jason Eppink, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The Hindu Temple Society of North America in Queens, New York has been a prominent meeting place for American Hindus since 1977. In addition to being a venue for religious services, classes, and concerts, they also serve Indian food to the public from their basement. Offerings at the Temple Canteen range in price from 50 cents to $5.50, and they even accept credit cards.

10. OASIS CAFÉ

J. Zay,  Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The Wabash Jewelers Mall in Chicago is a great place to shop for necklaces, engagement rings, and some of the best falafel the city has to offer. The Oasis Café is located in the back of a jewelry store, and offers Middle Eastern specialties like hummus, tabouleh, and baba ganouj. Everything’s under $7, so you’ll have plenty of money left over to go diamond shopping afterwards.

11. M. WELLS DINETTE

Daniel Zemans, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

New York's critically acclaimed M. Wells Dinette is located in Museum of of Modern Art PS1, in a building that used to be a red brick schoolhouse. As an homage to the location’s history, the restaurant has adopted a classroom theme, seating diners at desks and plastic chairs and providing them with composition notebooks to doodle in. Specials are scribbled on the classic green chalk boards at the front of the room and gourmet meals are served on tin cafeteria trays.

12. THE CATACOMBS

Located several stories beneath Bube’s Brewery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania lies the Catacombs restaurant. Diners can enjoy fine wines, local brews, and classic delicacies within the confines of the stone-lined vaults. Before descending to their dinner, customers are greeted by a “costumed guide” who takes them on a tour through the brewery. The establishments also offer ghost tours, because according to the owners, paranormal activity is everywhere within the buidling.

13. POST OFFICE PIES

Some of the best pizza in Alabama is being fired up inside a historic post office. Post Office Pies opened in the former Avondale post office in 2014, and they’ve already earned a spot on Thrillist’s list of 33 best pizzas shops in America.  Oddly enough, they don’t deliver.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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