At the Dandelion Café, visitors to the Natural History Museum of Utah’s Nature All Around Us exhibit encounter common weeds in a surprising way—as delicious entrees on a café menu. Nature All Around Us is 7,500 square-foot temporary exhibit that celebrates the nearby nature people encounter every day in cities and towns throughout Utah. We designed the Dandelion Café to support key cognitive and affective visitor experience objectives, including introducing visitors to the wild “neighbors” in their communities and creating a sense of surprise and delight at seeing familiar plants and animals in new ways. We were particularly interested in offering a new lens on the plants and animals that thrive in cities that we often dislike or overlook.
The café is located in one of two storefronts in the Main Street section of the exhibit. Two seats at a sidewalk table covered by an awning face the “window” of the storefront (a 55-inch video screen) through which visitors see a chef working in the café kitchen. On the table in front of each seat is a touch screen with a place setting and a menu branded for the Dandelion Café. The menu offers a selection of five dishes, each featuring a common weed as a main ingredient.
When visitors place an order by tapping their selection on the menu, Chef Megan offers a warm greeting from the kitchen and begins preparing their dish. The short videos for each entree are part cooking show, part foraging/natural history lesson. As Chef Megan explains where to find the plant and how to identify it, we see her outside gathering the plant. The scene then returns to the kitchen where Chef Megan plates the dish, describing the flavors of the weed and how it complements the other ingredients. She slides the dish out toward the visitor who ordered it and the delicious entree appears on their touchscreen. Soon, bites begin to disappear from the plate, evoking the experience of actually eating the dish. If no orders are waiting in the cue, Chef Megan returns to her prep work in the kitchen.
Dandelion Cafe Setting in immersive Main Street environment of Nature All Around Us
Dandelion Cafe touchscreen place setting and bilingual menu
Menu flips when an order is placed
If a second order is placed while the first is being prepared, the menu says “Your order is up next!”
Food disappears from your digital plate, bite by bite