Second Helpings

Name Game: What's in a name? Does arroz by any other name smell as sweet?
That's the question at Mayan's. For years, this popular west-side Mexican restaurant was called Minga's. But now that the old proprietors have teamed up with new partners and hired a new chef, they've decided the updated menu requires an updated name.

The new ownership group will emphasize fresh fish, fresh chiles and fresh herbs. Happily, they're keeping the signature "Ultra-Lite" dishes that originally put Minga's on the Mexican food map. Among my favorites: terrific halibut fajitas, made with a ton of veggies, and the yokeless chile relleno.

Mayan's is at 4323 West Cactus. Call 978-5167.
Rest Room With a View: There used to be an entertainer who called himself "Criswell the Magnificent." He was a "seer" who'd make dopey predictions about the future. At the beginning of his routine, he'd portentously remind the audience to pay close attention to his prophecies, because "the future is where we will all spend the rest of our lives."

Well, I have seen the future, and, thank you very much, I don't think I'll be using the men's room there.

That's because, according to Nation's Restaurant News, an industry journal, we may be on our way to unisex restaurant rest rooms.

Now, that's not too terribly disturbing. Since my family is made up of me, a wife and two daughters, I feel like I've been using the women's room for years, anyway.

What is distressing, however, are the innovative doors on one Philadelphia restaurant's unisex rest rooms.

Nation's Restaurant News reports that the rest rooms, set in full view of the dining room, are equipped with $15,000 transparent doors that are actually liquid crystal displays, powered by a 110-volt current. When the door is locked, the current is turned off and the doors become opaque, ensuring the privacy most of us long for.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, however, if the lock is not fully engaged, the door remains transparent. And first- timers are not aware of the potential problem. I don't know which would be more mortifying: sitting on the inside, looking out, or sitting on the outside, looking in.

Diners describe the rest-room experience as "unsettling," which may be the understatement of the year.

The restaurant's owner, however, seems unfazed. He reported that one couple, using the facility to answer another kind of nature's call, were too preoccupied to click the lock shut. When they emerged, diners gave them a big hand. Yikes. W.C. Fields had it wrong: On the whole, I'd rather not be in Philadelphia.

Ooh-La-La: I'm looking forward to trying a new French restaurant, French Ambiance, in the ABCO center on the northeast corner of 44th Street and Camelback. The French proprietors promise made-from-scratch pastries, croque-Monsieur and croque-Madame sandwiches, and authentic crepes. French Ambiance is open for breakfast and lunch. Call 667-9660.

--Howard Seftel

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