BANGKOK — This city has plenty of offbeat restaurants, from a supper club with beds instead of tables to a Japanese diner where robots do the serving, but the cafe with a cause is Cabbages & Condoms. The restaurant is uniquely decorated with condoms from around the world in support of family planning.
Located off busy Sukhumvit Road, Cabbages & Condoms features garden dining under leafy trees and indoor seating in elegant, air-conditioned comfort. The menu of Thai dishes is extensive. Our group of four tucked in happily to chicken bathed in wild honey, crispy noodles and shrimp, and stir-fried grouper with young ginger. Our choices were all delicately seasoned, as we sought to avoid the fiery hot Thai spices that some palates crave.
Even without the chilies, however, we found ourselves more and more red-faced as we looked around. "Our Food Is Guaranteed Not To Cause Pregnancy," boasts the menu, while a bouquet of condoms decorates the place mats. Artwork promotes condoms for family planning and HIV protection, including a brazen poster that shows exactly which sexual practices require condoms and which don't.
Humor gets the message across at Cabbages & Condoms, but the restaurant's profits lend serious support to the Population & Community Development Association, founded in 1974 by Mechai Viravaidya to reduce Thailand's then-rapid population growth. World Bank data indicate Thai women averaged 4.72 children each in 1974 — but just 1.6 in 2009. The name "Cabbages & Condoms" sprang from the founder's belief that for family planning to be successful, birth control should be as accessible as vegetables in the market.
The nonprofit's mission now includes HIV/AIDS prevention and community development. It also sponsors AIDS testing, vasectomy clinics and "Condom Nights" in Bangkok's red-light districts.
Recovering our cool, we finished our lunch and headed for the gift shop. As we paid our bill, we made sure to pick up the restaurant's equivalent of a dinner mint: a Thai condom sealed in a festive wrapper.
Cabbages & Condoms, 6 Sukhumvit 12, near the Asok Skytrain (BTS) Station; pda.or.th/restaurantCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun