Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Tempting fate: It was my first fortune-cookie message completely out of the realm of possibility. "The secrets of seven dynasties will be revealed to you," claimed the slip of paper I found in the cookie with my to-go order from Pavilion restaurant (see review above). Not a chance: When I last visited the Denver Museum of Natural History mid-November, I didn't have time to stop at the Imperial Tombs of China exhibit that this mini-billboard was touting, and I don't plan to go back to the museum until long after the March 16, 1997, closing of Tombs.

The museum had 150,000 of these fake fortunes printed this past summer and has distributed the cookies holding them to 400 Asian restaurants in the metro area. Although I'm sure I wasn't the only person disappointed to find an advertisement in my cookie, the museum's public-relations manager, Amy Tekans, says no one has complained. "No, we haven't heard anything like that," she says. "I think everyone has liked them." Especially the restaurants, she adds, because "they didn't have to buy them."

The museum and Tombs' sponsors, which include Imperial Seafood Restaurant, did--but no one's saying how much they paid. In fact, Tong, the owner of the cookie's creator, Lucky Fortune Cookie Company, at 1055 South Fox Street, doesn't want to talk about anything related to his business, and he's silent as a tomb on the Tombs deal. (Tong also owns Indochina, the wonderful if cramped Asian grocery at 1045 South Federal Boulevard.) Tong did disclose that he got Lucky "several years ago," that a case of 500 fortune cookies usually costs $9.95 and that the company that actually prints the fortunes is Quality Press. According to Quality's president, Chuck Hohnstein, Lucky was owned for "ten or twelve years before Tong" by someone whose name Hohnstein has forgotten; that original owner's mother wrote all the fortunes when Lucky was started, and those messages are still in use today. "There are several thousand different ones, and for Lucky, we print about 5 million fortunes every three months," Hohnstein says. "I'd say, since we started, we've printed up one fortune for every person in the United States. Ours are pink, so that's how you know when you got one from us."

Although most Asian restaurants in the area get their cookies from Lucky, many of them are not handing out the museum version. The folks answering the phones at Twin Dragon, New Saigon and Little Shanghai Cafe said, respectively, that they didn't know what happened to the Tombs cookies, that they never got the cookies, and that they didn't give out the cookies. Pavilion gives them only to take-out customers. And Veejay Mihra, Imperial's general manager, says his restaurant still has a box of them lying around somewhere. "We only gave them out at parties related to the museum," Mihra adds. "I don't think they wanted them to be handed out to the public."

No such luck.


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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner