Katsucon’s Maid Cafe, only accessible from the elevators near the first floor lobby, used the Gaylord National Harbor’s 18th floor nightclub as its venue. The location of the nightclub offered a beautiful view of the harbor. These elevators were far away from the rest of Katsucon’s programming, making it a commitment to attend the Maid Cafe. In fact, The Paper and I reserved a table in advance. For those who weren’t as fortunate to reserve a table, the Maid Cafe accepted walk-in reservations.
We were quite glad to have made an advance reservation, as we were able to skip the line of attendees waiting to get a walk-in reservation. However, The Paper wished that the Maid Cafe would not accept reservations until Katsucon’s schedule is revealed to avoid conflicts with other programming. After checking in at the Maid Cafe’s ground floor lobby, we were quickly escorted into an elevator up to the Maid Cafe. I wondered what kind of atmosphere Katsucon’s “Cherry Tea Maid Cafe” would have, as each Maid Cafe is different, and this would be my first time at Katsucon’s.
As the doors of the elevator opened, a group of maids greeted us in unison, who had apparently been anticipating us. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated such a reception, so I failed to get a picture! We were asked whether we wanted a maid, butler/host, cross-maid, or cross-butler. While I didn’t have much of a preference, The Paper really wanted a maid. Katsucon’s Maid Cafe didn’t allow patrons to pick their maid, and so we were assigned Akiko as our maid at the Cafe.
Akiko mentioned that we had 45 minutes for our reservation, so we ordered our food rather early so we wouldn’t run out of time halfway through our food. The menu contained Japanese snacks and appetizers. I asked Akiko who prepared the food, as these were not the usual items on the Gaylord’s nightclub menu. She told me that the food was prepared by the Gaylord; apparently their chefs knew Japanese cuisine!
As we waited for our food, Akiko offered to play some games with us. Offered at a donation of $1 per game, The Paper decided to play Toggle, a game involving balancing plastic pieces on an unstable platform. I offered to take photos to record the game for posterity, and was informed that each picture taken at the Maid Cafe was $1. Raffle tickets for a chance to win manga and DVDs were also offered at $1 each. A cheery maid carrying a gigantic donation jar collected all donations. This year, Katsucon’s Maid Cafe contributed 100% of donations to Relay for Life.
The Paper won the game, although it was a long and drawn out battle of wits! The timing couldn’t have been better either, as our food became ready moments after the game finished. The Paper ordered gyoza (dumplings), while I ordered onigiri (rice cakes). For a few minutes, I waited for Akiko to leave our table before eating, but to my surprise, she continued to chat with us. A harp player for fifteen years who was into League of Legends, she was planning a very appropriate cosplay as Arcade Sona (a League of Legends character who plays a musical instrument).
It was around then that I realized that Katsucon’s Maid Cafe was different: the maids never left their assigned tables other than to get games or food, and each maid only served one table. A total of 85 maids and 8 butlers serve the 110 tables at the Maid Cafe. Since not all maids were working this shift, not all tables could be used, explaining the long queue at the Maid Cafe lobby downstairs. It also became clear why choosing a specific maid would have been difficult given how many the Maid Cafe employed.
After realizing I hadn’t touched my food yet while The Paper had finished eating, I hastily ate my onigiri… it tasted pretty authentic, although the portions were small. As The Paper and Akiko started playing a game of Connect-4, I realized that the character of Katsucon’s Maid Cafe was more about the service rather than performances or dances. Rather, the way maids served only one table at a time, leading to extended conversation with our maid, resulted in a less restaurant-like experience and a more personal, memorable experience.
But it wasn’t as if the maids wouldn’t do impromptu performances either! At one point of our stay at the Maid Cafe, Gangnam Style played back over the audio system, which had been playing various anisongs and popular Japanese tunes. Akiko found it irresistible to join an impromptu dance session with fellow maids and some patrons.
We tried to tip Akiko as we left the Maid Cafe, but tips to individual maids were not allowed. Instead, we could donate our tips to Relay for Life. Akiko was flattered even though she wasn’t directly tipped. I left the Maid Cafe a bit later than The Paper, so we didn’t get to discuss our experience at the Maid Cafe until after Katsucon. I didn’t realize that he was a little upset that he was never addressed as “Master” at Katsucon’s Maid Cafe.
Even with a mishap like that, my impressions of the Katsucon “Cherry Tea Maid Cafe“ were positive. I haven’t been in a Maid Cafe that focused so much on service quality to the point of dedicating a maid per table. The pictures that The Paper and I took are available here, and I would go again next year!