Presumably, only video game junkies who have never felt the pressure to fire twelve orders–RIGHT NOW!–could dream up the social networking game Restaurant City. Playfish, the company behind Restaurant City and numerous additional social networking games (a sort of Monopoly goes Facebook genre), launched the free application in April.

According to company spokesperson Susan MacTavish Best, the game has been installed by more than 10 million Facebook users. She credits the appeal of Restaurant City to the player's ability to “enjoy the trials and tribulations of dealing with menus, guests and overflowing restrooms all the while employing your friends as waiters and chefs.”

In July, Restaurant City continued to inch its way higher up the popularity ladder, ranking 7th among social network gaming apps (though still lagging behind Farm Town, a similar concept that manages to lend Hollywood appeal to tilling corn fields and shoveling pig manure).

Here's how it works. Players open virtual restaurants in a mock city and interact with other restaurant owners and chefs (your Facebook friends who have signed up for the same app). Initial activities include decorating the restaurant, hiring staff and choosing employee uniforms.

Users earn points (virtual money) to purchase furniture and ingredients, or they can barter with friends for supplies. “Bonuses” such as virtual bacon for the spaghetti carbonara of your dreams, are earned by answering daily questions correctly. Name what part of the cow flank steak comes from and you'll be rewarded with a hefty slab of pork fat (the correct answer, according to Restaurant City, is the middle of the cow; more specifically it is the lower belly).

As you move through the various levels, you can hire friends to work as waiters (or maybe clean those restrooms, if they're one of those Facebook friends you didn't really want to friend in the first place). If you're not the type who enjoys incessantly pestering your friends through Facebook instant messages (unfortunately Restaurant City will not allow you past mundane tasks such as choosing the color of your chef jacket without involving other Facebook-ers), you could always try a somewhat less trendy alternative. Invite your friends over to make actual spaghetti carbonara. Non-fiction social networking.

LA Weekly