photo - a flyer from Sushi Creep in NOLAIt was the twenty-tweens and I was visiting New Orleans. Catching up with my high school buddy Michael Weber, who I always refer to as Bjorn. We were in our 30’s then.

Bjorn is one of those singular characters who broke the mold… as Hunter Thompson would say: “A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production.”

We talk only every few years, but whenever I catch up with him he is always doing something radically creative and slightly outside the bounds of what is normal or legal. New Orleans is the perfect place for him.

This time, he is running Sushi Creep, an unpermitted, unlicensed sushi stand inside of a commercial space that he also illegally lives in. The building has no hot water, Bjorn has no experience.

I witness a scene that reminds me of the Richard Linklater movie Slacker, only with twenty-tweens New Orleans as the background instead of 1990 Austin. Misfits, weirdos, and anarchists discussing the world over cheap sushi rolls and Budweiser served up by my buddy.

We are many years after the end of Sushi Creep, but I still feel it’s a story that needs to be told. And so, here it is, for the first time in writing, the behind-the-scenes interview with the one, the only, the Sushi Creep!

Zoe: What was Sushi Creep?

Bjorn: Oh, it was my sushi stand. Except I didn’t really have adequate cooling, so we didn’t actually have any sushi. But we had other stuff. But, you know, no sushi. And it was me. I was the Sushi Creep.

Zoe: Why did you, with no experience in anything that is required to run a sushi stand, decide that it was a good idea?

Bjorn: You can’t go wrong with sushi. It’s just like salt and sugar. It’s the rice, it’s the seasoning. I dated this Japanese girl and she told me, she’s like, Americans are stupid. They don’t understand sushi, right? You just like the rice seasoning, and you think it’s all the fancy fish. But that’s just that’s all actually pretty bland. You really just think the rice is yummy. And it’s basically a sandwich. It’s easy to make.

Zoe: How did you learn to make sushi?

Bjorn: I made some with her originally. I started talking about this idea for a sushi stand. Then she broke up with me, like, right when I opened the business. But she got as far as taking me the store and showing me all the right things to buy. She was like, “this is the sushi flavor that you want because this is what Americans think sushi is supposed to taste like”. Then she has these, like, salt packs, pictures of screaming kids on them. And then she was like “but this is what my mom used, I’m gonna make that one for you first”. And it was just like, super sweet, right? That’s what moms are packing for kids’ lunches and stuff. And then she’s like, “Americans don’t want that, they want this one over here, they think it’s fancy, so you have to buy this more vinegary stuff.”

Zoe: Where was Sushi Creep?

Bjorn: It was on St. Claude Avenue. Me and my friend rented it in an attempt to open some sort of gallery art space. But that did not go anywhere, so I ended up with it. I got paid some money for my big startup. So I was like, I’m gonna build a sushi stand. This is my last thing.

Zoe: You put your last money into trying to open a sushi stand with no permits. Solid plan. Tell me more about the neighborhood that you were that you were located in. Was it the Bywater?

Bjorn: It was on the edge of the Bywater, yes. When I moved there, the neighborhood was, well everybody’s complaining it wasn’t as sketchy as it used to be. Pretty fancy neighborhood currently. I was like some sort of like transitional gentrifier or something, you know, that quirky fake store to fill in the blanks between the real actual commercial establishments that are there now. But, you know, the neighborhood has changed. Back in the nineties, man, that’s where all the heroin drummers would hang out and pay $150 rent doing heroin, being a dishwasher. It was the lifestyle back in the nineties. That’s what I heard. That’s the scene they were complaining about being dead by the time I got there. The glory days when you just do heroin at your job washing dishes and be a drummer in a jazz band. And really if you’re a decent enough drummer, you didn’t really have to wash dishes. You do heroin, drum in a couple of bands, beat your girlfriend and you know, drink a lot, live in the Bywater.

Zoe: So this was a commercial space that you had?

Bjorn: It was a commercial space, yeah. It’s a very tiny commercial space. It was like 15 by 30 or something.

Zoe: And you were unpermitted. What kind of licensing do you need to run a sushi restaurant, do you know?

Bjorn: I mean, I could speculate, I guess, but I have no idea. Really, I have no idea.

Zoe: You were also living in this commercial space?

Bjorn: Yes, I was. I was built a loft in the back.  I was basically sleeping on a shelf above the sushi shop.

Zoe: And what was the water situation at the shop?

Bjorn: Oh, not good. Not good. I just had like a small plastic bin of water. I only had, like, five dishes. It is like basically rinse everything in this sloppy bin of increasingly gross water all day then and then I dump it out in the toilet and I had to refill it from this little bathroom sink that I couldn’t really fit the bin in. So that there’s never really enough water was part of the disgusting charm.

Zoe: Did you have hot water?

Bjorn: No, I don’t think there was hot water. Actually, yeah, no I believe there was not hot water.

Zoe: That’s how I remember it.

Bjorn: It was just water, mostly water, you know? It’s really the chemical properties of water that make it work. Way more important. The fact that I was using water is way more important than the temperature of the water.

Zoe: Oh, yeah, I’ve heard water is important. Did anybody ever get food poisoning that you know of?

Bjorn: No, there was really nothing to get food poisoning from. It is just rice and vinegar and salmon or salted salmon or lox? I dunno what you call it, but it’s vacuum packed, and so is the synth crab I used. We had the pickled cabbage, carrots. And I had a cooler. I got a little refrigerator, but I modified the mini fridge so that you could put it on its back, you know you have to rotate the compressor. And then it was like a little miniature reach in cooler.

Zoe: What about the creep part of Sushi Creep? I remember multiple people saying the same line. They all said: “That guy sure is a creep, but these rolls are really good!”

Bjorn:  I mean, that was roughly the marketing, right?

Zoe: Are you a creep?

Bjorn:  No, I’m a nice guy. No, you know. Average guy trying to get laid, you know.

Zoe: How did you come up with the name?

Bjorn: Well, it was like sushi something, right? I was actually just trying to come up with the most off-putting name. For a while I was fixated on “Sushi Administrator.” How boring and off-putting! And then I was like “Sushi Human”, I’ll be the Sushi Human.

But then someone said that people would say that thing is made out of humans, which I think is kind of stupid. But I was like, It’s not. No one’s going to think it’s made out of humans. That’s stupid. That’s gross. And so then finally I was like, Sushi Creep! That’s super off-putting. And plus, as you know, even though I’m not necessarily being creepy, I can be that off-putting really awkward guy in certain circumstances. Plus the branding. I was just like, now, there can be no criticism. There can be no criticism that it’s dirty. There can be no criticism that it doesn’t have water. There can be no criticism that there’s no permits. There can be no criticism that the only fish is salted salmon. And what was the other meat? Synthetic crab. Crab roll. That crab meat stuff. Synthetic crab meat.

Zoe: So how did your customers find you?

Bjorn: They didn’t. I was doing some events and stuff sometimes out of that space, and I’d be like, “hey guys, come to my sushi stand”. I was like, I was like a little cool or something, maybe. So I had enough draw. I could get maybe 10 or 15 people a day come through there during our 6 hours of daily operation.

Zoe: Right on. How much were you selling the sushi for?

Bjorn: Three bucks a roll. And I was doing beer.

Zoe: Oh. You were illegally selling alcohol as well?

Bjorn: Yeah. So $1 Budweiser. We were next to the McDonald’s here. Look, it’s cheaper than a burger meal and it’s healthy, so come and get a beer and sushi instead.

Zoe: And how much of what you pulled in was profit?

Bjorn: Oh, my profit margins, like 30% or something. It wasn’t terrible, you know. Pretty much. I made like 100 or so a day. Then I was like pocketing like 40, 50 bucks.

Zoe: How much was the rent you were paying on the space?

Bjorn: $350 a month.

Zoe: Right on. You were coming out ahead. That’s pretty amazing. How would you describe your customers?

Bjorn: Oh, you know, we got a lot of anarchist people. There’s this anarchist girl that I was hanging out with sometimes. She would always have her, like, anarchist boy dates. She would bring in some anarchist dude pretty much a few times a week. And then we made out sometimes if she couldn’t find the anarchist dude that day. But I am probably painting a more exciting picture than it really was. But anyway, that was her. There was a guy who lived up the road. He was smart. He’d come in and rant about the state of affairs. Different friend too, not as smart, would come in and rant. Also about the state of affairs. And then we had random bozos who passed by like “What’s this”? Because that’s really what it was. It was out of place. I was always fascinated by the idea of, like, the lemonade stand or the bar in the desert. You’re stuck in the desert and you come across a nightclub. At the time it was not where you’d be seeing something like this.

Zoe: So it was not the kind of neighborhood you would see with the fancy, posh, gentrified sushi place in it?

Bjorn:  Yeah, that was the joke. Except it was definitely a cartoon of a gentrified sushi stand. I painted it all white, you know? But I had to have, like, a little back room, so I just got a painter’s drop cloth and put grommets in it and hung it on some sticks five feet in front of the back wall, creating this back room. So it’s like, look, that’s Japanese, right? They have fabric for walls, right?

Zoe: Did you do any other decoration?

Bjorn:  The Sushi Creep aesthetic is that I painted it all white and then just had like sort of raw canvas cloth. And then the sushi bar itself was also a canvas drop cloth thing. So that was it. It was just super clean. Minimal aesthetic was what we were doing. But then there was a stuffed animal window which made it easier for people to find. I had bags and bags of small sized stuffed animals from a Pornopticon party I did where we filled a room with stuffed animals and had porn playing. The window had bars on them so I just filled the windows with stuffed animals, you know, all of the ones that weren’t soiled.

Zoe: I remember that when I came to Sushi Creep, you gave me a weed hookup with one of the customers there. And I walked, like a few blocks to his house, and he sold me some weed.

Bjorn: Oh, yeah. We still hang out. That guy.

Zoe: Were there a lot of drugs going on?

Bjorn: Nah. Just like a little drugs. Just a few drugs, you know? Like this one guy, he was doing kratom all the time. So he wanted me to make kratom rolls. I made them for him, and that was his kratom delivery method. I think probably in retrospect I should have tried to sell kratom rolls, but I was like, no, no, no, we have our three things. Has to only be these three things.

Zoe: I love this. That’s brilliant. Did you ever get into any kind of trouble with the law?

Bjorn: No. No one cares if you do that kind of thing in New Orleans. Maybe if you’re next to a restaurant. Or you become so cool and throw loud parties all the time and piss off a neighbor. I mean, maybe there is some roving code enforcement just to hold the hold the economy down and so on. But mostly stuff like this, you can just 100% get away with. No one stops you. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe these are the secrets we can’t be telling.

Zoe: Why did you decide to stop running the sushi stand?

Speaker2: Oh, it was just the business was getting slow and it wasn’t making much money. And the aforementioned regular smart dude came in one day. And for some reason the subject of the danger of nuclear North Korea came up and I expressed some concern that North Korea had stockpiled many bombs, it would be a terrible war. And he was like “BULLSHIT!”. And he got up and stormed away and never came back. And then it was raining. No one else came in that day. And I was like, that’s it I’m done. And then it was done.

Zoe: We’ve already talked about that because of the lax regulatory enforcement in New Orleans, that probably that’s why Sushi Creep happened there. But is there anything else that you would say is the reason that Sushi Creep could happen only in New Orleans?

Bjorn: New Orleans is like highly, highly accepting of underground efforts, you know, people running restaurants in their backyards. In fact, many legitimate and successful restaurants in that neighborhood started off as so-called speakeasies in people’s backyards.

Zoe:  Why do you think that is? Why do you think the city is so tolerant of that?

Bjorn: I think it goes back Mardi Gras and parade culture. There are lots of parades in New Orleans. Those things attract like a lot of just guys with water buckets, or soda or people vending stuff. Second lines and that kind of thing. Parades get a permit from the city, but if you just go and put it together a second line, no one’s going to stop you. And that’s been going on since forever. It’d be a faux pas for the city to be like you don’t have the correct permits to have your little parade. Parades are kind of like a hustling opportunity for people. Very small business people will put a bar on a table for a single event. Or sell things out of the back of their car.

Zoe: Describe the scene that really made this possible.

Bjorn: It’s interesting because like the hipster, punk rock, underground weirdo scene in New Orleans is very large, but the neighborhood it encompasses is like fairly small. So it’s like a fairly tight knit group, like 200 or 300 people. I mean, it’s just like it’s just they say there’s like two degrees of separation in in for anybody in New Orleans. When you meet a new person the thing you do is you just like, well, who’s our friend in common? It’s sort of a very large family environment. It all kind of ends up feeling like your backyard and like more like a lemonade stand and just your friends coming by, even if you have started a real business, you know? I think even the real businesses feel a bit more like lemonade stand with your friends coming by.

Zoe: Is there anything else you want to say about Sushi Creep that you want people to know?

Bjorn: It was great. I had a great time. For me personally, it was fun. I’ve always imagined all these different, amazing careers I could have. But instead of being successful in anything that I ever imagined I would do, I’ve had a ridiculous, tiny success in everything I’ve done.

Zoe: Do you feel like Sushi Creep is like a part of the history of New Orleans?

Bjorn: I mean yes and no. Cool things fade quickly. But, there’s people who, like, walked into Sushi Creep and thought “this is something I can do”, you know, or their idea of what happens when you go down the road was influenced by that for a few years, and that just changes their expectation of New Orleans. So, yes, in part, I’d like to feel like I influence and guide and contribute to the future awesomeness of the city. I hope so.

Currently Michael Weber is no longer an underground Sushi Creep. He now has an underground bicycle and tricycle company, has just secured a key patent for a cargo trike, and makes giant paper robots, still in New Orleans. Check out his work at

Zoe is an independent and unprofessional investigator of underground scenes around the globe, inserting herself into steamy, exotic, and difficult situations so that you don’t have to. Catch her coverage of travel, sex, and drugs at

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