Like naming a baby, picking the right name for a restaurant can trigger high-level anxiety. How can you make sure the chosen moniker will properly sum up your progeny? Will the name be easy to pronounce and remember? Will it stand out from the others?
On top of that, restaurateurs must ask themselves: How Google-able is it? And what if it has been registered by an entity that will sue you if you try to infringe on its rights?
One reliable, old-fashioned solution: Go the eponymous route. Alon’s Bakery is named for Alon Balshan, Gu’s Kitchen (and Gu’s Dumplings) for Yiquan Gu, Kaiser’s Chophouse for Peter Kaiser, Sushi Hayakawa for Atsushi Hayakawa, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q for twins Jonathan and Justin Fox, and, back in the day, Seeger’s for Günter Seeger and Pano’s and Paul’s for Pano Karatassos and Paul Albrecht.
Occasionally, though, a “junior” can cause confusion. In the early aughts, some people meaning to eat risotto at Sotto Sotto wound up at Soto, chef Sotohiro Kosugi’s sensational (and, sadly, now shuttered) Japanese restaurant.
When it comes to newer restaurant names, the prevailing sentiment is to name them not as if they’re children but as if they’re animals. Poor Hendrix is both a beloved rescue pit bull and its owners’ delightful bar and restaurant in East Lake. Little Bear, a fluffy Great Pyrenees belonging to chef Jarrett Stieber and his wife, will soon have his name above the door of the couple’s Summerhill restaurant. Birds are in, too, as evidenced by Cardinal, a secret bar in Grant Park, and Redbird, Ross Jones and Zeb Stevenson’s restaurant in the former location of Bacchanalia. Cephalopods (8Arm and Octopus Bar) and game (The Deer and the Dove) also get a nod.
Today’s non-animal names are just as whimsical. Vietvana sounds hippy-dippy, but it may turn out to be a better name for a Vietnamese restaurant than Buckhead’s Le Colonial, which could be construed as glamorizing a regrettable chapter of French history. Japanophiles will get a kick out of the name of Michael Lo and George Yu’s latest production, Salaryman, and people who love their mothers will appreciate chef Ron Hsu cheekily calling his place Lazy Betty (for a mother who was anything but a slouch).
And while there’s no denying that the name Slutty Vegan adds to the wild popularity of Pinky Cole’s plant-based burger joint, more polite terms—say, ex–Gunshow chef Joey Ward’s new Poncey-Highland spots Southern Belle and Georgia Boy—make a case for manners.
This article appears in our January 2020 issue.