The culinary equivalent of a first impression, a restaurant’s name is the quickest way to stand out from the competition. Some, like Ford Fry, brainstorm with mood boards, taking inspiration from cuisine, geographical location, history—even old cookbooks. Others are less formal. Ryan Pernice of Table & Main jotted down columns of words associated with his restaurant and eventually threw an ampersand in between his two favorites. Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene started by flipping through a dictionary. But regardless of their approach, chefs laid down a few hard and fast rules: The name should be easy to pronounce, no more than two or three words, in English, and meaningful to either the owners or the restaurant itself. With hundreds of possibilities left on the cutting room floor, can you figure out what could have been for these restaurants?
1. BeetleCat could have been
B The Opti
D The Half-Shell
2. Restaurant Eugene could have been
D The Atlantan
3. Table & Main could have been
A The King Club
C Corner Kitchen
D Cork & Canton
4. Antico Pizza could have been
A The Mad Italian
B Pizza Amore
C Giovanni’s Pizzeria
5. The General Muir could have been
B Sonia & Sol’s
C The Deli
D Katz’s South
6. One Flew South could have been
A Hen of the Woods
B Gate City Grill
C Cuckoo’s Calling
D The Layover
7. Cooks & Soldiers could have been
8. Staplehouse could have been
A Lion’s Park
B Dinner at Hidi’s
C Aces 541
D Duck Fat
1. C; Vibrolux, a brand of reverb amplifier, appealed to Ford Fry because of the restaurant’s surf rock theme. Instead he chose BeetleCat, a type of boat, because sister restaurant the Optimist is also named after a boat.
2. A; Linton Hopkins discovered Circe, a Greek goddess known for hosting great feasts, in a Greek dictionary. But with no meaningful connection to the name, he ultimately decided to name his flagship for his grandfather.
3. A; Ryan Pernice briefly considered naming his Roswell restaurant after town founder Roswell King. The real name was inspired in part by the restaurant’s address.
4. D; 081 is the area code for Naples, where Giovanni Di Palma sources his flour. He felt that Antico, the Italian word for “ancient,” better represented his food.
5. B; Co-owner Jennifer Johnson considered using her grandparents’ first names but instead went with the name of the refugee ship that brought them to the U.S. from Germany in 1949.
6. A; Green Olive Media drafted more than 300 possibilities, including Hen of the Woods (a mushroom), before playing off the airport locale and globally inspired Southern menu.
7. C; Dinostia is the Basque name for San Sebastian, a resort town in Spain. The final name comes from a 24-hour festival at which town locals dress up as
cooks and soldiers.
8. A; The late Ryan Hidinger grew up in Zionsville near Lion’s Park in Indianapolis. Staplehouse was a better fit, merging “staples” (life essentials) and “house” (the place where you’ll find them).
This article originally appeared in our February 2016 issue under the headline “The Name Game.”