A while back, in a post about Canadian fashion brand Teenflo’s name change to Judith & Charles, I noted that the new name fit a pattern I’ve been seeing a lot lately. I called it “X + Y,” and I mentioned that I’ve noticed a parallel trend in restaurant naming. Today I want to show you some examples.
As with fashion and retail, X + Y restaurants aren’t entirely new. In the past, though, the X and Y elements have almost always been surnames: Musso & Frank (in Los Angeles) and Smith & Wollensky (in various cities) are two venerable examples. Musso & Frank was named for its founders, Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet; Smith & Wollensky was reputedly named via a random search of the Manhattan phone directory.
And X + Y is hardly the first significant fad in restaurant naming. In the late 1980s I was a contributing editor at a magazine called Tables that was distributed free of charge to the wait staff at a certain type of large restaurant—the type that had full bars (a major liquor company was the magazine’s sole advertiser) and, often, adjective-noun names: Ruby Tuesday, Velvet Turtle, Red Lobster.
In the early 2000s we saw a trend toward stark one-word names (mostly nouns) that seemed to say, “We can’t be bothered with fancy nomenclature—we’re much too busy creating fabulosity in the kitchen.” Many of the one-word eateries are still around: Animal, Home, Dine, Dish, Fly, Fork, Grub, Range, Sauce, Savor, Spork, and Street come to mind.
The current double-barreled trend expands on the previous theme, inserting “and,” an ampersand, or a plus sign between the nouns. The result is more expansive and inclusive than a one-word name; it feels more balanced (like an equation), and it tells a bit more of a story. On the other hand, the formula is in danger of becoming as clichéd as the old adjective-noun names.
Food-obsessed San Francisco leads the way here. My surely-not-comprehensive list includes:
In New York:
Pies-n-Thighs (what this restaurant serves; note the folksy alternative to “+”)
Abe & Arthur’s (named after the founders’ grandfathers, but not connected to them otherwise)
Wall & Water (named for its Lower Manhattan address)
Longman & Eagle (named for the eagle statue in Logan Square and for the statue’s creator, Evelyn Longman)
In Los Angeles:
First & Hope (named after the corner of First and Hope streets, where it’s located)
Church & State (not an address)
In Portland, Oregon:
Any X+Y restaurant sightings in your neighborhoods?
* Baker and Banker happen to be the surnames of this restaurant’s founders, but the name is such a perfect X + Y that I couldn’t resist including it.