Imagine having to say that name on the phone 50 times a day.
Not just “Jack’s Nik’s” but “Two Jack’s Nik’s”? What could it mean? The website’s vagueness is compounded by sloppy editing, but the site does indicate that this restaurant, at 401 Haight Street, is a second-generation eatery. Its predecessors, both called simply Two Jack’s, are still open for business in San Francisco’s Bayview and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods. But neither of the founders was named Jack. Here’s what the home page says; I’ve done no editing except to spare you the all-caps text:
Two Jack’s Nik’s Place is a fresh twist on a 30
year San Franciscan tradition. Two Jack’s on
Haight Street first opened it’s doors in 1977
and the owners, Almeta and Stephen Perry,
introduced a unique style and unmistakable
quality of southern fried fish to the San
Francisco Bay Area. Now 30 years later their
daughter Erica aka “Nikki”, along with her
family are continuing the family tradition by
providing the great quality with a few new
touches. Join us and enjoy!
Speaking of “enjoy,” the proofreaders among you will relish correcting all the errors in that passage.*
“Two Jack’s Nik’s” is a tongue-twister and a head-scratcher. If there were two Jacks—maybe two jacks, as in cards or car-repair equipment?—why does the apostrophe appear before and not after the “s”? Why an apostrophe at all? Was there once someone nicknamed “Two Jack”? That might be a tale worth telling.
By now I think I can see several of you waving your arms and shouting another sibilantly possessive restaurant name. And yes, I too made the association with Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a national chain with more than 100 restaurants, including one in San Francisco. At least Ruth’s Chris has a story worth telling. Here’s my summary of the Funding Universe account:
The original Chris Steak House had been opened by Chris Matulich in New Orleans; after the place went bankrupt, Ruth Fertel—a native of Happy Jack (!), Louisiana—scraped up the money to buy it in May 1965. Against formidable odds (including Hurricane Betsy, which devastated New Orleans later that year), the restaurant thrived. When Fertel decided to open a second New Orleans location, Chris Matulich sued to prevent her from using the name he’d established. So Fertel simply added her own first name.
Me, I’d have proposed a complete renaming. Happy Jack Steak House, anyone? The humor magazine McSweeney’s has a few other ideas, including “Kate’s Keith Steak House.”
As for Two Jack’s Nik’s Place—well, it has a respectable number of four- and five-star reviews on Yelp. And with a single exception, every reviewer spells it “Two Jacks,” without the apostrophe. Listen to your customers, TJNP!
* I counted eight mistakes, a 10 percent error rate that does not attest to “great quality.” The rest of the website could also benefit from a red pen: I caught “avacado,” “Bellini’s” (as a plural), and “Visitation” Valley. (The neighborhood retains the Spanish spelling.) Sometimes there’s an apostrophe in “Nik’s” and sometimes it disappears. Oh, and I’d advise against naming a burger “Anais.” It’s just not worth the rump-roast jokes.