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 a full bar (a major liquor company was the magazine’s sole advertiser) and, often, an adjective-noun name: 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:
Anchor & Hope, which San Francisco magazine called “a hipped-up seafood shack.” It’s not on the waterfront, however.
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.
In Ohio, the Max & Erma's chain. It's been around for a few decades.
Posted by: Neal Whitman | July 14, 2010 at 10:58 AM
Many of the pubs in England are X & Y: Rose & Crown, Crown & Anchor (The badge of the Royal Navy's petty officers; used by retired seamen who became landlords), Wagon & Horses, Axe and Compass (used by carpenters, joiners and wheelwrights who converted their homes into pubs), Mortar and Pestle (guarantee that the landlord brewed the ale himself), Bottle & Glass (Glasses and bottles were a novelty in the 17th century; publicans wanted to show they were up to date), Cock & Feathers, etc.
Posted by: Tim H | July 14, 2010 at 11:12 AM
Birch & Barley opened recently in my neighborhood, Logan Circle, Washington, DC
Posted by: David | July 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM
Funny that Musso & Frank combines a surname and a first name.
I'm sure there are plenty in Boston, but all that comes to mind right now is Myers + Chang.
Posted by: Karen | July 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM
In our neighborhood we got a new restaurant called Cowboys & Turbans. It's Indian/TexMex.
Posted by: cybele | July 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM
I live in Austin, Texas, which boasts:
Crown and Anchor and Dog and Duck, both bar-type establishments that have been around for a while.
And no one has mentioned Carlos' & Charlies'.
Posted by: Kelse | July 14, 2010 at 02:48 PM
A variation on a theme would be one word repeated, or even a single letter, sans ampersands. Such is the case with the Devanagari (literally City of God) aspirated consonants Cha Cha, whose repetition reinforces the brand of Seattle’s current hipster headquarters.
Allowance for non-English characters in domain-name root servers opens up possibilities for unique branding that over-rides existing non-international character sets in previously registered domains.
Will we see more French words serving as brands for U.S. restaurants or, more pointedly, cafés?
Wait ‘n See.
Posted by: Anthony Mitchell | July 14, 2010 at 05:00 PM
A & W. :-)
McCormick & Schmick's, which sports a possessive that I note most of your examples don't. Spottily nationwide, those folks.
Stanley & Seafort's in Tacoma (WA)
Perhaps for future consideration, if you haven't already done so, you could address one of the odder restaurant names: Ruth's Chris Steak House. Not just the weird possessive, but the busted-appart "steak" + "house".
Posted by: mike | July 15, 2010 at 11:02 AM
Mike: There's a McCormick & Schmick's in S.F. (They really cashed in on the K sounds.) But I should have been clearer in my post: I was attempting to highlight the NON-eponymic X + Y names--the ones using ingredients or abstract nouns.
And yes, I've given some thought to writing about Ruth's Chris! There's an interesting story there!
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | July 15, 2010 at 04:35 PM
Karen beat me to Myers & Chang, but that one is not only eponymic but actually informative (two local restaurant people who were/are an item, Mr. Myers and Ms. Chang, opened a place together). After much cogitation, I remembered we also have an Indian/Pakistani restaurant called Grain & Salt. Boston doesn't seem to go in too much for restaurants named after ingredients or abstract words, though we do have a few (Flour, Drink). We do seem to have a lot named after locations, either their own or others.
Posted by: Linda | July 18, 2010 at 11:33 AM
Love the history of English pub names—thanks to Tim H! That's one reason I loved Martha Grimes mysteries, which all feature as their titles the names of actual pubs, including "The Five Bells and Bladebone," which was a pub in London's Limehouse neighborhood. Apparently the proprietors found the name too colorful, and changed it to the much less interesting "5B Urban Bar." (Maybe as karmic justice, the jukebox is apparently possessed by "evil spirits," according to one online reviewer, and will only play songs from "Grease.")
Posted by: Susan Champlin | July 20, 2010 at 06:10 AM
In Lincoln, NE, Bread & Cup is celebrating its third anniversary.
Posted by: Daniel | August 05, 2010 at 12:30 AM