Here we are on the third day of Name of Groans, Eater's bracket-style showdown of the most Truly Awful restaurant names out there. Before we move forward, a look backward: We started out our week with puns (it got bloody), when Matt Buchanan sent Thelonious Monkfish to the Final Four. We ~went there~ with the sex references (so, so many sex references), and Helen Rosner advanced Pink Taco. And now today — today is a beautiful day, because it's time to explore the extremities of the English language, and learn how restaurateurs are carelessly destroying it in their attempts to have a really cool sign. (Roister, a restaurant name that is perhaps criminal in its use of an obscure and ugly word, is spelled correctly and without any wonky punctuation marks, so it is, regrettably, not in today's lineup.)
As I have been before, I continue to be Hillary Dixler, your master of ceremonies and judge of the judges. As always, this is judgment by bracket, with a single authority — today’s judge is managing editor Sonia Chopra — imposing her will on the category’s eight restaurant names. There are two rules: No ties, and no considering anything except the restaurant name as a restaurant name. No context: no websites, no social media, no menus, nothing. (For more details and our full methodology, see the bottom of this post.)
Today’s contenders, randomized in the bracket and here in alphabetical order, with all punctuation and capitalization true to the restaurant’s style, are: a(Muse.) [sic] (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware), COUNTER 3.Five.VII [sic] (Austin, Texas), Hashtag Poki [sic] (Berkeley, California), I Luv Cheese [sic] (Clinton, Michigan), MAST' [sic] (Boston), Mooo.... [sic] (Boston), T'ahpas 529 [sic] (Melrose, MA), and Think? [sic] (San Pedro, California).
This one’s all yours, Sonia Chopra.
These restaurants are the equivalent of the girls you went to middle school with who changed their names to be more original — it’s spelled Jesykaa, not Jessica, thanks — once they started shopping at Hot Topic. The word “mast” on its own invokes cool blond wood and full beards and big ships; “amuse” both harkens to fun times and is vaguely French in a way restaurants love. But with the punctuation and capitalization happening here, all bets are off: Is MAST’ a shortened form of a longer word? Is the spar of a sailing vessel — a mast — trying to claim ownership over something (maybe its sail?)? Who is this muse? With the indefinite article and the capital-letter emphasis— a MUSE — maybe we’re supposed to think it’s one of the nine Greek goddesses (my guess would be Polyhymnia), but what do those parentheses invoke? How declarative is that period supposed to read, or is it suggesting an abbreviation? Could this really be trying to say a MUSEUM? We may never know, but the flagrantly ungrammatical period-inside-parentheses decision has kept me up at night.
T'ahpas 529 is at least kind of useful as a descriptive name, but is it also some kind of obscure direct-object-having French verb conjugation? Je t’aime — wait, no, actually, I meant je t’ahpas. At least its numbers are all numerals: At COUNTER, the style varies digit to digit in a way that’s just over-the-top unacceptable — each number written using a different representative system! At least all its characters are able to translate to social media handles exactly as styled, though.
Winner: T’ahpas 529
If you put a hashtag in your restaurant's name, you clearly assume your business will be around for no longer than a single fickle trend cycle. That goes double if what follows the hashtag — the spelled-out hashtag, which is not how this is supposed to work — is a misspelled version of this season's hottest raw-fish dish. But having low expectations of your longevity is better than the alternative: Choosing a name that isn't even sure of itself. What do you want to eat for dinner, honey? I think we should try Think? No thank you.
I Luv Cheese
I love cheese as much as the next person, maybe even luv it, but that doesn’t excuse the unacceptable spelling of this name. Still, that misdemeanor just can’t stand up to the uncertain bovinity of Mooo…., with the confused trailing of its three o’s and four periods (not even a proper ellipsis!). What are you trying to say, Mooo….?
Two true crimes against orthography were committed when these restaurants’ signs went up. Menus were printed, Instagram handles were picked, and still, nobody stopped to wonder how customers would ever remember these spellings to find the restaurants again. But there are so many tapas restaurants in the world these days, so who can really blame this one for trying to stand out? a(MUSE.) — which gives no indication of its culinary genre, only its proprietors’ apparent fondness for the shift key and British-style parenthetical punctuation — has no excuse.
Neither of these names is in any way useful to a diner looking for context about the actual food she’s going to be eating, but it is to Think?’s credit that at least that question mark makes a little contextual sense. Mooo…., though, with its flagrant disregard for both spelling and orthographic convention, is asking way too much without giving anything back.
This bracket has a purpose (unlike these restaurant names), and that purpose is to find the restaurant whose name transgresses the laws of the written language more than any of the others. Yes, it’s true that a(MUSE.) is trying way too hard with all of the symbols and caps-locking. But the choices made in this name mean something to someone out there, and the same thing cannot be said for Mooo...., which is just... confusing. For its lack of respect for one of the world’s most common onomatopoeias, and its misuse of the powerful ultra-ellipsis, Mooo…. will advance.
Bracket Winner: Mooo....
Aloha! Hillary here, with a post-bracket analysis. Knowing my colleague Sonia Chopra's deep and abiding love of grammar, I'm not at all surprised that the period-inside-parenthesis of a(Muse.) kept her up at night, and also beat out the brazenly caps-locked MAST’: fundamentally, MAST’ is legible, and therefore it doesn't deserve to continue on in Name of Groans. Not when there are restaurant names like COUNTER 3.Five.VII to be dealt with.
About that one. It looks like Chopra strays from the light in the next matchup, where, improbably, T'ahpas 529 is deemed a worse restaurant name than the multi-numerical-style monstrosity. That T'ahpas 529 is still in the running at the end of this pairing has shaken me to my core. I am shook. But Chopra's back on track with the next matchup, too strong to succumb to the easy temptations of a misspelled, mishashtagged hashtag. Think?’s question mark is galling, and Chopra rightly points out just how awkward the name is to even imagine pronouncing out loud. I also agree with her decision to advance Mooo…., with its extra ‘o’ and extra period.
Were I the judge, we’d enter Round 2 with a(MUSE.) taking on COUNTER 3.Five.VII. It would have been a showdown for the ages, a showdown that would ultimately, I believe, find its winner taking the whole bracket — and possibly the whole tournament. But I’m not the judge, so instead we have a(MUSE.) up against T’ahpas 529. Of course it's a(MUSE.). It should be a(MUSE.). Maybe it was always going to be a(MUSE.). Maybe.
Mooo…. defeats Think? — that’s me making an affirmative statement, no pauses or questions in my tone — which I am good with, because ultimately I don't care about this matchup. I'm still smarting over the loss of COUNTER 3.Five.VII from Round 1, and I maybe need a moment to collect myself because in Round 3, something terrible is about to happen.
Somehow, and I really don’t understand this, a(MUSE.) — strong enough to beat a name that manages to be terrible without using kidspeak or onomatopoeia — is out of the race. As it did in yesterday's exploration of distressingly sexual names, the decision in today's final showdown comes down to a technicality. With its improper spelling and ellipses, Chopra decrees that it is Mooo…. which most “transgresses the laws of the written language.” This is not the right call, but it is the call. Mooo…. advances to Friday’s final round. Join us tomorrow for the fourth and last qualifying bracket, judged by Eater senior editor Greg Morabito — possibly the most thrillingly abstract of all the brackets we’ve been through so far: Just Really Bad Names.
Editor (and person you should yell at if you’re mad): Helen Rosner
Contributors: Matt Buchanan, Sonia Chopra, Hillary Dixler, Greg Morabito, Helen Rosner
Graphics: Brittany Holloway Brown
Copy editor: Emma Alpern
Special thanks to Erin DeJesus, Mary Hough, Kristine Hsu, Milly McGuinness, Adam Moussa, and all the Eater readers and fans who submitted their favorite so-bad-they’re-good restaurant names.