It's day four of Name of Groans, Eater's weeklong journey toward the shimmering beacon of hope that is the Most Truly Awful Restaurant Name. To get here, we've waded through the muck of tragic puns (Thelonious Monkfish), sex jokes (Pink Taco), and grammatical horrors (Mooo.... [sic]). For the last of our qualifying brackets, it's time to explore names that are Just Really Bad. If you would be so kind: brace.
As always, I’m Hillary Dixler, your master of ceremonies and judge of the judges. Also as always, the winner of this category is determined bracket-style, with a single voice of authority — today’s judge is senior editor Greg Morabito — running down the eight restaurant names in the lineup. There are two rules: No ties, and no considering anything except the restaurant name itself, in a vacuum. No websites, no social media, no menus, no nothing. (For the full methodology and more detailed info, check out the bottom of this post.)
Today’s contenders, randomized in the bracket and here in alphabetical order, are: Blunch (Boston), Elegance of the Seasons (Grand Haven, Michigan), Honeybrains (New York City), In Boston (um), Pasta Beach (Boston, Providence, and Newport), Screaming Tuna (Milwaukee), Table* (Washington, D.C.), and Sweedeedee (Portland, Oregon).
Let’s turn things over to Greg Morabito:
In Boston is, presumably, a restaurant that answers the question: “Where’s Mark Wahlberg right now?” And Honeybrains is not only a dining establishment, it’s also a term of endearment between one alcoholic Charles Bukowski character and a second alcoholic Charles Bukowski character. It’s a tough call, but In Boston edges out the competition, because it mucks up every sentence: “We’re going to dinner at In Boston tonight.” “I lost my credit card somewhere inside In Boston.” “Did you hear In Boston closed?”
Winner: In Boston
Seriously, fuck Blunch. The hybrid of breakfast and lunch has a hard enough time gaining credibility as it is, with the dumbass portmanteau that was ascribed to it decades ago. The golden rule for enjoying brunch is to not think about it too much — and Blunch forces you to consider the whole concept all over again. But is it worse than Screaming Tuna? That’s the million-dollar question. The owners of that restaurant definitely probably stole the name from a vintage store full of $60 Alf T-shirts and bell-bottoms haunted by the Ghosts of Key Parties Past. Still, Blunch is moving to the next round because the word lowers the IQ of everyone who says, reads, or types it.
Elegance of the Seasons
Elegance of the Seasons is likely inspired by: A) one of Rumi’s great-yet-obscure sensual poems, B) a Donovan B-side, C) one of the middle discs in a Criterion Collection Kurosawa box set. Table, on the other hand, must be a throwback to the mid-aughts, a time when chefs opened slightly pricey farm-to-table restaurants with punishing communal seating, chalkboard menus, mismatched silverware, and single-occupancy bathrooms right near the kitchen pass. Not to mention that naming convention that infected restaurantland for nearly a decade: the profound, simplistic, single-word title. The battle goes to Table, for its extreme embodiment of that trend.
Any true Parrothead will tell you that Pasta Beach is Jimmy’s most underrated jam. (The best part is when he rhymes “strozzapreti” with “getting sweaty.”) In a different corner of the bad-name universe, I’m pretty sure Walt Disney had big plans for Sweedeedee, which sounds like an anthropomorphized Nutria with a Nawlins drawl and a gambling habit who, sadly, never made the jump from sketchpad to celluloid. That just can’t stand up to the evocative imagery of Pasta Beach.
Winner: Pasta Beach
The Bean Town Showdown! If this bracket has proven anything, it’s that Boston is inexplicably home to the worst restaurant names in our galaxy, and these are but two examples of this phenomenon. In Boston is absolutely un-Googleable — seriously, try it, I dare you to find the homepage of this restaurant — but Blunch has an edge because it is both dopey and gross. (It kind of sounds like vomiting?)
Though Table is, as a pretentiously minimalist restaurant name, obnoxious to the nth degree, Pasta Beach achieves a level of absurdity that just can’t be beat. (Plus it’s probably what Marlon Brando called his private island in the South Pacific.)
Winner: Pasta Beach
This is a very tough call. In an ideal world, both of these restaurants would deserve time in the bad-restaurant-name shame spotlight. But with repeated exposure — for example, judging it through three rounds of a bad-restaurant-name bracket — there might be a scenario wherein Pasta Beach might eventually sound somewhat normal. That’s not the case with Blunch: In whatever sentence it’s crammed into, it will always, always stick out like a sore thumb. Blunch is the apex predator of straight-up bad restaurant names. It will always eat the competition.
Bracket Winner: Blunch
Hey hey hey! Hillary here again, with your bracket recap and ~judgment of judge~. I have previously expressed my opinion that Pink Taco’s win in the Distressingly Sexual bracket was compromised because it did not face off with Roister, a restaurant name that I continue to be amazed is not in competition. It turns out that my dismay was misplaced, and I apologize for the error: The rules of this tournament clearly would have put Roister in today's category. Its absence from Name of Groans overall, of course, remains yet another error, for which I demand an apology from the person who made the final call on inclusion, which was not me. [It was me. I’m not sorry. — Helen]
Anyway! It's the last qualifying bracket before the final round, and Morabito is not here to fuck around with it. He gets right the heart of the matter when In Boston whoops Honeybrains: “In Boston is, presumably, a restaurant that answers the question: 'Where’s Mark Wahlberg right now?’” I also applaud Morabito for making the tough but correct call on the relative merits of Screaming Tuna versus Blunch. Screaming Tuna is bad — but Blunch, as a word, makes us all a little bit stupider, and also the sound of it is so profoundly unappealing. What monster would put such a word anywhere near food?
Two rounds in, and I thought to myself, Finally, I’ve found a colleague with whom I'm entirely in sync. But no. While Table is definitely a Bad Name, it has precedent. To me, that's a mitigating factor — especially in the face of the freshman poetry that is Elegance of the Seasons — but not for Morabito. Damn you, Greg, I thought we were going to make it. Through tears I see Morabito has advanced Pasta Beach over Sweedeedee, which is well and good, and maybe there's a chance for us after all.
Blunch continues on its winning streak, knocking out In Boston. While it would have been fitting for a restaurant named after a metro area with so many terrible restaurant names to take the bracket (seriously, Boston, what’s going on with you?), it's just not meant to be. I also fully support Morabito's decision to advance Pasta Beach over Table. Table is pretentious, but I really don't think it's that bad???!!!
And so we have it: a final showdown of Pasta Beach versus Blunch. Morabito says he can imagine a scenario in which Pasta Beach could become normalized. He’s right that it's no match for Blunch, which is (thank goodness) continuing on to the final showdown. Who will prevail among Thelonious Monkfish, Pink Taco, Mooo...., and Blunch? Only tomorrow knows. See you then.
* Now closed, but per our arbitrary rules (and due to exceptional potential for Truly Awfulness), allowed to remain in competition.
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.