Welcome, one and all, to the fifth and final day of Name of Groans, Eater’s search for (and celebration of) the Most Truly Awful Restaurant Names out there. What a wild ride it’s been: We started off the week slogging through puns, and judge Matt Buchanan deemed Thelonious Monkfish the winner (loser?). Next, judge Helen Rosner evaluated the merits of distressingly sexual restaurant names, ultimately choosing to advance Pink Taco in the competition. On day three, judge Sonia Chopra faced her spelling and grammar demons, and decided that Mooo.... [sic] committed the gravest crime against language. Yesterday, judge Greg Morabito sifted through broadly categorized Just Really Bad names, arriving at the conclusion that Blunch was the worst (best?) of them all.
And now, a plot twist!
As I’ve been all week, I'm Hillary Dixler, your master of ceremonies and judge of the judges. As this competition’s narrator and voice of reason, I have stood by while our judges made decisions both wise and foolish, and now, I’m taking action: I’ve decided to throw one restaurant name back in the mix, a name I believe was erroneously discarded. (It is not Roister, because Roister was, alas, never actually a restaurant name in the competition, and to introduce it at this late date would be technically unfair, even if morally justifiable.) And so, I have decided to reintroduce a(MUSE.) [sic], a name I vehemently believe to be more Truly Awful than Mooo...., to which it fell on Day 3, and a name I believe has the drama, pretension, and illogical punctuation to take this whole thing.
After what I promise was an extremely thorough and legally binding review of audience feedback and our contest rules, Baguettaboudit! has also been re-introduced into play. (Or maybe I was actually just mad this one lost its day too, and am creating an entire wild-card side bracket, because I can, because why not.)
It is now my pleasure to introduce our guest judge, he who will decide it all: Lockhart Steele! Eater's founder, truly excellent name-haver, boss of my boss's boss, and restaurant obsessive to the extreme, Steele has the right combination of cutting insight and good taste to settle this competition once and for all. He also recently declared Name of Groans to be “Eater's most important project of this calendar year,” which is true. It is an honor to have him make the final judgment in this great Name of Groans we call life.
Take it away, Lock:
Truly awful restaurant names have always been essential to the DNA of Eater, because truly awful restaurant names have always been essential to the DNA of dining out. Peruse, for instance, this list of restaurants reviewed during the first four years of Eater NY’s dearly — some say senselessly — departed Shitshow Week. At Vermillion! Bar Artisanal Restaurant & Tapas Bar! Crossbar! Fishtag! Kurve! Shang! Sweetiepie! Turning these terrible names over in my mouth anew brings back that shitshow tang as if it were yesterday.
Names may not be destiny, but let’s be clear: These are really bad restaurant names, names one would not want to suggest to a date — or even type into Opentable, for fear of being judged by the reservation search algorithm. Yet as I think about what sort of criteria to employ to choose the Truly Worst Restaurant Name in these finals of Eater’s weeklong search for the worst of the worst, I sense a divide between good and evil, or, more precisely, between a good-bad name and a bad-bad name.
Back in 2010, Amanda Kludt wrote a blog post for Eater NY with the headline The Guy Who Almost Named His Hamptons Restaurant Dogwinkle. That man — a first-time restaurateur named Bruce Buschel — chronicled his restaurant creation on a New York Times blog, back when the New York Times had blogs. In one blog post reflecting on what to name his restaurant, Buschel wrote:
Once you start searching for a name, no syllable is exempt, no concept far-fetched, be it a lucky number, a movie, a weather forecast, an ingredient, a pun, a family pet. You are hooked. You walk around muttering Azure and Littleneck and Starfish and L.I.E. (Long Island Eatery) and Fluke. You jot down names at red lights: Ambersand and Bettina and Steel Pier and Lure and Latitude. And they all sound good. Until the light turns green.
Buschel may not have proven much of a restaurateur — his place made it a few years before closing in 2013 — but the man really had a knack for truly terrible restaurant names. L.I.E. (Long Island Eatery)! Ambersand! To say nothing of the names he mulls later in the same blog post, “Names like Catchworld and Blue Run and Drift Iron and Dogwinkle and Lantique” — any one of which obviously would have been a truly terrible name for a restaurant, and one of which inspired both Kludt’s great headline back in the day and a secret Eater Slack room named in its honor that persists today (no, you may not join it).
So, in the spirit of Dogwinkle, let us now judge the final contenders for most terrible restaurant name and crown our victor.
Wild Card Side Bracket
To begin I should point out that this wild card round is actually a play-in to the play-in, which is to say that either one of these restaurant names — raised from the dead by the powers that be behind this competition, not by me — will need to win this showdown and then beat out Moo.... in the next round just to make it to the Final Four. Can either of them complete such a fearsome trek to claim our chalice of cringeworthiness? Let’s find out!
Baguetteaboudit! hails from the Bad Puns bracket of this tournament. Regarding this name, judge Matt Buchanan observed, “There’s an elegant simplicity to Baguetteaboudit! (exclamation point legally required) and the sheer amount of offense packed into a single pun.” For me, I didn’t grasp the true horror of Baguetteaboudit! until I typed it out just now for the first time, that final u really sneaking up on me and smashing in my skull, the exclamation point rubbing salt in the wound. Great mother’s ghost, this is a terrible restaurant name.
a(MUSE.), typed just now by yours truly for the first time and hopefully close to last time in my life, is deeply painful in its own way. Like the judge of the Crimes Against Language bracket of this tournament, Sonia Chopra, I think that the period inside the parentheses is what elevates this name to a different level of monstrousness. In fact, from what I gather from water-cooler talk among the Eater team, a fair number of Chopra’s colleagues think a(MUSE.) should have won its bracket.
But it didn’t. And it’s not winning this one either.
Truth be told, I was prepared for Baguetteaboudit! to make a deep run in the finals of this contest. It’s such a hilariously overwrought name, with way too many letters and nearly as many concepts. And yet, here’s the thing: it’s actually one of those good-bad restaurant names I was talking about earlier. Like, I’d grab a sandwich from Baguetteaboudit! C’mon, you would too. We’d even assume it’ll be pretty good given the evident devotion to the specific type of bread with which our sandwiches presumably would be made.
Mooo...., on the other hand, is a bad-bad restaurant name. It’s adrift in a no-man’s land between childish, goofy, weird, mispunctuated, and embarrassing. I assume that this restaurant serves meat of some variety. Would I choose to eat meat from a restaurant named Mooo....? There is literally no chance in any known universe.
At last, the first of our Final Four matchups is upon us! Let’s dig right in. I respect judge Matt Buchanan’s outrage regarding the name of Thelonious Monkfish, what he describes as “the rank entitlement of stealing a dead man’s name and bolting it onto a moniker for a truly ugly fish.” Separately from that, I marvel at the owner’s decision to include the word Monkfish as part of a restaurant name. Unlike the case with, say, a warm and delicious baguette, it is hard to imagine a diner being drawn in to a restaurant by a fish that doesn’t even crack the top 10 of most people’s personal fish rankings, to say nothing of all the people out there who really hate fish. (The sage Buschel, again: “Not everyone is wild about roe.”)
Returning to Buchanan’s source of outrage, does it not somehow feel even more insulting that a restaurant sort of named for a jazz legend now must go head-to-head with… the sound a cow makes? And… lose?
Pink Taco comes to this Final Four matchup from the Distressingly Sexual bracket, judged by Helen Rosner, who astutely observed, “Pink Taco may as well be called ‘LOL Vaginas.’” Blunch, meanwhile, joins the Final Four from the Just Really Bad Names bracket, judged by Greg Morabito, who noted, “Seriously, fuck Blunch.”
Pink Taco is a gross name. But Blunch. Blunch. The word’s startling abruptness, combined with the feeling while speaking it aloud that something has gone very wrong, brings to mind the most derided new company name in recent memory, Tronc. And yet Tronc, for all its terrible metal-striking-metal mouthfeel, doesn’t appear to combine words or concepts (even though, would you believe, it’s an abbreviation of “Tribune online content”?). Blunch, on the other hand, is maybe… breakfast plus lunch? Brunch plus lunch? Jesus. Equally grim, and stupid.
Yet either way — or even if, holy hell, no portmanteau was intended at all — Blunch is unquestionably the sound people make when they throw up.
Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch. Mooo.... Blunch.
I have decided that we are making t-shirts of this mashup. Let me know if you want one.
I have never in my life been prouder of Team Eater.
The winner of Name of Groans, and the Most Truly Awful Restaurant Name in America, is: Blunch
Did your favorite bad-bad or good-bad restaurant name not make it in? Nominate it for next year’s bracket!
Editor (and person you should yell at if you’re mad): Helen Rosner
Contributors: Matt Buchanan, Sonia Chopra, Hillary Dixler, Greg Morabito, Helen Rosner, Lockhart Steele
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.