Don’t ever open a restaurant called “The Cockroach.” But La Cucaracha? It’s been crawling for more than 20 years near Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
Pig Ate My Pizza makes some interesting and tasty pies, but that name? We also have a Scusi and a Cuzzy’s, both of which are a little too close to “scuzzy” for my taste.
Your perception of a restaurant often starts with its name. La Belle Vie sounds elegant, and it is. Haute Dish is cheeky, as is the Strip Club, and both of those places deliver food and drink to match such playful attitudes.
What about Heyday, the forthcoming restaurant from chef Jim Christiansen? “We joked about calling it The Social Public Eatery House,” laughs Christiansen, pointing out trendy words that keep finding their way into local restaurant names. He settled on Heyday because it was unique and had a story. “It’s used to express wonder or elation and also to define our period of greatest popularity and prosperity,” he says.
Then there’s French Meadow Bakery’s new restaurant, Bluestem Bar & Table, which opened in June—right after Kansas City chef Colby Garrelts won the James Beard Award for his restaurant, Bluestem. A few Minnesota foodies tweeted their disgust: “It’s shameful;” “A total diss.”
I got the story behind the name from Bluestem owner Lynn Gordon, a local innovator whose French Meadow Bakery was decades ahead of the organic trend. (The new wine bar is adjacent to the Uptown French Meadow.) Gordon says she’s focused on “restorative agriculture,” the idea that farming can make our soil and water better than it is today. Her original idea for a name, Prairie, was recently snapped up by the new-ish restaurant in the Minneapolis Hilton. When a friend suggested Bluestem, a prairie grass native to Minnesota, she had no idea about the foodie favorite in Missouri.
And if she had known? “I still would have done it,” Gordon says. “This message is more important to me than the restaurant in Kansas City.”
Had I been in her shoes, I would have done the same. This is not like calling your student art project “Mona Lisa,” or your garage band Coldplay. There are Saffron restaurants in Virginia, New York, South Carolina, San Diego, and Minneapolis. So what? And how many Minnesota diners have even heard of the Kansas City eatery?
What ultimately matters is the food and the service. That which we call “the cockroach” would smell as sweet, right?
Jason Derusha is a morning anchor at WCCO-TV. Have a dining mystery you want Jason to solve? Email him at DeRushaEats@gmail.com.