Perhaps it’s because mine is so unusual, but I have always been fascinated with names—what objects, people, pets and places are called, and why. I have names picked out for future pets, children I may or may not have, businesses I may never start and even restaurants and coffee shops that may never transpire. When it comes to names, I am prepared.
For small businesses—particularly restaurants and eateries—a name is a customer’s first impression of what to expect. Whether whimsical, highfalutin, witty, serious, historic, ethnic, etc., a name is the beginning of an experience, which is really what food and dining is all about.
When it came to naming his restaurant, Parkside’s Shawn Cirkiel looked to family roots for inspiration—Parkside is the city housing project where his father grew up in the Bronx in New York City. Cirkiel’s grandmother raised three children in a two-bedroom apartment where she did the laundry in the bathtub, but she still managed to entertain.
“The name represents where we came from, but also what we want to do—enjoy life,” Cirkiel says.
There is a tongue-in-cheek element to it as well. When you eat at a nice restaurant, you usually aren’t thinking about housing projects. “So, if you don’t know what it is, it’s just a fun name.”
As for Cirkiel’s second restaurant, Backspace, it is literally located in the “back space” of Parkside. Long before the actual restaurant, the unused area was fondly referred to as “the back space,” as in, “Hey, what are we going to do with the back space?” Cirkiel says.
Since The Peached Tortilla hit the road about a year ago, it has introduced the palates of Austinites to new tasty combinations with its bahn mi, Southern squash and crunchy catfish tacos, and BBQ brisket and crab cake sliders.
“We do food a little different—off the wall,” says chef Eric Silverstein. “And we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
For his food truck, Silverstein wanted a name he connected with but was also fun and fit his food concept. With the token fruit of his home state, Georgia, as his muse, Silverstein came up with “peached,” which he defines as the state of being flavor smitten.
Haddington’s owner, Michael Polombo, was in search of a perfect and very American name for the American tavern he had long wanted to open. For ideas, Polombo turned to his father—a history buff—who suggested that his son look to his great grandfather for inspiration. The Scottish John Peter “Jack” McLeod, based in Canada in the early 1900s, became one of the youngest deep sea captains. In 1914, McLeod captained a ship called “The Haddington.” After amassing a great fortune only to lose it during the Great Depression, McLeod moved to America in search of a new trade.
And for his other Austin restaurant, Mulberry, Polombo again looked to history, but this time his own and to Austin’s. A few of his friends involved in the restaurant once lived on Mulberry Street in New York City and threw some great parties, and in Downtown Austin, 10th Street was formerly known as Mulberry Street.
Chances are that patrons of Austin’s specialty coffee shops have had drinks brewed and pulled from Austin coffee roaster Cuvee Coffee’s carefully selected and handled beans. Originally known as Capital Coffee, the company’s espresso, its only product at the time, was called “Espresso Cuvee.”
“The reason we called it that is because in the making of Champagne, the cuvee is made only with the best grapes in the vineyard and usually from the first press,” McKim says. “So it is the best, the most pure, and the most elite offering.”
When McKim and his business partner parted ways, McKim renamed the company Cuvee Coffee and has since expanded its coffee bean offerings.
Whether for his coffee shop or his children, Houndstooth’s owner Sean Henry is a big fan of names actually having meaning, he says.
Originally Henry was going to call his coffee shop Plaid, but he wasn’t crazy about how it sounded. In Scotland—Henry is of Scottish, English and Irish decent—plaids serve as regional and community identities, similar to neighborhood coffee shops in America today. Henry eventually decided on the name Houndstooth after the very simple plaid pattern consisting of two colors woven together, which he feels represents the “pattern of the people.”
In England, coffee shops traditionally were gathering places for specific groups of people, Henry says. The ship merchants gathered at one shop to talk all things ship merchant, and the financial sector gathered at another to talk financials.
“Each shop has its own personality,” Henry says.