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Have you ever noticed some of the restaurant names in Chinatown?

by Eric Nuzum January 6, 2011 at 6:01 am 50 Comments

I work right near Chinatown and pass through it every day. yet it was years before I really started to notice some of the restaurant names there.

Let me share a few of my favorites.

Eat First Restaurant
Seeing this restaurant name when walking down the street poses a fairly obvious question: “As opposed to what?” What is the restaurant owner suggesting happens “first” at other lesser dining establishments? And how is the “eat first” moniker a competitive advantage? All I can think of is “Eat first and ask questions later,” which isn’t terribly appetizing.

New Big Wong
So when naming this restaurant, the owner didn’t think calling it simply “Big Wong” would be good enough. They probably didn’t feel that packed enough punch. Hard to imagine, but that could be possible. So instead, they decide to call the place the New Big Wong. That’s kind of genius.

Okay, I will admit, when I first moved to DC, this was the first Chinese restaurant I ate at. Why? Because I couldn’t wait to go back to work and have someone ask me where I went for lunch.

Wok-N-Roll
Step back, pun-loving DC Thai restaurants! The proprietors of Wok-N-Roll know a thing about wordplay, too! But what makes this restaurant noteworthy isn’t the name, but the building itself. If you read the tiny marker attached the the remains of the facade, you’ll learn that Wok-N-Roll used to be–about 145 years ago–the home of Mary Surratt. Back then, Mary was one of the conspirators convicted and hung hanged for the assassination of President Lincoln. Today, Mary Surratt is one of the hardest working spooks in DC. I’m not talking the CIA variety, either. Her ghost is rumored to haunt no less than four locations in downtown DC, including this building. So if you see a rather pale woman roaming the tables at Wok-N-Roll, it might be Mary! Scary! If you told spectral Mary that her home was now a restaurant that serves Chinese food, she’d probably reply, “What is Chinese food?”

Mee Wah Lung
Perhaps I’m being too much of a stickler here. But I’m pretty sure having the word “lung” in a restaurant title is a pretty tough marketing challenge. That may explain why it is now out of business.

Asian Spice

Asian Spice is not an unusual name in itself, its actually fairly clear and straight forward. The name would only be a problem if they served, say, Icelandic hot dogs or Hungarian baked goods. There are several dishes on the Asian Spice menu with unusual names. Case in point, the rack of Lamb, aka “Silence of the Lamb.” Plus, $29! They must have to pay some royalties or something.

I can only imagine that there is some Chinese language blog out there somewhere who loves to nail Chinatown’s other business for the translation of the characters they more-than-likely misuse. So I guess we are all even in the end.

Any other restaurant names–from Chinatown or elsewhere–that stick out in your mind as classics?

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