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What’s in a name? How Seattle eateries got their monikers

Ballard's Staple & Fancy got it's name from an old grocery sign on its walls. (Image courtesy Staple & Fancy)

Have you ever wondered how your favorite eatery got its name? Seattle Kitchen hosts and restaurant owners Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau say its usually something owners put a lot of thought into.

“You want to be catchy. You want to be meaningful, all these ingredients. And you don’t want to make it too complicated, or you make it so complicated people will never forget,” says Thierry.

Tom says he’s made a few blunders in naming some of his 13 restaurants. He says no one can pronounce the name of his Italian restaurant Cuoco, named for the word “cook” in Italian.

“Nobody gets it right the first time. That is really not the smartest move I’ve ever done in my life to name a restaurant that people can’t pronounce.”

Thierry got his first restaurant name by default. Rover had already carried that name when he took it over and he says he didn’t feel creative enough to change it. When it came to naming his second restaurant, Thierry went with a simple homage to his dad, naming the restaurant Luc.

“He was a very simple guy and that’s what that place was to me. I wanted to make a simple neighborhood French-American bistro.”

Seattle Kitchen producer Tina Nole wanted to get the lowdown on how a few more Seattle restaurant names came to be, so she reached out to a more owners around the city.

Cicchetti owner Susan Kaufman says her restaurant on Eastlake got its name from the word for small plates in Venice.

“The concept of the restaurant was ‘shareable plates,'” says Kaufman. “The word itself means ‘small plates’ or ‘snacks or nips.'”

Just try and guess the origin for the name of Charles Walpole’s Blind Pig Bistro. It turns out the name was actually based in history.

“The name came from this concept from probably the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century of a legal drinking establishment that was a little sketchier version of a speakeasy, in that the owner of the establishment could legally serve alcohol by putting on some sort of a show and the show would usually be something really lame, like some farm animals or stuff like that,” said Walpole. “They were always kind of in hidden spaces and shady areas too, so it kind of fit our present, modern location so we went with it.”

Staple & Fancy in Ballard also has a fun origin story.

“They were doing the demolition work on the space and uncovered these great painted red brick walls and the name of an old grocery store was on there and we used that,” says owner Ethan Stowell.

Tina asked Tom and Thierry to guess, just by the owners’ description of the origin, which restaurant name they were speaking of. Tom and Thierry got two of three. Blind Pig Bistro stumped them.

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