Dining With Denise Neil

How some favorite Wichita restaurants got their names

The Anchor's owner plans to start a big remodel this summer, which could mean closing the bar down for six to eight weeks. But she has a backup plan.
The Anchor's owner plans to start a big remodel this summer, which could mean closing the bar down for six to eight weeks. But she has a backup plan. Eagle file photo

Naming a child is hard enough.

But when it’s time to name a restaurant, deliberations can be even more daunting. Should the name be aimed at inducing hunger? Should it reflect something personal? Or should it simply describe the cuisine?

More than a decade ago, I told the stories behind the naming of several Wichita restaurants. You can find those classic naming tales below.

But since then, many new restaurants have opened, and their names have stories behind them that deserve sharing, too.

Let me know whether you want to hear the story behind the names of any other local restaurant. E-mail me at dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

▪ Hopping Gnome Brewing, 1710 E. Douglas: When Torrey and Stacy Lattin were still dreaming about opening their brewery – something they finally did in 2015 – they were struggling to come up with a name. Several of the ones they thought of, they would learn after internet searches, were already taken by breweries in other cities.

During one such discussion, Torrey went to the basement to grab a beer and saw a Kansas City Royals gnome that the couple had gotten as a giveaway at a game.

“He ran upstairs and said, ‘How about Hopping Gnome, like for hops in the beer, and how gnomes are known for drinking in folklore?’ ” Stacy said. “We looked it up and got the domain and Twitter handle immediately, and this was about two years before we opened.”

Local artist Chris Parks designed a gnome-like logo, and the Lattins now are constantly showered by their customers with gnome figurines, which are displayed above the door. They’re also frequently showered with gnome puns, the best of which they print on their T-shirts.

Stacy’s favorite so far? “There’s No Place Like Gnome.”

▪ Parsnipity Cafe, 301 N. Main, inside the Epic Center: The name for Cynthia Wilson’s cafe came to her in a dream, years before she ever knew she’d open a restaurant. At the time, she and her husband/co-owner, Craig Bjork, were addicted to “The Great Food Truck Race” on Food Network.

“One night, I dreamed we started a food truck called Parsnipity,” Wilson said. “When I woke up, I thought, ‘Parsnipity? What is it?’ I Googled it, and there was no hit on the name. I’d made it up in my dream.”

Wilson said she likes that the name sounds like a combination of the words “uppity” and “parsnip,” which she thinks is a good representation of her food. Incidentally, she’s now opening a food truck, too, but is going to call it LumpiaPalooza after what will be the star of her menu: Hawaiian-style lumpia stuffed with unusual fillings.

▪ Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria, 1706 E. Douglas: There’s a reason Robert McMullin’s Naples-style pizza tastes so good. When planning his restaurant, which opened in November, McMullin spent a month in Naples training with a piazzaiolo, or pizza maker, who taught him all the secrets of making and stretching the dough.

While he and wife, Carolina Tabares, were living in Naples, they noticed that all the pizzerias served their creations on 12-inch, slightly rimmed white plates.

“Everywhere in Naples used the same exact plate at every single pizzeria,” he said. “So we looked up the Italian translation of ‘plate,’ and it was ‘piatto.’ We thought about Piatto Bianco, but we felt that would have been too long.”

Piatto now serves its pizzas on those same white plates.

▪ Albero Cafe, 4811 E. Central: Owner Hassan Ballout asked his daughters and niece to come up with a name for his new cafe when he was opening it in 2014.

His last name, Ballout, translates to “oak” in Arabic, he said.

“We wanted to try to incorporate the oak in the name, so the girls came up with the logo and ‘Albero,’ which means ‘tree’ in Italian.”

▪ The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas: Before she was one of Wichita’s best-known bar owners, The Anchor’s Schane Gross owned a tattoo parlor called Hell Bomb and a piercing shop called Holier Than Thou. When she opened The Anchor in 2004, she drew inspiration from her former career. The image of an anchor is one of the most requested by those getting tattoos, she said, and she loved the nautical imagery.

“An anchor represents hope,” she said. “And I was thinking ‘I hope this works.’ ”

Thirteen years later, it appears it did.

▪ Mort’s, 923 E. First St.: Owner Morrie Sheets said that when he decided to open his now-legendary bar in Old Town, he wanted to keep the naming process simple.

“I’m not very smart,” he joked. “So I wanted to make it easy and one word. My partner’s name was Matt Carney, so I took part of his name and part of mine, and Morrie and Matt became Mort’s.”

Later, Sheets sold the bar but bought it back 10 years later, this time with his brother Matt. The name still worked until he added managing partner Emma Russell.

“Her name isn’t on it, but she sure runs it,” he said. “We are going to find a little bar, buy it and name it after her.”

▪ Hurts Donut, 7010 W. 21st St. and 3750 N. Woodlawn: Hurts Donut founder Kas Clegg, who grew up in Valley Center but now lives in Springfield, based the title of her booming 3-year-old doughnut chain on an old joke popular with the grandfather set.

“You want a hurts doughnut?” the jokester would ask. The recipient would get a punch on the arm. “Hurts, don’t it?”

The first Hurts opened on the west side in 2015. A second opened on the east side last summer.

▪ Little Lion mobile ice cream carts: This growing local ice cream business, owned by Ian and Jubilee Miller, has a name inspired by the littlest Miller. Little Lion is a nod to the couple’s now almost 2-year-old daughter, Florence, who mom and dad predicted before she was born would be a “little lion.” And she has lived up to those expectations, the couple has said. The Millers are now in the process of expanding their business and are working to open a brick-and-mortar shop, whose location will be announced later.

▪ Chiquita’s Corner, 828 W. 11th St.: Stephanie Sandoval opened her little taco and egg roll to-go business in Riverside in 2015. Since then, the menu – and the restaurant’s word-of-mouth popularity – have both grown. When she opened, Sandoval said, she named the restaurant after the nickname her dad gave her when she was a little girl. “Chiquita” is a Spanish term of endearment that translates to “pretty little girl.”

From 2006 article about restaurant names

▪ The Artichoke Sandwich bar, 811 N. Broadway: Back in 1984, when co-owner Patrick Audley was naming his new restaurant and bar, he drew inspiration from a bar he’d discovered on a ski trip.

It was in Crested Butte, Colo., and it was called The Artichoke. Audley thought it had a nice ring.

“We needed a name, and ‘avocado’ didn’t sound as appealing as ‘artichoke,’ ” he said.

▪ Carlos O’Kelly’s: Carlos O’Kelly’s founder David Rolph drew on his love of history (he has a degree in the subject) when naming the restaurant.

He was fascinated with stories of Irish immigrants who served as frontier soldiers during the Indian wars, then decided to stay put afterward, melding two cultures.

“Around the turn of the century, you would find people named Jose Muldoon – people with a Spanish first name and an Irish last name,” Rolph said.

The Kelly came from the first Carlos O’ Kelly’s manager, Gil Kelley (Rolph dropped the extra “e”), and Carlos was a Mexican name chosen at random because it sounded better than Jose with O’Kelly’s, Rolph said.

▪ Larkspur, 904 E. Douglas: When Larkspur founders Rich Vliet and David Burk opened the fine-dining restaurant in 1991, Vliet already had a name in mind. He’d been remodeling a house on South Pershing that had a backyard overrun with larkspur. He fell in love with the pretty pink and purple flowers.

“When we were hunting for restaurant names, I thought, ‘Larkspur is really a pretty name, and it doesn’t convey anything other than pleasure,’ ” Vliet said. “It felt good in the gut from the get-go.”

(Postscript: Vliet died in 201l.)

▪ Chester’s Chophouse, 1550 N. Webb Road: The upscale east-side restaurant was named after co-owner Wink Hartman’s pet schnauzer, Chester.

Hartman and his partners, Bobby and Susan Lane, were trying to think of a name for the restaurant when Susan suggested Chester’s, which was conveniently alliterative with “Chophouse.”

But poor Chester died of doggie cancer.

“He was as cute as the day is long,” Susan said. “He was a little love.”