What's in a Name?

Ten years ago it was called New Manpole Restaurant, and I became a regular. It was fun telling my pals that I was hitting the New Manpole that evening, but the cheap Chinese charcuterie alone made it a great place to go. Next, in a head-scratching switch, it adopted the name New Restaurant, which resulted in a kind of "Whose on First?" sort of humor: "Where are we going tonight?" they'd say. "To the New Restaurant," I'd say. "Which new restaurant?" they'd reply.

Improving on the new name, the signage shifted again a couple years later to the seemingly redundant New New Restaurant, maybe because a single "New" was not only unremarkable, but untrademarkable. Just last year a fourth name appeared: Hong Wong Restaurant. With it came an insignia that looked like bats dressed in suits, complete with vests and neckties.

Now, it's common for Chinese restaurants in their early stages to be unable to come up with a catchy English name. Most often, the name on the awning is probably the same as the name on the business licenses, as in the example of Food Sing 88 Corp., one of Chinatown's finer pulled-noodle establishments.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out what "manpole" means in the Chinese restaurant context. I haven't yet succeeded, but I'm getting close: a thrift store across the street hung out an awning that says HK Manpolo, and I'm pretty sure "HK" refers to Hong Kong.

What's in a Name?

Hong Wong Restaurant, 300 Grand Street, 212-925-1662


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