What’s in a name? Well, if you’re a restaurant your name is kind of like a handshake. It’s the introduction before two strangers really get to know one another. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s approach to the intro has to be exactly the same.
Yes, many restaurants tend to go in the blank slate direction. Pick a verb. Pick an adjective. Pick a noun. If you’re really intrepid you might even combine two of the three. Sure, it might not be the most memorable approach, but at least it will not offend.
Then there are the folks who stray waayyyy on the other end of the spectrum. These are the restaurants owners who wouldn’t flinch at sneaking in phrases like “turnip the beet” or “penne for your thoughts” on their menus. And in their unabashed lust for word play and dad jokes, these bold souls have helped create the best places in L.A. where you can have your pun, and eat it too.
And this is where we pay homage.
Enjoy the list!
1. Yeastie Boys food (Various locations)
Yeastie Boys takes the cake — or the bagel, rather — for having one of the punniest names out there. This reference not only pays homage to the The Beastie Boys, but also to New York-style bagels. Owner Evan Fox and his former partner came up with the name while they were high one night, and it seems apropos because the sandwiches they make out of these hand-rolled, doughy wheels are a stoner’s dream. Think scrambled eggs paired with beer cheese on a cheddar bagel; or the marriage of banana slices, Nutella and cream cheese on a plain. They carry a bunch of varieties, so we only have one question for you: So, whatcha whatcha whatcha want?
2. Ramen Hood (Downtown L.A.)
Like the name it riffs off, Ramen Hood is in a way an outlaw in the food world. Chef-owner Ilan Hall (Top Chef Season 2 winner and former owner-chef of The Gorbals) plays by his own rules; while everyone else is making fatty tonkotsu pork broth, he’s going the vegan route with his piping hot ramen bowls at his Grand Central Market stall. Everything really is vegan here, from the umami-laden kelp and shiitake mushroom broth, to the “hard-boiled egg” that’s might just fool you for being the real thing. After eating here with some buddies, you’ll be a band of Merry Men. The only thing is we wish they served ice cream here, because come on, it’s a missed opportunity to not call it “Sherbert Forest.”
3. Amazebowls (Various Locations)
You might not remember this, but Paris Hilton was the one who popularized “amazeballs” back in 2009 and made it a thing. And then Bryan Leong and Desmond Ng took it one step further and made a whole business that cheekily played off the slang word. The best part is that their Amazebowls company actually has bowls involved, like the ones that are filled with blended frozen acai. One of their top sellers is their very Instagrammable acai coconut bowls that are adorned with edible flowers, and they even have another one dubbed the “Fresh Prince of Bowl Air.” In our opinion, they live up to their amazeballs name.
4. Take a Bao (Studio City)
You can get buns at Take a Bao pretty late into the night (10 p.m., that is), which is perfect because we can just picture Madonna singing, “Take a bao, the night is over.” Its fluffy white buns are filled with a variety of different fillings, from house-cured pork belly, to tempura tofu, and the restaurant’s modern take on Peking duck. If the “Take a Bao” pun isn’t good enough for you, just know that celebrity chef Eddie Huang is also serving buns at his restaurant Baohaus (another fine musical reference), not too far away in Chinatown.
5. Humphrey Yogart (Sherman Oaks)
We know, a frozen-yogurt shop called “Humphrey Yogart” doesn’t exactly rhyme with “Humphrey Bogart,” the star of Casablanca, but the fact that anyone opened a business based on this connection is amazing, so we don’t care that it’s a bit of a stretch. This old-school joint started slinging frozen yogurt even before it was cool — for the last 32 years — so it has a lot of street cred and history. Most recently, the owners had to move out of their longstanding location, but fortunately found a new space inside of Gelson’s in Sherman Oaks. We’re happy for them and only have this to say: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
6. Lobsterdamus (Downtown L.A.)
On Sundays, you can find this punny vendor faithfully stationed at the outdoor food market Smorgasburg. The grill-masters at Lobsterdamus may not have soothsayer abilities, but can sure grill wild-caught Maine lobster to perfection. If you end up ordering this, we foresee in your future a whole lot of envious people craning their necks and looking your way.
7. Hoke Poke (Downtown L.A.)
L.A. is most certainly over-saturated with Hawaiian poke shops, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like them any less, especially the ones with punny names. At Hoke Poke, they elevate the poke scene by adding octopus, scallops and even lobster into the mix as topping options. A part of us wishes the servers at this Downtown outpost would sing while preparing our food: “You put your raw fish in, you take your raw fish out, you put your raw fish in, and then you shake it all about (with a garlic-soy sauce). You do the hoke poke…”
8. Earth, Wind & Flour (Santa Monica)
Let’s take a look at the Earth, Wind & Fire lyrics to “Let’s Groove.” “Let’s groove tonight / Share the spice of life / Baby slice it right / We’re gonna groove tonight.” They’re totally talking about pasta sauce and pizza, right? It only seems fitting that an Italian restaurant that has been serving red-sauce-covered, carb-filled dishes since the early ‘80s would be named Earth, Wind & Flour.
9. Nothing Bundt Cakes (Various Locations)
What can we say? We like big bundts and we cannot lie. If the Nothing Bundt Cakes locations sold any other type of dessert other than bundt cake, then we would scoff, but these guys are serious about keeping to their word. They’ve got everything bundts: from frosted single rounds to tiered cakes and tiny ones adorably dubbed as “bundtinis.”
10. Sake 2 Me Sushi (Various Locations)
For those days you really just want to indulge and go all in, Sake 2 Me Sushi, which has a handful of locations throughout SoCal, is the place to be. This Japanese restaurant has a seemingly never-ending list of rolls, and also offer an AYCE option — and of course, sake. Can someone please make a parody version of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” but spell it out as “S-U-S-H-I” with a chorus of “sake to me”?
— Sake 2 Me Sushi (@Sake2meSushi) September 15, 2014
11. India Jones Chow Truck (Various Locations)
Remember the second installment of the Indiana Jones movies, where Doctor Jones travels to India? It comes full circle as there’s an Indian food truck roaming the streets of L.A. and has a playful name: India Jones. Here, you’ll find “Frankies,” a roti flatbread wrapped around chutney and fillings like paneer (kind of like a burrito); taco chaat filled with chutney and raita and meat; and masala fries. We might just call this roaming truck “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Delicious Food.”
12. Pho restaurants (Various Locations)
Last, but not least, we need to give a shoutout to all the pho restaurants out there with pun-filled names. There are so many good ones that we couldn’t choose a favorite, so we put them all into one category. Some of the best ones in L.A. include Phoever Yum, Phorage, Absolutely Phobulous, Simply Pho You, and Phonomenal (fun fact: this place used to be called Unphogettable). Our love for the noodle dish and puns is seriously pho real.
Simply Pho You…
For more awesome/terrible word play be sure to follow Jean Trinh’s pun-themed Instagram account @pun_in_the_sun.