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Our Inspired Suggestions for the Name of the New Menil Cafe (and You Can Name It, Too)

The new cafe at The Menil Collection seems like it's been in development forever. But recently we received some promising information that leads us to believe the café is, in fact, happening -- and soon!

The press office for the Menil announced that the café will be housed in one of the 20th-century bungalows that surround the museum. It will be located directly across from the main entrance of the museum, off Sul Ross Street, next to the museum bookstore.

Chef Greg Martin, formerly of Cafe Annie, Cafe Express and Taco Milagro, will be operating the new space.

This is all welcome news, but the most exciting part of all this is that the café doesn't yet have a name. The folks in charge want the public to name it, so they're holding a competition.

Submissions must be e-mailed to CafeNameGame@menil.org by Monday, November 25, to be considered, and the winning choice will be announced on January 6, 2014. The winner will receive a table for two at a V.I.P. preview lunch.

You should all definitely submit an option or two, but don't count on winning. We at Eating...Our Words came up with pretty much the best options ever.


1. La Pensée I'd name the garden cafe La Pensée, which means "the thought" in French, because it is thought and interaction that represent the power of art on the human experience. This seems fitting, as the de Menils were humanists. Plus, it's got a nice little ring to it.

Brooke Viggiano

2. The Bungalow I would name it The Bungalow, because it sounds cool, and because the cafe will be in one of the bungalows. Simple but apt.

Mai Pham

3. Marinetti and Fillia Back in 1930, John and Dominique de Menil hadn't yet amassed a world-class art collection, let alone bequeathed it to an immensely lucky Houston. In fact, when infamous Futurists Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Fillìa released their Manifesto of Futurist Cooking, the de Menils hadn't yet tied the knot. In a bit of edible-art-revisionist-history, I see a sumptuous wedding with all the delights of a futurist meal for the enjoyment of the guests. Perhaps an appetizer of atomized roses, sniffed under a flood of red light, and Chicken With Ball Bearings would have made a lovely centerpiece. Given how laughable and polarizing the Manifesto was at the time, and how similar it is in exploratory temperament to such temples of modern gastronomy as Grant Achatz's Next and Alinea, not to mention our own avant-garde outpost, The Pass, I think it only makes sense that a forward-thinking art collection borrow from an unexpectedly forward-thinking (if after the fact) pair of artist/chefs in branding its own forward-thinking cafe. For the grand opening, I suggest passed hors d'oeuvres of Polyrhythmic Salad.

Nicholas Hall

4. Mickey's or Mayenne I would call it Mickey's at The Menil, because the de Menils strongly supported Mickey Leland, the first black congressman from Houston, or Mayenne, because "Menil" is also the name of a township in the French department of Mayenne.

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Joanna O'Leary

5. The Renzo Piano Bar It's what he would have wanted. The Italian architect became famous in Europe for his modern designs -- particularly his work on Paris's Centre Georges Pompidou. When he met Dominique de Menil, in 1980, the two decided to collaborate on his first American design. The main building of the Menil was designed by Piano to resemble a large house that just happened to hold a lot of art and have great natural lighting by which to view it. After the museum was completed, Piano posited that it needed a cafe, and the spot he suggested just so happens to be the exact spot where the new cafe will be built. Renzo Piano, always ahead of his time. Someone give that man a Piano bar!

Kaitlin Steinberg

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