This past summer (2015 for future readers) my wife and I packed up the kids and embarked on one of the great lost family rites of passage from the last century; the cross-country road trip. We spent six weeks on the road with our little camper driving from Alberta to Ontario, touring around the childhood homeland of both myself and my wife before returning to our new home. Among our adventures in Upper Canada was a pilgrimage to Canada’s Wonderland, the cheaper, less amazing Disneyland of the north. Did I mention cheaper? As we made our way to Wonderland through the disturbing sprawl of Greater Toronto suburbia, I noticed a new restaurant chain I was completely unfamiliar with; St. Louis Wings Bar and Grill.
I’m by no means a wings fan as I find them to be too much effort for such little food reward. Ribs are similarly unbalanced as an acceptable food source. I am, however, a Canadian and a bit of a proud one though that fluctuates with the degree of ignorance our various politicians wantonly display at any given moment. As such I’m continually fascinated when yet another chain restaurant from the endless supply in the USA sets up shop in Canada. Curious as to what St. Louis Wings’ claim to fame might be, unconscionable portion size, outlandishly breasted wait staff, or both, I quickly checked their website on my wife’s phone and was shocked and dismayed by what I learned.
St. Louis Wings is actually a Canadian restaurant chain. With this unexpected news, my nationalist hackles were once again raised. I have long been perturbed by the fact that Canada’s largest pizza chain, Boston Pizza, is named after an historic American city. And one that’s not even renowned for its pizza, at that! Nobody immediately thinks “Boston” when you say pizza; Clam Chowder, maybe, but definitely not pizza. Furthermore, what significance does Boston hold with respect to Canada anyway, besides being an original six hockey team and the NHL home of Bobby Orr?
Pizza joints are the worst offenders of this treasonous naming epidemic. The one tolerable exception is perhaps Chicago deep dish pizza. With no recognizable chain and only a handful of standalone restaurants in each city, the use of Chicago can be excused for being a “style” of pizza. The others, though, are inexcusable in my estimation and they aren’t the only offenders. A quick look at the restaurant name the routinely pop up at your local mall or retail strip reveals a regular onslaught of US named Canadian restaurants. In addition to the king, Boston Pizza, there is St. Louis Wings, New Orleans Pizza, New York Fries, Montana’s Steakhouse, and Baton Rouge Steakhouse. Not to mention international offenses like Swiss Chalet. Add them all up and Canada has a serious neurosis when it comes to showing national pride in naming our businesses.
Canada’s Business Inferiority Complex
This inferiority complex Canadians continue to display when it comes to naming our joints is bizarre, if not infuriating. Oh we’re more than happy to slap a red maple leaf on our logos, but the names remain distinctly foreign. It makes no sense. There are great Canadian cities with every bit as much cool factor and history as these American cities. Even if you disagree with that statement, so what? Why not have a little national pride for Christ sake and stop idolizing Americana? Or are we only brave enough to name our banks after our cities?
Where’s the Toronto Pizza, Montreal Fries, or Vancouver Wings? Why not Banff Chalet? Is Switzerland the only place with alpine buildings … serving chicken? Quebec is French AND made fries even better by adding gravy and cheese curd. What possesses a Canadian to name their French Fries chain after New York and not, say, Quebec City? Why are we naming steakhouses after American cities and Border States? Have we literally forgotten about the Prairies? Alberta takes so much pride in their beef industry that “Mooo” is practically the provincial motto. Not to mention the grand ranching history of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and interior British Columbia. Surely an Alberta Steakhouse or Saskatoon Steak and Ribs are in order?
It doesn’t have to be our major metropolises either. Kamloops Steakhouse? Perfect. Flin Flon Fries? Brilliant. Goose Bay Pizza? Delicious. Yukon Ribs? Awesome. The options are endless with so many fantastic names dotting our expansive land. Surely we have more imagination and dignity than to keep slapping some damned American city name on our corporate brands?
Boycott These Restaurants!
Canada, this is embarrassing, plain and simple. We need to stop doing this and start showing some bloody pride in ourselves. We named a donut shop after a hockey player, after all. Why the hell did we stop at that? Have our entrepreneurs lost all sense of imagination and patriotism?
Screw it. Here’s what we should do. No, what we must do. Stop supporting these disloyal franchises. Don’t eat there. Don’t drink there. Boycott them all. Don’t even think about them. Let’s start showing our Yankee-envying business leaders that Canada too is home to great cities with incredible histories and memorable cuisine. They are not only worth noting, but immortalizing in our franchised eateries. It’s the North American way. Let’s stop acting like we’re nothing more than the cute, insecure, younger sibling of the States. We owe it to our nation and to ourselves. Who’s with me?
Mary Youngblut says
And poutine is cropping up on every bar menu around here…..with no credit to its country of origin. Must be the traditional Canadian modesty coming through.