As if it wasn’t already hard enough to open and maintain a restaurant in Minneapolis, what with the pandemic and rioting making the city almost unlivable. Brian Ingram found out the hard way that there were even more challenges awaiting him has he prepared to open his new eatery, Elotes Woodfire Grill on Thursday. The grand opening didn’t take place, however, for a couple of different reasons. One was a rather mundane problem with failing a municipal fire code inspection, but the other was a protest launched against the restaurant before it even opened. Activists were unhappy with the name, saying that Ingram, a White man, had no business using the word “elotes” because it would represent “cultural appropriation” of Mexican heritage or something. (CBS Minnesota)
Before it ever opened to customers, a St. Paul restaurant specializing in Mexican street food has changed its name after activists protested, citing cultural appropriation.
Elotes Woodfire Grill was slated to open Thursday on West 7th Street, inside the keystone Keg & Case Market space left vacant by In Bloom. However, the new restaurant wasn’t able to welcome guests due to an issue with the building’s fire suppression equipment.
Protesters also picketed outside the restaurant. According to an online petition, they took issue with the owner, Brian Ingram, using the word “Elotes” in the restaurant’s name.
Local food and restaurant critic Jason DeRusha put the story up on Twitter, noting how quickly Ingram had caved to the pressure from activists.
What a Day 1 for Elotes in St. Paul: didn’t open because of fire suppression equipment issue; protestors picketed the name as cultural appropriation; they changed the name to Woodfired Cantina. Latino and Latina chefs/restauranteurs have been pushing them on this for awhile. pic.twitter.com/kqt6EfjYYc
— DeRusha Eats (@DeRushaEats) September 11, 2020
Ingram’s response to the criticism is pretty much par for the course compared to similar business owners who run afoul of the social justice warrior movement. He immediately announced that he would be changing the name of his restaurant to Woodfire Cantina and issued a statement saying “We are here to listen and learn.”
As I’ve opined here in the past, “cultural appropriation” is a nonsense term employed by the perpetually aggrieved if they run out of other things to complain about. Nobody owns the exclusive rights to any particular aspect of culture, however you choose to define it. If you think about it, every aspect of American culture aside from that of the Indigenous Peoples was “appropriated” from someplace else, be it England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, or elsewhere.
In this case, the specific accusation is particularly irksome. The word elotes just means corn in Spanish, specifically in parts of Mexico. It’s a staple food and nobody “invented” it themselves. But even if they had, it’s spread around the world. The word “chili” comes from the Aztecan word chilli. Should we be telling Chili’s Bar and Grill chain to change the name of all their establishments?
While we’re on the subject, the last time I was in Tijuana I distinctly remember seeing a guy with a hot dog cart on one of the sidewalks. Wasn’t he “culturally appropriating” the food of the United States? (Okay… we sort of stole that one from the Germans, but it’s still an American staple.)
Sadly, it takes almost nothing to get somebody canceled in our current culture, so Ingram probably felt he had no choice in the matter. If he had Latino critics protesting his restaurant, he wasn’t going to be off to a very good start in terms of attracting diners, particularly among the younger customers. So he faced a choice of bending a knee to his progressive overlords or risk having his new business venture fail before it even made it out of the starting blocks. And the liberals get to celebrate collecting another scalp. Perhaps some conservatives need to organize a protest of the restaurant now just to demonstrate how pointless this all is.