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You be the judge: Daniel Island diner isn't pleased by restaurant name he can't pronounce

Mpishi

Allie Clay, co-owner of Mpishi restaurant on Daniel Island, takes food out to a table on Monday, May 6, 2019. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

There are two sides to every story, including those posted to Yelp and the like. And for those disputes, court is now in session.

The Post and Courier Food section weekly features a complaint that first surfaced online, along with testimonies from the patron and restaurateur.

You, the readers, are the jury. Join us in our Facebook group to weigh in on whether the customer is indeed right, or if the case should be resolved in the restaurant’s favor. Let’s enter the courtroom.

THE PLAINTIFF

Based in South Carolina, T R. is an active Yelper who has no compunctions about doling out perfect scores. In the last few months, he’s given five-star reviews to a backflow company, Audi mechanic, pool repair service and a plumber. But he’s tougher on restaurants, docking stars from Toast for running out of avocado and from FIG for the earthy taste of its Jimmy Red cornbread. (In the interest of full disclosure, his review history also shows he’s three times posted his opinion of The Post and Courier. “It’s not a bad newspaper,” he wrote in August.)

THE DEFENDANT

Andy and Allie Clay in 2019 opened Mpishi on Daniel Island, offering café-type dishes by day and serving family-style themed dinners on weekend nights. Online reviewers have praised the pork sandwich and pancakes at the restaurant, for which the Clays selected a Swahili name in honor of where they met.

In 2002, Allie Clay was studying wildebeests in Tanzania. Her future husband was then a consulting chef for an upscale safari lodge in the same area; his co-workers called him “mpishi,” meaning “cook.”

THE CLAIM

T R. and his wife were dazzled by their biscuits and French toast at Mpishi, which T R. pronounced “outstanding.” He was similarly impressed by the service. But he downgraded his review to two stars based on the restaurant’s name.

“Why did the owners choose such a bizarre and unwelcoming name for the place? The name doesn't reflect what the restaurant is all about; is a challenge to pronounce and has nothing to do with South Carolina or (the) Daniel Island lifestyle,” he wrote.

He added that he was aware of the name’s backstory, but didn’t care.

THE DEFENSE

Mpishi wasn’t the first restaurant name that the Clays considered.

“We went through a lot of generic names,” Allie Clay says. “It’s family-oriented, so we almost called it something like Family Table.”

Ultimately, though, the Clays wanted a name which was more meaningful and memorable. They settled on Mpishi, which is what Allie has called Andy since they started dating.

“We did realize it was difficult to pronounce, but at least it’s sentimental,” she says. “We’re not offended if people mispronounce it.”

For the record, the correct pronunciation is um-PEE-she, but the Clays have heard it said every which way.

Clay allows they complicated the situation by adopting a logo in which the two “I”’s in the name are linked by a horizontal line which runs above the word. The drawing is supposed to suggest a table, but customers have either mistaken the line for an accent mark or lost sight of the letters which serve as the table’s legs, leaving them with the tongue-twisting “Mpsh.”

That’s one letter away from “Mp-ish,” which is what one patron thought Mpishi was called. She asked Clay if it was meant to indicate the restaurant was Mount Pleasant-ish.

Still, Clay says she doesn’t mind if people say “the place on Daniel Island with the strange name,” so long as they keep talking about the restaurant.

THE VERDICT

Who’s right in this situation? Is it fair for restaurants owners to choose a name which they like? Or are restaurant customers owed a name they can say without coaching? Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.

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Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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