These days, it's pretty hard to come up with a restaurant name that no other concept on the planet has. Generally, if two spots with a similar name are far enough away from each other, problems don't arise. In Houston, though, two restaurants will duke it out in court over the use of one single word.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Gringo's Mexican Kitchen, a Houston-based chain with ten locations scattered across the area, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuitagainst Habanera And The Gringo, an independently-owned restaurant near Hobby Airport.
The Chronicle's Alison Cook writes:
Ironically, in picking a name for the restaurant Lomeli and Downing were focused on the commonly used "Habanero" variant they were considering, because there are several Mexican restaurants in Houston featuring that hot-as-blazes chile pod in their name. "There's Habaneros Mexican Grill, Habaneros Tex-Mex, Habaneros Tacos," says Lomeli, "so we intentionally went off the wall to find a silly name that would set us apart."
At issue is the use of the word "gringo." Habanera And The Gringo owners received a letter from Gringo's Mexican Kitchen in November demanding that they drop the "gringo" reference from their name or face litigation.
This isn't the first time that a Houston restaurant has faced legal troubles over its name. In 2015, El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant was sued by Rodeo Austin (an actual rodeo) for infringement, and the judge ruled against the restaurant. Before that, restaurateurs Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught sued Chris Smith, owner of Hugo Caliente, eventually resulting in Smith changing the name of his concept to simply Caliente.
Habanera And The Gringo plan to fight the lawsuit. Stay tuned for more details on this pending litigation.