News & Politics

The Folger Needs a Name for Its Cafe and We Have Solved It

We asked a Shakespeare professor, ChatGPT, and our own staff for ideas. We have a winner.

Rendering courtesy of KieranTimberlake/OLIN.

Would a cafe by any old name taste as sweet? We think not, and neither does the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is reopening on June 21 after a four-year renovation and is asking the public to suggest a name for the new cafe in its Great Hall.

The Folger says it’s “looking for clever wordplay worthy of the building that houses the world’s largest Shakespeare collection.” With the Bard of Avon as a muse, and in a city that’s literate enough to not only sponsor a haiku contest but hold sold-out workshops on writing haiku, we suspect many will rise to the challenge.

Shakespeare naturally inspires “clever wordplay,” agrees Alexa Alice Joubin, a professor of English at George Washington University who has taught Shakespeare for 15 years. “We have so much fun with this material because it’s part of our heritage,” she says. “Shakespeare didn’t invent English but he did coin a lot of unique expressions. His genius was bringing words together that previously didn’t go together, like ‘green-eyed jealousy.’ A lot of people are quoting Shakespeare without knowing they are quoting Shakespeare. ‘It’s all Greek to me,’ for example, is Shakespeare.”

Our own staff certainly was inspired by the Folger’s contest, and we think we came up with a winner. We also asked ChatGPT to suggest some names, and professor Joubin got into the spirit of it, too.

Lend us an ear for a few of favorites, in ascending order:


5. The Bard’s Brew

We prompted ChatGPT to come up with names for a cafe at a Shakespearean museum. Most of the ideas left a little something to be desired, such as Antony and Cleo-tea-patra Cafe, Two Gentlemen of Espresso, and Shakespeare’s Sip & Sonnet. While the Folger’s new eatery will serve food—including options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—ChatGPT clearly assumed the cafe served only coffee and tea (witness: Much Ado About Mocha, Macbeth’s Mug, and the Winter’s Chillbrew). When we clarified that the cafe would serve food, ChatGPT suggested The Globe Grub & Goblet. Of the 21 names ChatGPT spit out, we thought The Bard’s Brew wasn’t half bad.


4. Hamburger Hamlet

Longtime Washingtonians will recognize this nod to another DC institution that is, alas, now closed. Maybe the Folger, in a “past is prologue” spirit, would like to honor restaurants that have come before?


3. Tempest in a Teapot

This one may suggest too much ado about nothing for the Folger, but we are a political town, not unfamiliar with tempests that rage on nearby Capitol Hill.


2. Hurly Burly Cafe

This was professor Joubin’s first suggestion for a cafe name. “Hurly burly means chaos,” Joubin says, and is spoken by the witches in Macbeth while stirring a cauldron full of eye of newt and toe of frog. “I don’t know if the Folger will think it’s too dark, but I would like to go to a Hurly Burly Cafe.” Joubin proposed other monikers, too: Winter’s Ale Cafe, Love’s Labor’s Cafe, The Taming of the Brew, and Bottoms Cafe, a nod to a character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 


1. As You Like It Cafe

No overly clever puns or tortured twists of phrase. Just brevity as the soul of wit here, which makes it our current favorite.

And because “small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast,” we also think that the cafe may want to go all in while naming their menu items, too. May we suggest a Julius Caesar salad, Mac(beth) and cheese, a Ham(let) and egg and cheese sandwich, and a bowl of Taming of the Stew?

According to the Folger website, it will start sharing their staff’s favorites on February 16 so the public can vote for which name is to be or not to be.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.