What’s in a restaurant name? Just ask the PC police | Stu Bykofsky
They came tramping through the mist, a small posse of the self-appointed and self-righteous, hunting for offense, which they found in a word they despise — illegal. (Can't imagine why.) Applying it to the word taco is racist, said three dozen protesters who gathered last week outside Illegal Tacos, a tiny Mexican restaurant at 427 S. Broad St. owned by Florian Furxhiu.
They came tramping through the mist, a small posse of the self-appointed and self-righteous, hunting for offense, which they found in a word they despise — illegal. (Can't imagine why.)
Applying it to the word taco is racist, said three dozen protesters who gathered last week outside Illegal Tacos, a tiny Mexican restaurant at 427 S. Broad St. owned by Florian Furxhiu. Part of their fury was driven by his posting on Instagram photos of law enforcement officers eating at his cantina.
Dismissing the protesters as "Internet justice warriors," Furxhiu, 32, says, "They are giving a bad name to the Mexican people who have no problem with police."
Furxhiu, an Albanian immigrant who came to America legally in 2000, employs nine people, all but two from Latin America. He also operates the Mediterranean Cafe on Passyunk Avenue.
The Illegal Tacos name, says Furxhiu, laughing, means the tacos are so good they should be illegal. "It is not against a group of people," as President Trump is accused of targeting, he says.
Back in April, someone posted an attack on Instagram, he says, resulting in vulgar phone calls and threats. "They supposed the name was racist, and I support the police," he says. "If I do, what's wrong with that?"
What's wrong with it, says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, the organization that led the protest, is that Furxhiu was photographed "with agents of the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that oversees ICE and has aided in tearing apart millions of families."
It is true people here illegally have been deported, as authorized by U.S. law. Juntos has a problem with law enforcement, but Furxhiu doesn't. He also was photographed with Philadelphia police.
Prior to the protest, Furxhiu offered to meet with one of the leaders but was rebuffed, and produced a Facebook exchange to prove it.
"I am a strong character, so I am not changing the name because 1,000 trolls are blowing up my Facebook page," says Furxhiu.
It's not the first time the hypersensitive and humorless officers of the restaurant PC police have come out.
In 2016, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, the czarina of imagined cultural affronts, smeared Alanna Li and Bailin Chen, two Asian Americans running a popular Asian food truck on the Drexel University campus. The truck goes by the name of — brace yourself — Wheely Wheely Good.
When Gym stumbled upon the food truck one day, she hissed at the owners that their truck's name was "super-racist," according to an account in Philadelphia Magazine.
Gym also criticized the Asian typeface and playful caricatures on the truck.
Li says the name of the truck was a play on words because the truck is on wheels — get it? — and the caricatures represent herself and her co-owner Chen.
Not good enough for Gym, who demanded that the owners change the name of the truck and the design.
The owners refused because free people don't have to bow down before officious bullies.
Three years earlier, in 2013, we had the issue of Chink's.
Joe Groh had owned Chink's at 6030 Torresdale Ave. since 1999, when he bought it from the widow of the original owner, Sam "Chink" Sherman. Groh had worked for Sherman for 35 years and loved the tiny sandwich shop.
Someone walking by one day saw the name, took offense at what seemed an Asian slur, and we were off to the races.
Groh decided that fighting was futile. He changed the name to Joe's Steak + Soda Shop — and his business promptly dropped by 10 to 15 percent, as some old customers boycotted the new PC name.
"It took a while to push away from the Chink's name," but Groh's business now is doing well.
In 2015, he opened a second Joe's in Fishtown, where he says no one is aware of the history, but they could be.
Groh's company website reveals the steak shop's former name and the controversy, giving old "Chink" Sherman the final word.
Until the PC police find it, anyway.