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Katoi Switches Name to Takoi in Response to Criticism

The restaurant reopens on August 28

Katoi will change its name in reaction to widespread criticism.
Michelle and Chris Gerard
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Corktown eatery Katoi announced today that it will change its name to Takoi, the Detroit Free Press first-reports.

The change comes several days after the restaurant became the subject of a Metro Times article that cited numerous responses from Thai and transgender individuals who felt the restaurant’s use of the word “Katoi” — a varied spelling of the Thai word kathoey that’s used as a slur towards Thai transgender people — was culturally appropriative and insensitive. Patrons also recalled being offended by the “Lady/Boy” labels above the unisex bathrooms.

It wasn’t the first time Katoi had received such direct criticism. During a relatively positive review last year, Free Press critic Mark Kurlyandchik pointed out that through the name and Thai influenced menu Katoi “tiptoes along the razor-thin line between inspiration and appropriation.”

In a statement released today, the partners addressed their use of the word:

We are dedicated to providing space for open and free dialogue. It is in this spirit that we are constantly thinking and re-imagining who we are — which at this time means recognizing the need for yet another step in our evolution. Difficult as it may be, we acknowledge that the word that has come to hold so much joy and meaning to us and so many others over the years smacks others as painful, challenging, and problematic. To those, we offer a sincere apology. And lay to rest a name.

The name, logos, and bathroom labels are expected to be retired ahead of the August 28 reopening. According to the release the new name, Takoi, “as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is the awkward moment of interesting dance that we all do when attempting to pass another on the street. More than just a scrabble shift in letters, this pivotal moment of engagement that is Takoi describes a moment shared between strangers.”

Speaking with the Free Press, chef and co-owner Brad Greenhill says he and his partners were not aware of the name’s offensive connotations. “We worked from a literal translation of it, which was 'third gender, third profile.' The history of the term coming about in the ‘60s was a way for people to identify and deviate from dominant sexual norms. That’s what we were working under. The idea that it was a slur, we were unaware of.”

The change comes just a day after another high-profile restaurant, Fowler & Wells, operated by Tom Colicchio announced that it would change its name after learning about the moniker’s historically racist associations.

Why Katoi Is an Offensive Restaurant Name and Should Be Changed [Metro Times]
In Response to Criticism, Corktown's Katoi Restaurant Gets New Name [Freep]
Katoi Reopens Monday, Changes Name to Takoi [Detroit News]
“Katoi” Will Be Renamed “Takoi” In Response To Controversy, Re-Opens August 28 [Daily Detroit]
Tom Colicchio Changes Restaurant Name to Drop Racist Connotations [E]
All Takoi Coverage [ED]


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