2007_05_chowmein.jpgTwo articles in separate sections of Sunday’s New York Times brought out Gothamist Food’s inner Freakonomicist, which isn’t as painful as it sounds. The National section of the Times reported that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, its use as a baby name slipped down to the 382nd place overall on the girl’s list, marginally good news for those of us named Brenna (#381, baby). Unrelated, and over in the City section, the fate of the pink neon sign outside the East 12th Street Chow Mein house Jade Mountain was discussed; the 76 year-old restaurant closed three months ago, five months after owner Reginald Chan was killed while making a food delivery by bicycle. Now that Chan’s family looks for a new restaurant to take over the space, everyone is worried what become of Jade Mountain’s iconic, sputtering signage.

We looked at the Jade Mountain story, originally reported by Lost City, in Eater’s Closed Archives, and began to take note of the out-of-business restaurants and notable closings going all the way back to last year this time. Some of them were well-respected neighborhood institutions, like Jade Mountain itself and the 41 year-old Sazerac House; others, like B.E.D., had clichéd bar food and an on-premise fatal accident earlier this year. Some just had organza curtains and pretentious food.

We compared a list of 95 venues that closed during the last year, against the list of menus kept tacked to New York Magazine’s virtual refrigerator. For example, New York lists 40 menus in the F category; in the last year, Eater reported 3 restaurants closed starting with that letter- Flor’s Kitchen, Food, and Fuelray. That’s a 7.5% attrition, with some margin of error that we really don’t care about. For the most part, our results coincided with the popularity of restaurants with names beginning with certain letters: The largest letter category in New York’s menu archive is C, for example, with 155 entries; Eater reported 15 restaurants beginning with the letter C last year closed last year, the highest amount on the list for any one letter. But not everything was proportional.

What shouldn’t you name your restaurant? Maybe not anything starting with the letter H. With 6 H-lettered restaurants closed or closing soon, and 33 H restaurants listed at New York Magazine, that’s almost 20% attrition. Good bets for names are the letter T (3 closings per 82 menus listed), and L (2/105- LoSide and Lonesome Dove- we barely knew you- aside). Of course, this may not be the best way of doing things. But bear in mind with New York’s 46 J-lettered restaurants, only two (Jade Mountain and Jean Luc) closed during the past year. That’s less than 5%. We wish the Chow Mein sign, but moreover the Chan family, the best for the future.

Photo: The Jade Mountain Chow Mein sign from Warze’s flickr photostream