The hen or the egg?
Which came first? In the case of Squirrel, it was the egg. In its street, whose name was Einhorn back then, there was a pub already in the 18th century, but its name was ‘zum goldenen Eichkatzerl’ (to the Golden Squirrel). It must have been a very popular place, because the street was named Squirrel according to a map of 1879. This is how the street was named after the pub. Popularity is worth a lot, isn’t it? The building of the Squirrel beer garden had been used as a day-nursery by the residents of the district. However, they also strengthen the squirrel brand, because real squirrels also appear among the guests.
We have already written that the contemporary Tabán was abound in creative owners regarding name giving. There was the Háromcsőrű Kacsa (Three-beaked Duck), whose name appeared first in a popular operetta presented in 1872. But we must not omit my favourite the Inn to the Three Monkeys (Három Majom). Its extant sign shows two painted monkeys on the sides of an oval frame with a door, stairs and a mirror in the middle. But where is the third monkey? It will be the one who looks into the mirror! If you want to meet more monkeys, you should go to Kolozsvár to the Sobbing Monkey. The place became really famous in the 1930s, when they painted a sobbing monkey on the sign of the restaurant that had been called ‘Grand’ formerly. Thereafter, it shed tears in Bartha Miklós Street. After the communist socialization, it was closed and the building was even pulled down. After the fall of communism, at the beginning of the 1990s, it was reopened as a summer garden under the same name in the empty yard. Later, the monkey disappeared, and then it reappeared. Its name will never disappear, because it will live on in Tibor Bálint’s same-titled novel.
The bear bug
According to a research, bears and cubs are kind, slow, dumb, sweet-toothed and lazy animals. According to certain opinions, people love them despite of all that, because they are able to run the hazard for sweets (honey, raspberry) and that make people appreciate them. Other researches say that their big fur and rough-footed motion emit calmness, and show the picture of a trustworthy animal.
Honey Bear – the honeypot
Perhaps for its struggle for sweets, perhaps because its name and charming neon sign also served for making the “big brother” (the Soviet Union) more likeable – though this has never been written down -; it could not be a coincidence that Mézes Mackó (Honey Bear) snack bar – founded in 1955 - got this name. The fact is that Bear Buffets – born from interbreeding buffets and delicatessen shops – burst in the catering trade as comets during the 1950s. The outfit was the same in the franchise shops. Regarding the large demand, six shops were opened soon. The most famous one was in Kígyó Street, but there were shops in Nagymező Street, József Boulevard (Baross), on Széna Square (Budai), in Váci Street (Anna) and at Ferihegy (the airport of Budapest). Further four shops functioned as Bear Bistros, where you could sit down and grilled dishes that were made in open kitchens were served as well. Besides its delicious coffee made by Italian machines, Honey Bear was also famous for its cold cuts: mayonnaise egg and many kinds of delicacies in aspic.
Business manager of Honey Bear Géza Tódor said at the opening: The buffet took the city by storm. Honey Bear is a fortunate mixture of a delicatessen shop and a well-equipped buffet. It is a kind of shop that has never been in Budapest before. Future customers will find all specialities of cold kitchen products from Russian salad to tit-bits. The furnishment was also modern, with neat shopwindows and refrigerating appliances built-in glass counters that always kept food on suitable temperature. In Moscow, they observed the Bear that had been extended to a chain five years later. The Bear escorted the Hungarian Trade Expo to Moscow in 1960, where the Bears represented Hungary.
Besides the good-quality food, soft ice cream and raspberry syrup, only a real bear was missing. They wanted to celebrate the third anniversary of Honey Bear worthily. They borrowed a bear from the Zoo in 1958, so that it could check the quality of the buffet food. You can see in the photos that the bear feeding was very popular and these cubs became permanent actors at children’s birthday parties too. Unfortunately, Honey Bear was not as lucky as Jégbüfé (Ice Buffet); it did not survive the change of regime. Many people have been missing it since then.
Anyway, there is no shortage in animals or catering places with animal names. You only have to go to the party quarter: to Fekete Kutya (Black Dog) or Kakas (Cock) and for cat-lovers there is the Cat Café. We are waiting curiously, which place will leave a deeper trace on the history of our city and the posterity.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Gál Éva, Óbuda helyrajza a hódoltság végétől a XIX. század közepéig, In: Tanulmányok Budapest múltjából 21. (1979)
Zeke Gyula, Volt egy feketém - A budapesti eszpresszók története, Balassi Kiadó, 2015.