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David Cook

Thanks a lot, burger guys.

My two little kids are learning how to read. They're kinda good at it. Berenstain Bears. Curious George. Some wimpy kid's diary.

And billboards. Signs. Whenever we're riding in the car, they're reading. Walmart. Taco Bell. Stop. Yield. 24-hour bookstore.

So what am I supposed to do when we drive by the Dayton Boulevard intersection -- right by the Waffle House, near the red light cameras -- and my two little readers look up at the sign atop the new burger joint?

Sofa King Juicy Burgers.

(Get it? Say it again, real fast).


Dad, my kids will ask, what's a sofa-king-juicy-burger?

Well, kids, you see, the birds and the bees. -- Wait. That's another conversation.

"So you're the glass-is-half-empty guy?" Greg Beairsto said, after I told him my objection to his restaurant name. "I find it interesting that's your initial take."

Beairsto and business partners Jeff Brakebill and Tim Kelly are the guys behind two inventive and popular local restaurants -- Aretha Frankenstein's and Crust Pizza -- and have been renovating the building adjacent to Waffle House for months, creating a decor with, appropriately, a very long '50s-era sofa inside.

"I happen to love that era," said Beairsto.

Yeah? Well what would Dr. Spock -- or June Cleaver -- say about your sign? (Which, by the way, hasn't been unveiled yet. They're not sure when the place will open. So the corner of Dayton Boulevard is still PG-rated).

"Please know there was no evil intent," he said. "We're just trying to make a buck and put people to work and put a smile on our face while we're doing it."

Both are fathers. Who love their kids. Who also love to laugh. And claim the restaurant is kid-friendly.

"A playful wink," he said of the sign. "[The restaurant] is not owned by Lucifer or Beelzebub."

How will this fly in Red Bank? Never would this restaurant have been so named 10 years ago. But today? It's almost like a cultural litmus test.

Beairsto told me the sign -- partially inspired by a "Saturday Night Live" skit -- was a mirror of sorts, reflecting more about me than the restaurant: I could read it as evidence the world is horrible, going to hell, or -- laugh.

"Are you going to block your kid from the reality that there is a Playboy or Penthouse magazine out there?" he asked.

Umm -- yes. Sure am gonna try.

"It seems to me almost like a parenting issue," he said. "It's almost a lesson in growing up."

My initial reaction to their sign? I wanted to shield my kids. Hide their eyes. Not add another ounce to the already sofa-king long list [sexting, pill parties, Lady Gaga, Scott DesJarlais] of cultural monsters I wish would vanish away into Narnia or Never Never Land.

"There is a vulgar side to this world that is not going away," a good friend said last week. "You can only shelter your kids so much."

Shelter? I'm just trying to let them stay kids as long as possible. Sure, there are far bigger worries in the world than this little restaurant. Still, why make such a sign if you don't have to?

"We're trying to help Red Bank turn the corner ... pun intended," Beairsto said. "We want to improve the community and create a dining destination."

The restaurant will use only grass-fed, local beef and organic ingredients as much as possible. The slew of fast-food joints within a seat cushion's throw of the Sofa King may have innocent names, but are the large engines behind the obesity crisis.

(Should be called Sofa-Tenning.)

So does Sofa King Juicy Burger's healthiness outweigh its inappropriate sign?

"We're going to do our damnedest to create an incredible burger experience," he said. "Or should I say darndest?"

I'm sure it'll be wonderful. Look for us there. Eating burgers, with my kids blindfolded.