Dining » Fat Mouth

A Lil' Silly

Lillies on 17th gets the smack-down from the Marriott's Lilly's.

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Some customers may not know that the Thai House in Kansas City (see review) has different owners from the Thai House restaurant in Lawrence. But I'll bet you a cheeseburger that there isn't one diner in Kansas City who doesn't know the difference between The American Restaurant in Crown Center and the American Bandstand Grill over at Interstate 435 and Metcalf in Overland Park. Or that Waldo's Classic Cookie & Café isn't affiliated with the Classic Cup Café on the Country Club Plaza.

Some people might think that the two Fritz's Railroad Restaurants (the original location is at 250 North 18th Street in Kansas City, Kansas; the second is at Crown Center) have some connection to Fritz's Chili (6737 West 75th Street in Overland Park). They don't, though they both serve chili. Very different styles of chili.

All of this is what makes the recent name-calling — metaphorically speaking — between the restaurant formerly known as Lillies on 17th (815 West 17th Street) and Lilly's Restaurant in the downtown Marriott Hotel (200 West 12th Street) so hilarious.

This town, apparently, is big enough for only one Lilly.

On February 10, Latrelle "Trelle" Osteen, owner of the 19-month-old Lillies on 17th, received a letter from an attorney representing the hotel demanding that she "cease and desist" from calling her restaurant Lillies.

Back in 2004, Osteen named her canine-friendly restaurant (dogs are permitted on the outdoor patio) after a beloved pet that had died. She was stunned by the letter. "There's nothing similar about the restaurants, not even the spelling," she says.

Lilly's, a small, cheerless hotel coffee shop — it's one of my least favorite dining spots downtown — doesn't have a listing in the latest phone book (or the Yellow Pages), but no matter how it's spelled, it's been called Lilly's a lot longer than Osteen's restaurant.

In a phone conversation with the Lilly's attorney, Osteen says, the lawyer told her that she had six months to find a new name. Fearing that she couldn't afford an expensive lawsuit, Osteen agreed to compromise and changed the name of her venue to Lill's on 17th Street. "Lill was my dog's nickname," explains Osteen, who is now the sole owner of the place. She bought out former partner — and fellow TWA flight attendant, back in their previous careers — Lynn Richardson last year.

By avoiding a legal dogfight, Osteen can focus on getting out the word that she's still alive and well and doing brisk business at Lill's, where a bite is better than a bark.

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