Twelve Restaurants with Musical Ties

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Author Gregory David Roberts once said, “Food is music to the body, music is food to the heart.” These 12 restaurants agree with that sentiment.

1. Sky Blue Sandwich Company (Toronto)

The owners of Sky Blue Sandwich Company have created a menu including more than two dozen specialty sandwiches named after Wilco songs. Included on this menu is the “One Wing,” with roasted turkey with cream cheese, cranberry sauce and a hint of stuffing served on their cranberry and cream cheese bread; the “Casino Queen,” with smoked turkey topped with a balsamic onion marmalade, bacon, and avocado; and the “Bull Black Nova,” a cheese sandwich with a black olive and a sun-dried tomato spread, on three cheese bread with capicola and grilled onions between provolone cheese. Other Wilco songs you will find on the menu include “Pieholden Suite,” “Via Chicago,” and “Hell is Chrome.”

2. Sticks and Stones Clay Oven Pizza (Greensboro, N.C.)

Sticks and Stones Clay Oven Pizza gets its organic flour from Eli Whitney, N.C.; milk, butter, and cream from Julian, N.C.; fresh produce from Browns Summit, NC; and the names of all its menu items from Jacksonville, N.C., native Ryan Adams. The owner and one of the original chefs were responsible for naming the menu items. As shown by the following menu items, both men were clearly fans of Adams’ work: the “Easy, Tiger” soup of the day, the “Goodnight Rose” sandwich, “Easy Plateau” and “Let it Ride” pizzas, and “To Be Young,” a decidedly youthful menu choice of chicken fingers and French fries.

3. Olivia (Austin, Texas)

The most prominent item adorning the walls of Olivia is a concert poster of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings that was given to Chef James Holmes by his grandfather. To show his admiration for Nelson, he named Olivia’s fried chicken dish, “Willie Nelson Chicken Fried Steak.” As one food writer observed about the dish’s namesake—“you got the ‘herbs,’ you got the ‘smoke,’ you got the ‘ounces.’” But for a much more literal interpretation, one needs only to look at the ingredients—six ounces of meat, red eye gravy and smashed potatoes. According to Holmes, the dish is “an homage to an unfortunate run-in with the law in El Paso in 2010.” His love of music does not stop there, though. You can find him selling his fried chicken to festival goers at Austin City Limits, and his second restaurant, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, recently finished hosting its five-day South By Southwest showcase, which included Alejandro Escovedo, Li’l Cap’n Travis and more.

4. Blue Canoe (Tupelo, Miss.)

Blue Canoe, a restaurant in small-town Tupelo, Mississippi serving traditional bar food with a twist, got its name from owner Adam Morgan after a song from one of his favorite bands from college, Blue Mountain. Morgan chose the song “Blue Canoe” for the lyrics “Ridin’ round the county drinkin’ from a jar / Big blue canoe up on top of the car,” because it conveyed the relaxed atmosphere he wanted for his restaurant. To date, Blue Mountain has played at Blue Canoe four times. Morgan’s love of music is also evidenced by the live regional talent he brings in regularly: “I try to bring in music that appeals to a 25-year-old as well as a 65-year-old,” Morgan said. “Obviously I step out from that from time to time, but I’d still call it my philosophy as much as anything.” While you’re there, be sure to check out Morgan’s nod to Paul Simon with the “Mother and Child Reunion” sandwich.

5. Magnolia Pub and Brewery (San Francisco)

This Haight-Ashbury gastropub and brewery pays homage to the area’s Grateful Dead roots with not only its name, which originated from the song “Sugar Magnolia,” but also its large selection of craft beers brewed in-house. Among the award-winning beers included on its menu are the following selections that represent owner Dave McLean’s love of the Grateful Dead: New Speedway Bitter (“New Speedway Boogie”), Bonnie Lee’s Best Bitter (“Wharf Rat”), Stout of Circumstance (“Saint of Circumstance”), and Spud Boy’s IPA, as “Spud Boy” was the nickname Jerry Garcia gave himself in the band Old & in the Way.

6. The Glass Onion (Charleston, S.C.)

The name of this spot, which has a heavy rural South, New Orleans and Lowcountry influence, was taken from the Beatles’ White Album. As the three original owners were fans of the Beatles as well as some of the first in Charleston to embrace the idea of eating seasonally, locally and naturally, it should be no surprise that the name “The Glass Onion” came to mind. One can see the parallels between the band and the restaurant. The band’s lyrics were often considered puzzling, and the owners’ concept of farm-to-table was abstract at the time. And just as Lennon has commented on how people read into the band’s lyrics too much and try to find meaning that is not really there, The Glass Onion wanted to create comfort food in a non-pretentious environment where “what you see, is what you get.”

7. Area Four (Boston)

Michael Krupp began his professional career as a music-video producer for Island/Def Jam creating videos for hip-hop and rap stars in the 1990s and early 2000s. Today, Krupp is co-owner of Area Four, a restaurant whose philosophy is decidedly punk rock. As Krupp has stated The Clash “is a subject near and dear to my formerly punk rock heart,” his passion for the band, and other punk artists is apparent in all aspects of the restaurant, including the menu, which features the “Daily Quote from The Clash’s Joe Strummer for Your (and Our) Amusement.” In addition to his contribution to the menu, Krupp also customizes the restaurant’s playlist daily, which undoubtedly includes musicians who pull at his punk rock heartstrings.

8. Cactus Jack’s (Evergreen, Colo.)

It should come as no surprise that a restaurant in Colorado, the state Widespread Panic has called its “second home” as well as the state where, in 2008, the mayor of Denver named June 27 “Widespread Panic Day” to honor the band’s 32nd sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater (which was more than any band in the venue’s history), would dedicate their menu to that band. Cactus Jack’s has 25 signature burgers all named after Widespread Panic songs or songs covered by the band, including the “Action Man,” the “Bowlegged Woman,” the “Sandbox,” the “Big Wooly Mammoth,” the “Waker” and the “Dirty Side Down,” which has two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun.

9. Yellow Submarine (Miami)

The Yellow Submarine is not a brick-and-mortar restaurant but a food truck operated by Yayo Alarcon and his brother, Andi. In 2009, the brothers wanted to bring to Miami the trend of food-truck eating, which was already popular in other cities. They named their truck after the Beatle’s song and included menu items such as “Lady Madonna” (The Beatles), “Imagine” (John Lennon), “Killer Queen” (Queen), “Original Sin” and “New Sensation” (INXS).

10. Nellcôte (Chicago)

This Chicago restaurant is based on Villa Nellcôte, a 19th-century 16-room mansion in southern France leased by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1971. Recording sessions for the band’s classic 1972 Exile on Main Street album took place in the mansion, which has been described as “the backdrop for the coolest, most drugged-up house party ever.” The restaurant mirrors the luxury of the original Nellcôte with Italian marble, art nouveau wrought iron gates, extravagant woodwork, cartouche crown molding, crystal chandeliers and Parisian herringbone wood floors. “I had a poster of Keith from the recording of Exile on the wall of my bedroom during Junior High,” says executive chef Jared Van Camp. “It was from a guitar magazine. Little did I know how influential that would be. My dad definitely played a lot of the early, bluesy Stones recordings. He had a ton of vinyl. It stuck.”

11 & 12. Rosebud and The Family Dog (Atlanta)

As a passionate advocate of food and music, Chef Ron Eyester regularly holds events where he pairs his menu with music at his Atlanta restaurant, Rosebud. Past events have included Strawberry Fields Forever, where the prix-fixe menu included strawberries as the core ingredient, and his tribute to the Allman Brothers Eat a Peach, where fresh peaches were the underlying ingredient. Other events have included The White Dinner, The Last Waltz and Jerry Garcia Dinners. If you’re not yet convinced of Eyester’s love of music, take a look at his farm-to-table eatery and watering hole that he named The Family Dog after the promotion company of the famous San Francisco concert impresario, Chet Helms. At the Family Dog, every Wednesday is “Wieners and Widespread,” which features hotdog specials and a live Widespread Panic concert playing on each of the restaurant’s televisions.