5 Songs About Restaurants That We Love And One That We Hate
If you’re like us, you’re probably immersed in news about health and safety. While it’s important to stay alert and informed, especially under extraordinary circumstances, it’s worth taking some time out to relax a little. The great philosopher Plato famously said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” For most, music is a staple of your restaurant, from the kind of ambient background music that you play for atmosphere, to sophisticated neuromarketing techniques that can help drive sales. So while we’re staying in and planning for our next moves, let’s take a look at a few of our favorite -and not so favorite- songs about restaurants.
Songs We Love
To add a little spice to the menu, we’re looking at some of the coolest songs to play in your restaurant, whether they’re about eating in house or off-premise. Our metrics for what made the list is as subjective as your tastes. To keep it logical though, we went with songs that have a certain je n’ais ce quoi, the kind of tracks that you put on to evoke a mood, a time, or a place. Because that’s the name of the game: giving your guests the entertainment to help keep their mind off of their troubles, while hopefully enticing them back for seconds.
Van Halen – Ice Cream Man (1978)
You might know Van Halen from hits like Jump or Panama, radio rock ragers designed to get fans fired up for more. On Ice Cream Man, a cut from their self-titled debut, the band wax poetic about ice cream vendors, perhaps one of the first food trucks that you encountered as a child. While the song goes on to enumerate a host of iced delicacies that singer David Lee Roth has to offer, the subtext is typical of the band, a sultry tune specifically dedicated to “the ladies.”
Play this on the first day of summer or any day that you have a special that involves ice cream, and watch your guests melt.
Rupert Holmes – Escape (The Piña Colada Song) (1979)
It’s likely that you’ve encountered this song at a beach or in a movie (it’s on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack) that is relatively tropical in nature. This is a lighthearted and relatively corny track, often inaccurately (if reasonably) attributed to Jimmy Buffet. Holmes has crafted pure yacht rock gold, unflinchingly cheesy and incredibly catchy, so much so that it’s easy to miss the gist of the song. Here you have a couple who have fallen out of love… or so they thought. They go their separate ways and simultaneously elect to look for new loves, only to find each other again through the wanted section. It’s a sweet song about people finding love together, and their meetup is in a restaurant.
Put this track on for romantic, but low-key summer vibes. It pairs well with a stiff piña colada and a honey garlic shrimp dish.
Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back in Town (1976)
If you’ve heard any track by this 70’s Irish quartet, it’s this one — for good measure! Those warm guitar leads (per Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson) ring like heaven-sent cherubs dispelling your negative vibes. We could talk about the riffs and singalong chorus, but this classic makes our list NOT for its craft or lofty mythologizing, but its lyrical fodder.
In the song, singer/bassist Phil Lynott wryly references “them wild-eyed boys who got away” who’ve now returned to town. He crafts a Rockwellian portrait of summer nights, youth “dressed to kill” and congregating at Dino’s, the local bar and grill. “The drinks will flow, and the blood will spill,” he croons, as images of rockers, burgers, brawls, and beer permeate our visage.
We’d never condone such behavior, and enjoy it only in the fictional sense. Let’s be honest, though, who can’t enjoy stories of mirth, merrymaking, and gathering in restaurants in this time of quarantine?
Editor’s note: this section penned by Dylan Chadwick.
Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant (1977)
In “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” Billy Joel paints a picture of warmth. What starts off as a sweet date, a quiet evening out to dinner, makes way to the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. The focal point of Joel’s nostalgia is that romantic moment, that time before things got too busy. Joel picks up the pace to emphasize how overwhelming everything seems that idyllic moment.
You can do that in your restaurant too. Make sure your restaurant has the right aural vibe, a comfortable atmosphere to talk and get to know each other. Pair this with a bottle of wine, maybe a Spanish red, and set aside special places for quiet, intimate moments, like a booth with low ambient lighting to help set the mood.
Buck 65 – Food Song (2008)
The definition of an underrated artist, Buck 65 put out some of the most thought-provoking and colorful lo-fi hip-hop of the early-aughts. Here, the emcee reflects on his favorite dishes, enumerating each by their value. Opening with the line “food it puts me in a good mood, it keeps me goin’,” Buck 65 only moves on from there expressing his love of culinary delights. The kicker: this is a PG track, so perfect for playing in a family-friendly environment, all while promoting healthy eating.
Pair this with warm, sunny weather and light pub fare. Sip tea or a light beer with this on in the background and enjoy the patio with your friends. We’ll all get back there eventually.
Song We Hate
If you’ve ever made music, you know how the sausage is made (so to speak). You know that you have to spend time honing your craft, whittling each track down to the final product. It’s like Michelangelo’s David in the block of marble. You see that in your kitchen too. You’ve likely invested the time in one or all of the following: a great chef, an amazing menu, and the kitchen or front-of-house tech that you need to streamline your business. So hearing something negative is no fun.
But just like any good cook knows: taste is subjective. Some things just aren’t good, and that’s okay; negative feedback teaches us how we can make something better later. With that in mind, let’s move on to the lone song we hate.
Don Henley – Sunset Grill (1984)
With “Sunset Grill,” Don Henley pens a bland ode to a local table service restaurant, a gastropub near a business district. And you know this because Henley makes it clear that the Sunset Grill is the post-work hangout where he and his pals can go and “watch the working girls walk by,” which frankly is a little creepy. Does he mean well? Maybe. But I’d have to wonder how those working girls feel to be objectified when they just want to move on to their day.
Beyond that though, the music here is just full-on 80’s cheese. The composition is as exciting as a pair of beige slacks, with the Eagles drummer/vocalist crooning over synth horns, electronic drum fills, and slap bass. Combine that with a set of lyrics that refers to restaurant wait staff as “the basket people,” and calls everyone that isn’t at his table “jerks,” and you paint a particularly unsympathetic character. It’s laughable, then, when Henley tries to couch his music as something that everyday folks do, or that he posits himself as the protagonist there to protect the women that he gawks at while getting drunk in the afternoon.
Are there some fine qualities about the song? Sure. Henley is a competent songwriter, despite this writer’s distaste for the Eagles. He’s just undeniably talented. And his appreciation here for being a regular at a local establishment is nice too. It’d just be a lot nicer if he were perhaps a little kinder to the people that he encounters. Pair this last call, so that you can run your guests off at close-up time.
Obviously, we love music here as much as we love restaurants. We wanted to put this out there to have a little fun. Things are hard right now and we all know that we’ve got a little ways to go. But we’re working together on that and we’ll get through this. One way we can do that is to relax a little and blow off steam with a return to normalcy, the kind of debates that you get in with your friends or staff for fun. Disagree with any of our songs? Have any to share on your own? Hit us up in the comments section.
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot. He’s at home like the rest of the world right now but finding time to play with the kids and create art.