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When I finish all of my meals at a given restaurant, I pour over my notes in search of a story thread. Often, I set my headphones to a genre or artist I heard while dining. The technique helps transport me back to the restaurant. I recently wondered which album respective restaurateurs would want me to play. So I asked.
Several chefs, like the Populist’s Jonathan Power, picked something (like Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones) that is “nowhere near what we play as background music” but offers parallels to the restaurant’s story. Some chefs got philosophical. “If I had to pick one album that defines the B & B experience [it would be] Neil Young Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” Beast & Bottle’s Paul Reilly says. “This album’s sound has that grungy Americana that I think speaks to what B & B is. [It’s] a little country, and a little hard, but totally creative and epic. This was also one of Neil’s first albums after Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the one that skyrocketed his solo career. I’d like to think this is only the beginning for us too.”
Justin Brunson from Old Major simply stuck with a personal favorite. “This is easy. Merle Haggard Untamed Hawk. It’s funny how much my life has changed, but you can’t take the county out of this Iowa farm kid,” he says. Harman’s top toque Mark Fischer, who sent me an eight-song set (listed below), rightly questioned the question. “[It’s] a very thought-provoking request. Given the current nature of the music industry though, albums are out…playlists, in.” Acorn’s Bryan Dayton picked exactly what I played when I wrote about him—JAY Z, in part because “he might have eaten [at Acorn] prior to his concert.”
Next time you want to be transported to a memorable meal at some of the restaurants I’ve reviewed, check out the selections below. Many of the albums go beyond taking you back to a dining room or a specific dish—they offer a glimpse of the larger story of Denver restaurants and the personalities behind them.
Uncle. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang Clan —owner Tommy Lee
The Populist. Swordfishtrombones, Tom Waits —chef-owner Jonathan Power
Old Major. Untamed Hawk: The Early Recordings of Merle Haggard, Merle Haggard —chef-owner Justin Brunson
Beast & Bottle. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Neil Young with Crazy Horse —chef-owner Paul Reilly
Izakaya Den. 1 Giant Leap, various artists —co-owner Yasu Kizaki
Harman’s Eat & Drink. A playlist of “Changes” by David Bowie; “October” by Broken Bells; “This Is Why We Fight” by The Decemberists; “Off the Ground” by Citizen Cope; “40 Day Dream” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros; “Lighten Up” by the Beastie Boys; “Right Here, Right Now” by Fatboy Slim; and “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence & The Machine. —chef-owner Mark Fischer
Acorn. The Black Album, JAY Z —co-owner Bryan Dayton
Session Kitchen. ChangesBowie, David Bowie —chef Scott Parker
The Plimoth. Birth of the Cool, Miles Davis —chef-owner Peter Ryan
Chefs, bartenders, and GMs, let’s hear it: Which albums do you want us to play when we’re pining for you?
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock