How many times has one walked into a building, heard the music selection, and then walked out in disgust from either genre or sound quality? Sometimes jukebox quality doesn’t live up to the real thing. Music running through a PA system doesn’t bring the same experience of lights, visuals, and sounds that a live stage does. Plus it is nice to know that when you’re going to a place and you know what to expect. However, music is only one side of the story. Like a movie theater, some places are very strict and won’t allow patrons to bring in quality food. Instead, they peddle overprice tickets and also overpriced food that is barely worth a quarter of the price.
Ever wished you could combine the energy and power of live music with the great tastings of food without getting frisked? Well, here in San Diego, one can. There are plenty of great music and restaurant hybrids that offer a range from heavy metal to classical, each involving a great list of food to satisfy your stomach as well as the sounds that are satisfying your ear hole.
House of Blues
Perhaps the most famous restaurant/ music venue in San Diego, this place is known for its wide range of live music performances, from artists like contemporary singer/ guitarist Joan Armatrading to melodic metal band Kamelot. The venue itself is a box shape, offering both floor and balcony seating. The balcony area features the true “house seats” to sit back and enjoy the show as they are reserved for the twenty one and up crowd and grant a better chance for a comfortable spot; the ground floor hosts only standing room. Patrons can book tickets ahead of time and, before the show, dine on the sumptuous food the restaurant half has to offer. The cuisine is mostly American, featuring an assortment of salads, burgers, and steaks. While one can’t take their plate in during the show, there are two bars featured that are stocked full of drinks to fill up anyone’s guilty pleasure. If someone doesn’t want to pay the exorbitant master show prices (Ticketmaster and LiveNation’s merge are driving up service charge fees like mad these days), the House of Blues restaurant features their downsized, but adequate, Voodoo Glow Stage that hosts live music just inches away from the dining seats. While one won’t see any big names on this stage, the smaller, local acts can crank out something just as skilled and beautiful. Shows are usually in the evening and no later than 7:00pm.
Feel mixed up in the potpourri of French and American dining with Mille Fleurs. Located just minutes away from the Del Mar race track and Interstate 5, it is a hot spot during race season. Enjoy lush, French architecture by the wooden walls, booth arrangements, and curtains hanging near the entrances. The atmosphere is extremely organic due to all the flowers placed near the tables. Feel free to divulge in Italian or American flavors from the menu, whisked into reality by Chef Woesle, within the restaurant or out on the patio. . As far as live music goes, pianist/ singer/ keyboardist Tad Sisler is the host of entertainment. While his style is smooth jazz mixed with adult contemporary, it is perfect for the atmosphere of the performance lounge where patrons can relax and sit back with a drink or five and let the melodies take them away. Ted’s performances are featured on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 7:00pm-11:00pm.
Jim Croce was known as a music legend for his ballads and romantic songs, so it is no surprise that there is a live music restaurant named after him. Although he has special place in Philadelphia’s heart (with the city being his home), San Diego is lucky enough to host his restaurant. Opened by Jim Croce’s wife, Ingrid, in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, the restaurant is split between two buildings. As a whole, the restaurant offers a fine dining atmosphere combined with a café/ lounge with live jazz and a livelier setting. Croce’s features breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an assortment of pastas, steaks, seafood, and salads. . The live stage itself features a different artist every day; some being original performers and others tribute bands. However, each embodies the soulful jazz genre that Croce was known to be a part of. The musicians are usually local and attract a huge crowd as the bar and café are usually packed with people drinking, talking, and living things up to the music. Eat and breathe the essence of an American legend with every second at Croce’s. Music is usually heard between the hours of 7:30 and 8:30pm.
Anthology is a big-name concert venue, but fortunately features dining right during the action of the show. Sit down to artists like Taylor Hicks or Everclear in a rich, bright atmosphere featuring plenty of lights and tapestries to really energize the room along with the music. The stage spans across the entire back of the restaurant so it can be seen from all different angles. One can either dine in on the ground floor with its wide, theater-like settings, or eat up on the balcony area for a birds’ eye view. There are also private booths that make the experience more personal, but do not take away from whatever live musical performance goes on during that evening. The dining menu offers a limited, but tasteful selection of American cuisine that ranges from seafood to pasta. The menu constantly changes depending on the season and there are specialties, such as Fresh Vibe Tuesdays, to add a hip spin on the flavors and events going on at the Anthology. After filling up, one can enjoy a casual time at the bar in the lounge and mix drinks with affordable appetizers; and of course the daily Happy Hour makes them even more affordable. Shows usually start no later than 7:30pm.
In the words of Seal, “We’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy”; Po Pazzo lives up to the philosophy. While one cannot go nuts on the dance floor or create mosh pits in the restaurant during the live shows (those events are reserved for late night clubs or a venue like Soma), Po Pazzo does their best to drive patrons wild with their mystery music performances that are usually jazz every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, along with their unique Italian food choices. Hosting both lunch and dinner, there’s plenty of pasta & risotto, anti pasta, steaks, and healthier choices such as salads. The restaurant is meant to be a friendly, communal atmosphere so being in the company of friends and family is best advised. Enjoy a wide range of wines and other spirits while watching the shows, which are almost always a surprise as Po Pazzo likes to keep their acts hidden from public knowledge. All there is to know is a date and time. It’ll drive you crazy just trying to figure it out (in a good way).
Wild Note Café/ Belly Up Tavern
Partnered with the Belly Up Tavern, the Wild Note Café offers a fine dining/ sports bar atmosphere for patrons looking for something more substantial than appetizers. Since half the building is windowed, there’s plenty of light to illuminate the room. Sit down to circular tables surrounded by numerous ocean-themed photographic art pieces around the walls and a surprising, yet oddly placed, mannequin performing a saxophone. To contrast the serene beauty of the photos on the wall, the other side features several flat screen TVs close to the kitchen and bar that usually offer the seasonal sport. As far as food goes, there is a range of American to Italian pastas, and even Thai stir fry. It may seem odd at first why music (save for the mannequin) is not a staple feature within the restaurant; the noise from the other patrons who may be talking or the TV volume supersedes that. However, the connecting Belly Up Tavern is where the real musical experience is at. The bar is placed in the back while patrons can choose either to sit on the side amongst posters of past acts or go wild on the middle of the dance floor. The stage is extremely accessible so everyone feels like they are in the heart of the action (the venue is often dark so the stage is literally in the spotlight the whole time). The Belly Up has been known to host electrifying acts such as Switchfoot (San Diego bred) and the Young Dubliners, so expect quite a bit of movement from the crowd. If you aren’t for “jumping into the fires of experience,” you can easily just hang back to the side and enjoy a drink and an appetizer while enjoying the music from afar.
© Restaurant Agent Inc.