Whether it’s glasses and plates clinking, or the convivial buzz of a happy crowd, restaurants certainly have their own sound. But what about those places that have a very different kind of sound—a curated playlist designed to set a tone and create a mood (we see you Blue Hill at Stone Farms with those chirping crickets)? Our inspectors are privy to it all—even one time with a heavy metal soundtrack peppered with the sounds of machine gun fire. Below, check out a few of the Inspectors' favorites and make sure to save those songs to your own playlist for a Starry moment on the go.
A culinary boombox where diners sit just feet from the kitchen, Jônt is a party in full swing. Chef Ryan Ratino likes to blast hard-edged hip-hop and poppy rap while slowly rotating Japanese sawara over glowing binchotan coals and plating edible flowers with thin tweezers. As servers explain how long the caviar was aged, Chingy’s 2003 hit “Right Thurr” blares overhead. It’s all part of the plan for Chef Ratino, who wants to shake things up with a playlist full of “bangers.” “The oldest person during service is 35—we’re a young and inspired crew,” he says. “People sometimes believe that the One- or Two-Star experience is a specific style, maybe even rigid or stuffy, but we want to break down that wall. We want it to feel like a place where you can let your guard down, relax, and have fun.” Chef Ratino and his staff pick songs from the 90s and early 2000s that they want to hear, but the tunes also resonate with the crowd. “You’ll see it. They’re bobbing their heads and their whole body language changes. They’ll have a memory and suddenly you’re hearing all about it and then you learn they have a dog and two kids. The music is that gateway.”
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How many Two-Michelin-Starred restaurants play live music every night? Al Coro does, and partner Jeff Katz think it’s worth it. “We live in a city with such immense musical talent, so when we were dreaming up what a superlative and unique dinner would need to include, live music was at the top of the list,” he says. “Music sets the tone for the room; it can be an exclamation point (like at Al Coro) and it can be sexy and rhythmic (like at Mel’s). It subtly tells you how to behave, and at Al Coro, we were looking for our guests to be awed, and our band does just that.”
Putting on a nightly show isn’t an easy task, so why do they do it? “For people who love music, there’s nothing like being awestruck by the power of a beautiful voice or the synergy between the band mates.”
Vinyl records and live DJ sets are baked into the groove at this Coconut Grove party. “We rank food and service above all, but next in the hierarchy is how the dining experience feels to the guest - the music, the lighting, the décor,” says owner Josh Hackler. “For us, the connection to music at Los Felix is also connected to its story rooted in songs from the Americas and Africa.
We play a lot of 70s psych and funkadelic music from Latin America (salsa and cumbia), Ghana and Ivory Coast. And we also play a lot of fun American music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.”
Live DJ sets aren’t an everyday occurrence, but they’re integral to the experience here. “All three of us (Chef Sebastian, Pili and I) had a unique connection to vinyl growing up. My grandfather had an amazing collection that´s mainly now in the restaurant; Pili’s father would play vinyl at home every night; and Sebastian’s brother was a very talented vinyl DJ artist growing up. Also, after living in New York for 10 years, Pili and I loved places that spun vinyl. There’s just something so sexy and inviting about it! In bringing the restaurant to life we wanted sound and music to play a major part of the overall guest experience at Los Felix, so we focus solely on spinning vinyl on turntables from the 70s. The sound is far superior to a digital sound and our guests love it!”
Hero image: Adrian Gaut/Al Coro