We are in the golden age of restaurants, especially in up-and-coming cities like Pittsburgh. This means a whole lot of new approaches to cuisine and a lot more willingness to explore. The creativity and ingenuity of current restaurant culture are what make it one of the most exciting careers to pursue today. There is no limit to what you can do with a great concept and a hard-working staff. For ages, the restaurant industry has coupled itself with artists, actors, musicians, etc. to give it that extra spark. There is an artistry associated with great food, but there are new possibilities when you have the physical arts and the culinary arts side by side.
The Magic of Dinner Theater
Dinner theater is the concept of having a full, seated restaurant meal as you watch something on a stage. Sometimes, the stage performance comes second to the meal itself. That way, you don’t get distracted from the delicious meal and fun cocktails you are being treated to! On the other hand, the show could be the main event. The meal would be secondary in these cases (not low quality, though!), and the performance would be a full-fledged play or musical. It’s all completely dependent on what kind of show you decide to put on. Just Imagine: being treated to a high-class meal while having local performers transport you to another world. Fans of musical theater can enjoy an awe-inspiring show and not be restricted to eating snacks from the concession stand. It’s a lot of input to the senses, but it ultimately feels very satisfying to be fully immersed in the experience.
Dinner and a Concert
This is very similar to dinner theater, but with a slight twist in execution. These restaurant spaces blur the lines between seated dining and a concert venue. Unlike dinner theater, where the show isn’t necessarily the main event, these establishments put the music front and center. People can both enjoy a full band performance and eat their fill at the same time. Restaurant/venue hybrids are great for when your feet get tired easily, or if you’re starving but don’t want to miss any part of the show you’re attending. James St. Gastropub and Speakeasy on the North Side has a really good handle on this concept. There are tables set up along the concert hall floors for dining, chairs set against the walls for the casual listener, and room at the bar for the folks who wish to stand. Customers have the choice of attending an event in an intimate space in the speakeasy and/or at the concert stage on their second floor.
Live Jazz in the Corner
Usually, jazz at restaurants is made up of background music. There’s a piano player in a corner playing sweet-sounding songs. Maybe there’s a full band, playing soft enough not to disrupt your dining experience. Either way, the idea here is to have the music there for people to listen to if they’d like. It doesn’t have to change their experience much if they don’t want anything to be disturbed by loud noises. For the longest time, jazz and alcohol have been closely linked together. The age of prohibition was also the jazz age. Anyone who was interested in the bohemian life of the 1920’s was drinking, flapping, and swinging. Speakeasys became the hippest place to grab a drink and loosen your morals. As time moved on, speakeasys became bars and the jazz stayed jazz. The only difference now is that people don’t really dance to it. They instead let it exist in the corner and soothe their souls while they satisfy their appetites.
Paintings on the Walls
You’ve all seen paintings on the walls of restaurants/bars. They’re hung up like your standard wall art, but actually catch your eye rather than blending into the building structure. There’s even a little plaque or slip of paper next to the piece, telling you who made the art and how much it would cost to have it. You see these works and start thinking: what kind of mind makes this? Having your restaurant collaborate with local visual artists adds a completely new layer to your establishment. There is never an absence of artists, and they’re always looking for new ways to display their work. You give back to the community by agreeing to display artwork of the people who make up the community. You can even use your establishment to host an exhibition or gallery of some sort while the kitchen runs. It’s foot traffic that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, and many folks would love to eat at some point during the whole experience. It’s a win-win!
Have any thoughts on how restaurants and the arts merge? Let us know in the comments section!