In my mind, food and music seem to be linked together, like Mary Kate and Ashley circa 1993 when they were still singing about selling their brother. In many major aspects of my life, food and music combine and provide a perfect complement to one another. Cake is not only one of my favorite bands, but also the most important food group in my personal pyramid.
Food and music are both things everyone likes and therefore, naturally, brings up on dates as safe conversation topics. Note: if you are on a date with someone and they say they don’t like food or music, crawl out the bathroom window as soon as possible. They are bad news, and, probably a robot. Not a cool robot like Rosie from The Jetsons, an evil robot like P.A.M. from “Smart House.” Food also has a musical quality to it – asparagus stalks snap, bacon sizzles, corn kernels pop.
Luckily, a lot of people seem to see this connection between the two. There are places all over Philly to enjoy musical dining or munching while jamming or any other combination of the two.
My current favorite spot to satiate my taste buds and ears is Johnny Brenda’s. at Girard and Frankford avenues. The intimate performance venue upstairs plays host to a wide range of acts, from smaller local bands to big time performers. The audience can crowd around the small stage or watch from the balcony, and whatever they’re doing with the lighting, they’re doing it right. It always looks like some magical camp up there.
Downstairs, the menu is scrawled on blackboards behind the bar. Falafel, brie and apple sandwiches and fresh fish can all be found at Johnny Brenda’s, but a safe bet is the burger and fries. Their fries are pretty killer – crispy and thin with a decent amount of salt.
The eating component of Johnny Brenda’s works well for several reasons. First, if you want to make it a one-stop kind of night, you can fill your stomach and get your groove on at the same place. Second, if your friend is forcing you to go to some ridiculous show that you’re not totally into, you can at least take refuge with a plate of something while you wait it out. Third, there is the potential for stuffing your pockets with the previously mentioned fries and taking them upstairs so you can keep the snacking going throughout the show.
As far as recreating the experience at home, I highly recommend going a picnic route. Now we’re throwing in good weather with the already winning combo of music and food. Pack a picnic – curried chicken salad on a whole wheat pita? Crispy romaine with homemade Caesar dressing? Poptart? – and head to any public outdoor space.
The Bell Tower ensures you’ll hear a fair dose of floppy haired boys whining on acoustic guitars. Rittenhouse will probably have a variety of buskers if you’re looking for more of a sampler platter option. Or you could keep your eyes peeled on the local listings for free outdoor concerts – as summer rolls in, they’re pretty abundant.
Take advantage of any situation where you can indulge more than one sense at a time – especially if it includes your sense of taste. Enjoy your summer, listen to some music – or you’ll probably be unhappy – keep eating – or you’ll die – and steer clear of robots.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.