Eight Great Rock Venues with Great Food

In the years I spent touring with the British rock band Electrelane, I sampled quite a few venue menus. Here are eight of my favorites.
doug fir

As anyone who has played in a touring band will agree, weeks on the road are hard on the stomach. Pit stops in backwater towns inevitably mean that decent meals can be few and far between. After days spent watching grimy gas stations and fast-food chains disappear in the rearview mirror, there is no delight greater than discovering that the venue where you’ve performing also offers a delicious respite from all the lackluster fare.

In seven years touring as guitarist with the British rock band Electrelane, I had the opportunity to sample a wide range of venue menus—and to ensure we included the ones that came out on top in future itineraries.

Here are eight of my favorites. These are the perfect places to go if you want to eat before the show—or if you need an excuse to slip out during that dubious opening act.

1. Minneapolis: Triple Rock Social Club

With its dark wooden interior, cozy booths, and classic heavy metal spinning on the jukebox, the Triple Rock is a Midwestern haven for bands on the road. From standard fare such as onion rings and gigantic beef burgers to vegan sloppy joes, this joint offers an abundance of both carnivorous and vegetarian options. “The TR” knows how to make a good drink, too: Its famous Bloody Mary is a smart place to start; or try the surprisingly delicious vegan White Russian. 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis (612-333-7399; triplerocksocialclub.com)

2. Philadelphia: Johnny Brenda’s

You can’t beat a rock club that serves individual fresh oysters for $2.50 each and includes a half-price raw bar for happy hour every weekday. The kitchen serves seasonal specials and sources locally—from seafood and vegetables to coffee and all-draft beer. If you spot the soft-shell crab sandwich on the chalkboard menu, you’re in for a treat. 1201 N. Frankford Ave., Philadelphia (215-739-9684; johnnybrendas.com)

3. Chicago: Bite Café

A favorite with locals and bands alike, this café is attached to one of Chicago’s most famous rock venues, The Empty Bottle. Open from brunch until dinner, Bite even offers some after-hours nourishment in the form of veggie burgers and falafel sandwiches—great for soaking up those extra beers after midnight.1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago (773-276-3600; emptybottle.com)

4. Atlanta: The Earl

Boiled peanuts? Mini corn dogs? A platter of deep-fried shrimp? If it’s Southern food you’re after, The Earl certainly cuts the mustard. And if you’re scouting for something a bit healthier, the extensive menu also includes grilled salmon salad and jerk tuna with fresh salsa. Afterwards, you can head to the back room and check out a show at one of Atlanta’s best indie dives. 488 Flat Shoals Rd., Atlanta (404-522-3950; badearl.com)

5. Washington, D.C.: Black Cat

Food for Thought café, owned by local chef Bob Ferrando for more than 30 years, now operates inside his son Dante’s rock club. In keeping with Ferrando’s longstanding philosophy of using minimally processed ingredients and top-quality meat, the menu includes flame-grilled mahi mahi, taco salad, and a first rate three-cheese lasagne. 1811 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. (202-667-4490; blackcatdc.com)

6. Boston: Middle East

As renowned for its Middle Eastern cuisine as it is for putting on some of the best shows in town, this is a sure bet for a prime pumpkin kibbeh or mjudra (lentil stew) during lunch. At night the place steps up its game with an excellent sheikil mihshi (stuffed baked eggplant) and glossy lamb shanks enveloped in a heady blend of cumin and cardamom. 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (617-864-3278; mideastclub.com)

7. Portland: Doug Fir

Featuring one of the most extensive menus of any rock club in the country, the Doug Fir is open for breakfast (try the Blackbird Scramble with rosemary potatoes), lunch, and dinner. In the evening, fresh halibut with a citrus dressing, shepherd’s pie, and pork chops injected with apple brandy pair nicely with an impressive wine list. 830 E. Burnside, Portland (503-231-9663; dougfirlounge.com)

8. San Francisco: Bottom of the Hill

Voted best rock club four years in a row by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Bottom of the Hill’s in-house café, The Kitchen, is open until midnight and serves some of the best, most reasonably priced bar fare in the city. For those musicians looking to stretch the tour budget a little bit further, you can get fantastic chile con carne, Louisiana hot dogs, and grilled sandwiches for less than $5. 1233 17th St., San Francisco (415-621-4455; bottomofthehill.com)

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