February 12, 2016
We’re all used to seeing celebrities attach their names to various products and ventures, from clothing lines to vodka to weight loss teas. Anything to make a buck, right? But the A-lister turned restaurateur is a very different proposition—because no matter who you are when you gamble on a restaurant, you’re likely to lose.
For no particular reason, restaurants fail every day. Yet, stars with a bankable “It” factor keep staking their money and reputations trying to fill Bobby Flay’s shoes. Some fail while others are fortunate enough to become chain moguls. And some like to go incognito—or at least, not hang their name on the front door.
In honor of tonight’s Grammys, here are eight restaurants connected to celebrity musicians.
__1. Justin Timberlake // Southern Hospitality __
Justin Timberlake has an amazing ability to know what people want—even when it’s maybe not what experts would have focus-grouped. Take this Southern-inspired BBQ and brew joint. It’s in a fairly non-touristy part of Manhattan, so visitors have to go out of their way for it. It’s also not trendy or “farm to table” or celebrity-packed or anything else New Yorkers like.
It’s Southern, but maybe not authentic because how could it be? Still—it carries on and keeps drawing crowds. It’s a good time. Nice service. A menu that anyone can understand. And, of course, the unquenchable fantasy that JT is going to walk through the door and throw a spontaneous dance party because you never know.
2. Ludacris // Time Restaurant & Lounge
This venture isn’t Luda’s first restaurant rodeo. The rapper and mogul first dipped his heels in the food business with Straits, an Asian-fusion restaurant. He closed that in 2012 to open another restaurant named after his third album, Chicken-n-Beer in the Atlanta International Airport.
In early 2015 he was at it again, this time with a Southern, Caribbean and West African-inspired restaurant called Time. And while he’s not an owner of the business, he is the landlord.
3. Moby // TeaNY & Little Pine
This addition may be a stretch, but technically Ryan Gosling counts as a recording artist. He and partner Zach Shields put out an album together called Dead Man’s Bones in 2009 with Ryan performing under the alias “Baby Goose.”
As for his restaurant, Tagine opened in 2004. Located in Beverly Hills, it serves Moroccan fair prepared by his friend, co-owner, and chef Ben Benameur. With just ten tables it’s intimate enough to whisper “Hey Girl” to whoever you decide to bring.
5. Lady Gaga // Joanne Trattoria
It’s getting more difficult every year to imagine Lady Gaga as a frumpy misfit teen growing up Italian in New York City—her dad her biggest fan. But this is more than a clever story spun by PR managers. At this neighborhood trattoria, there is a high probability that Gaga’s father Joe Germanotta will greet you at the door or swing by your table and say hi.
Much to the disappointment of Gaga fans, the superstar daughter does not make tableside visits, but she is a part-owner and investor.
6. Donnie Wahlberg // Wahlburgers
Yes, Donnie, former NKOTB. He may be more famous for television now, but don’t forget he got his start in music. If you don’t spend time in Boston, then you may be familiar with this restaurant from occasionally watching reality TV with your dad.
The Wahlberg family’s burger joint is an A&E show first, a celebrity side venture second, and a scrappy little diner probably only on TV. Yes, it serves diner food and has well documented small-biz struggles, but it’s got Donnie Wahlberg as a public face.
And in a move that surprised many, Mark Wahlberg overcame his initial qualms about appearing on a reality show and is now a regular face on the docu-comedy. Though, you probably will never find him behind the counter.
7. Gene Simmons // Rock & Brews
KISS frontman Gene Simmons has only done one thing in his career that wasn’t loudly branded GENE SIMMONS FROM KISS! KISS! KISS! And this is that thing.
A growing chain of rock-themed brew houses, Rock & Brews features laid-back ambiance, respectable craft beer offerings, and tasteful vintage rock décor. YES, tasteful. No lie. There’s a little bit of KISS art on the walls, but equally as much from other iconic artists of the 60s, 70s and beyond.
8. Jimmy Buffet // Margaritaville
Now we’re flipping the script, with a restaurant chain so popular that you may not realize the founder ever did anything else for a living. A long time ago, before you were born, Jimmy Buffet was a country jam-rocker, and Margaritaville was his dream turned into a real place.
It turned out thousands of people want to live in Margaritaville, so now it’s a restaurant and hotel chain. Twenty years from now, there may be an island nation called Margaritaville, and Jimmy Buffet will be the King. It’ll be 5:00 all the time.