Eliesa Johnson

A growing number 
of restaurants and bars are embracing their inner audiophile, and 
these are some of our new favorites.

Noah Kaufman
September 22, 2017

Pristinely kept record jackets, masterful mixtapes and retooled vintage sound systems are no longer the exclusive domain of audiophiles in faded concert tees. Restaurants and bars are transforming their spaces into listening rooms, where the soundtrack is just as important as the cocktail list.

Tokyo Record Bar, New York City

Ariel Arce, the force behind Air’s Champagne Parlor in New York City, loves vinyl for the same reason she loves Champagne: “There’s an obsessive quality to it.” With the help of a sound system from Craigslist and her own expertly managed record and sake collections, she’s transformed theunderground space of one of her old bars into a 16-seat listening room reminiscent of holes-in-the-wall beloved in Japan.

Tokyo Record Bar, 127 Macdougal St, New York, NY; 212-420-4777

Bar One Fourteen, Indianapolis

“When I bought an album, it was like a novel for me,” says owner Martha Hoover. “You listened from beginning to end and could really follow the story of the artist.” And that was the experience she wanted to bring to the masses with her Indianpolis bar—at least however many can fit inside the 350-square-foot gelato kitchen. Hoover hired a music curator—a one-time touring member of the Lemonheads—who makes reel-to-reel tapes played through the first Klipsch Forte speakers ever to come off the assembly line.

Bar One Fourteen, 114 E 49th St, Indianapolis, IN; 317-946-0114 

Eliesa Johnson

Back Bar at The Young Joni, Minneapolis

Chef Ann Kim didn’t really want to give a name to the hip, woodsy bar hidden behind the kitchen of her Northeast Minneapolis restaurant. Instead, she used music to help cultivate an identity inside the speakeasy she just calls Back Bar. Three-hour long mixtapes running on a rehabilitated reel-to-reel player feature hip-hop, jazz, Laurel Canyon folk—whatever music curator Scott McNiece has worked up for that evening.

Back Bar at The Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN; 612-345-5719

Bastion, Nashville

When Josh Habiger opened up Bastion, his intimate, inventive restaurant in what was once a storage room in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood last year, he set up a Marentz turntable and armed himself with a record collection numbering 750. “The music dictates the energy in the room,” he says. And the vast array of vinyl he pulls from can set all sorts of moods. From local Nashville American artists to albums off the Numero Records, which resurrects soul and R&B from old, defunct studios. One night he even had Taylor Swift’s backup singers doing harmony to Earth Wind & Fire over dinner.

Bastion, 434 Houston St, Nashville, TN; 615-490-8434