In the same way chef Craig Richards reads each season’s local ingredients at southern European eatery Lyla Lila, he reads each night’s diners to see which record is played on the restaurant’s turntable or which playlist is queued.
“Usually, our first turn is an older crowd and they don’t want blaring music,” says Richards. “So, jazz helps get the night started and gets the staff in the mood.”
After the seven o’clock hour, new wave ’80s and soul music take their turn, followed by what Richards classifies as, “albums that people recognize and haven’t heard in a while,” like some early Madonna or David Bowie.
Each room has a different volume—the bar being the loudest—and Richards reports that a few regulars have even brought in records that they think would work well over the restaurant’s own soundtrack of popping champagne bottles, hustling food runners, and cutlery against china.
While the night plays on, the volume goes up as Richards and his staff continue to monitor the crowd’s reactions to the music behind their culinary experience. Lyla Lila has even hosted pairing dinners where, along with food and wine, each course is coupled with an album.
This spring, the next iteration of the pairing dinner will come in the form of a partnership with Dory restaurant in Memphis for a soul music-inspired meal. The sound experience of Lyla Lila, Richards says, “has become part of the restaurant. People noticed more than I ever thought they would.”
Five Albums on Rotation at Lyla Lila
“High Season” | Poolside
“Saturday Night Fever” | Various artists
“Thriller” | Michael Jackson
“Today and Tomorrow” | McCoy Tyner
“Rio” | Duran Duran
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