So first of all, the music at Babirusa that evening was loud. L-O-U-D.
The new next-door sister restaurant/bar to the stunning Blind Pig Bistro is its own little (29 seats) universe of escapist booze and boutique eats, with affable servers who freewheelingly engage their customers. It's edgy and iconoclastic and its own unique self...and, for many, the kind of appealing Third Place where neighbors will become regulars, and everyone else will want to be both.
That’s what I thought at first, anyway.
The music seemed a nostalgic little aural throwback—some Beastie Boys, a little Vanilla Ice—which recalled the ‘80s in a similar, if slightly in-your-facier, fashion than Blind Pig had on one of my visits two years ago, when it enshrined the easy-listening of Phil Collins in a way that inspired me to new heights of grumpiness.
“In a boutique foodie haunt known for the unique seasonal inventions of a name chef…lowest-common-denominator pop is a jarring mismatch to the message of the enterprise,” I wrote then.
Uh…was this their way of fixing it?
Because before our pork cracklins gave way to our Arctic char hushpuppies, the music grew nastier and the f-bombs began ricocheting off the walls. “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta,” came those old Geto Boys lyrics. “Cocksuckin’ pussy-eatin’ prankstas.”
Seriously? In a restaurant?
“But isn’t this a bar?” my husband asked—which I guess would make a slight difference, given that that would at least limit the audience to adults. But in fact, Babirusa is licensed as a restaurant, with a bar area. Just after the Geto Boys wrapped up a couple kids came in with their parents.
Besides, are lyrics this crude and sexist any more appropriate to a bar? “Even if it were a bar, we might’ve brought your mother,” I reminded my husband, who recoiled at that thought of his 79-year-old mother getting an earful of that. “Since it isn’t, we could be sitting here with our daughter.” Point made.
The way I see it, lyrics like that have no business showing up anywhere near the hospitality industry, for the simple reason that they are not hospitable. Nevermind whether they are empirically offensive—that’s a question for philosophers, no matter what I might argue.
The practical problem arises when such lyrics offend so many people they begin to influence business—especially a business whose high-end food is aimed squarely at sophisticates. Is it just me, or is that the biggest duh in the restaurant industry?
Let the record show: Babirusa is hardly the first to go all NC-17 on us. The late Ballard bar, Copper Gate, was all but wallpapered in nudie art. Heck, visit those French bastions of civilized dining, Loulay and Luc, and you might get owner Thierry Rautureau dropping by your table---a guy who, for a native French speaker, knows how to conjugate the f-word in a dazzling extravagance of ways.
So where lies the line between charming character and tasteless indiscretion? And where do you think a loud and sexually graphic soundtrack lands on that continuum?
I'm genuinely interested in your feedback.