Music Playlists Revealed for Notable Houston Restaurants

At Better Luck Tomorrow, customers enjoy a side of David Bowie with their Wagyu beef salad. Diners at Theodore Rex hear the Cardigans’ ’90s alternative song “Love Me” while taking a bite of steamed Gulf snapper.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtracks, including “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, are playing on the turntables at Nobie’s.

Music is as essential to creating the atmosphere of a restaurant as the décor. Songs can make you feel energized, calm, or any range of emotions. And when a restaurant succeeds, it’s auditory bliss that enhances your overall experience.

“I’m very proud of our playlists, which I curate,” Bobby Heugel, owner of Better Luck Tomorrow (BLT), told Chron.com.


Heugel created two Spotify playlists, called “BLT – Slow” and “BLT – Busy” for Heights restaurant and bar. Staff switch between the two, adjusting the volume as well, depending on how crowded the place is, Heugel said.

Innovative hip-hop artist Q-Tip’s “Let’s Ride” and Rick James’ funky “Mary Jane” rock the beat, with songs like Prince’s “Kiss” and Chic’s R&B song “Good Times” that enhance the mood.

“BLT’s playlist offers a fresh perspective that taps into old favorites from another era while finding new extensions of those genres in today’s music,” Heugel said.

Whitney’s “Southern Nights” and The Cranberries’ “Dreams” fill the intimate downtown restaurant, Theodore Rex, as guests linger over dinner prepared by chef and owner Justin Yu and his staff in a small open kitchen.

The restaurant is equipped with plenty of vinyl records and a solid sound system. “I wouldn’t say it’s state-of-the-art, but it works for us,” chef and owner Justin Yu told Chron.com.

When Theodore Rex’s doors open at 5 p.m., the music is “bump and grind,” switching to ’90s R&B by the end of the night, Yu said.

Yu, who created the restaurant’s playlist with the help of his girlfriend — “She’s a lot cooler than me,” he said — keeps an eye on the noise level.

“You’ll probably see me walking up to the system to set it up several times a night,” he said.

Theodore Rex’s customers are receptive to his playlist. “I think it matches the airy decor and creates a generally upbeat and positive vibe,” Yu said. “People seem to like it.”

At the one-story restaurant, Nobie’s, located in a 1930s house in Montrose, chef and owner Martin Stayer takes music selection seriously.

His private collection of more than 2,500 vinyl records plays over a PA system installed by Uncanned Music, a Chicago programming service.

“Their priority is to provide spaces for playing on natural acoustics where diners can enjoy music, but also conversation,” Stayer said. “We have vintage Pioneer speakers, Marantz receivers and a Technics turntable.”

Bartenders typically determine the album’s lineup for the evening, choosing from a mix of artists, including Van Morrison’s first band called Them, Thin Lizzy, Fleetwood Mac and ZZ Top, Stayer said.

“The music complements the diner feeling we’re looking for,” Stayer told Chron.com. “Records are constantly changing, like our menu.”

One thing that doesn’t vary, however, is that once the album hits platinum, it’s played in its entirety.

“Music should be loud, but not overwhelming,” Stayer said. “I appreciate this moment of silence between each disc change. It can be a romantic moment.”

See above for more playlists from Better Luck Tomorrow, Theodore Rex, and Nobie’s, as well as playlists from several other Houston restaurants.

Marcy de Luna is a digital journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @MarcydeLuna and Facebook @MarcydeLuna. Read his stories on our news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, HoustonChronicle.com. | Marcy.deLuna@chron.com | Text CHRON to 77453 to receive the latest news by SMS

George L. Hernandez