Once upon a time, it was said that all actors wanted to be rock stars, and all musicians dreamed of being on the silver screen. Nowadays, it seems both have their sights set on the food world. Celebrities are lending their names, personal histories and private bank accounts to restaurants, bars and nightclubs faster than you can say “brand expansion.” And the results are even more surprising than that time Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture over Schindler’s List.
In honor of this month’s awards season, we’ve done the research, eaten the evidence and compiled a list of the strangest celebrity restaurants from coast to coast. From Californian Kevin Costner’s Italian joint in South Dakota to Susan Sarandon’s nationwide passion for ping pong, these are the country’s most unexpected celebrity-owned haunts.
1. Don Johnson: Ana Mandara, San Francisco
Two things are surprising about Ana Mandara, a French-Vietnamese restaurant owned by Don Johnson. One is that it is not located in Miami. The other is that it’s actually pretty good. Executive chef Khai Duong serves flavorful small plates like basil-wrapped shrimp in tamarind sauce, and the accompanying Cham Bar has solid cocktails like the Ana Mandara, which combines vodka with muddled mint and lemongrass, plus a splash of house-made sour. 891 Beach St., San Francisco. 415-771-6800 anamandara.com
2. Quentin Tarantino: Do Hwa, New York City
On a quiet block in Manhattan’s West Village lies Do Hwa, a sleek and modern Korean restaurant with a DJ booth, inventive cocktails and several tables with built-in grills for barbecue. Curiously co-owned by Django Unchained’s Quentin Tarantino, Do Hwa serves classics like bulgogi and bibimbap beneath vintage movie posters, and creates new dishes like dak teegim, in which fried chicken strips are doused in bright, tangy jalapeño sauce. It is, as Tarantino might say, fucking delicious. 55 Carmine Street, New York. 212-414-2815. dohwanyc.com
3. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges: Chicken N Beer, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Grammy winner and acclaimed actor (from 2004’s Best Picture Crash, no less) Ludacris is no culinary neophyte. In 2007, he opened Straits Atlanta, a well-reviewed Asian fusion restaurant helmed by Chris Yeo. Preferring to burn out than to fade away, he shuttered the popular spot last month, and now plans to hit the food court. Chicken N Beer, named after Luda’s so-titled 2003 album, will serve comfort food and craft beer in one of the busiest airports in the South. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta. No phone or website yet.
4. Susan Sarandon: SPiN, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Milwaukee
A working actor since 1969, Susan Sarandon won her first Oscar in 1995, playing against type in Dead Man Walking. In 2009, she continued to surprise, this time by revealing her all-consuming love for ping pong. SPiN, Sarandon’s NYC temple to table tennis, has since spun off locations in Toronto, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. The parlors serve fairly straightforward cocktails and bar snacks, but any player worth his paddle will tell you that the menu isn’t really the point. At SPiN, it’s all table tennis, all the time. 48 East 23rd St., New York | 550 South Flower St., Los Angeles. | 233 East Chicago St. Milwaukee | 461 King St. West, Toronto spingalactic.com
5. Kevin Costner: Jake’s, Deadwood
While on location to film 1990’s Academy Award-winning Dances with Wolves, star Kevin Costner fell for South Dakota. Hard. So the California native did the most natural thing in the world and opened an Italian fine dining restaurant atop a saloon in Deadwood, the famed 19th Century gambling and opium outpost. Jake’s serves Tuscany-comes-to-cowboy-country items like bison-stuffed ravioli alongside a wine list heavy on Italian and Californian bottles. Giddy up. 677 Main St. Deadwood 605-578-3656 themidnightstar.com
6. Sammy Hagar: Cabo Wabo Cantina, Cabo San Lucas, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas
Frontman, entrepreneur and chili pepper aficionado Sammy Hagar debuted Cabo Wabo Cantina, a nightclub serving such party-friendly fare as coconut shrimp and sirloin-topped tortillas, in Cabo San Lucas in 1990. Cabo Wabo has since expanded to outposts in casinos in Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. But this is hardly the Red Rocker’s first foray in culinary branding. Hagar’s gastronomic oeuvre also includes eponymous rum and the rather well-reviewed Cabo Wabo Tequila. Hey, it’s your tomorrow. 23450 Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. +52 624 143 1198. 3663 | Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas. 702-836-2226 | Highway 50 at Stateline Ave., Lake Tahoe. 775-588-2411 cabowabocantina
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