8 Tucson restaurant playlists to jam out to (or play at a dinner party)

By Jackie Tran
July 1, 2019

Tune in to the sweet sounds of familiar places that bring memories of meal satisfaction.

Selecting music for a restaurant's vibe can be as thoughtful as constructing a menu — Mozart playing as you eat pancakes? Not likely.

The playlist can serve as a conductor, setting the tempo for an upbeat or chill ambiance. It can be a cultural window, matching the cuisine's country of origin and make you feel like you're no longer in Tucson.

While the music usually provides guests with entertainment, it can be a stress reliever for staff. If you're lucky to hear a soulful voice singing along in the kitchen, we can only hope that passion translates into wonderful food.

Although live music is the most energizing, we've gathered these playlists so you can enjoy the vibes of these hip joints from the comfort of your own kitchen, car, or shower.

Ghini’s French Caffe

1803 E. Prince Rd.

Ghini's keeps it French with classics like Edith Piaf. Standards by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong mingle in as well.

Owner-Chef Coralie Satta:

"At Ghini's, we like to play artists that I grew up with when I was in France. Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Michel Sardou, Claude Francois, Johnny Hallyday, and loads of other French pop singers, we try to keep it all French but some others do slip in there."

For more information, visit ghiniscafe.com.


1 E. Congress St.

Nook features a collaborative playlist with contributions from staff. ODESZA and Justice play major roles on the list.

Owner-Chef Nikki Thompson:

"We like to keep our vibe energetic and happy; music helps us create that environment. We stay true to our electronic roots without going too heavy during service."

For more information, visit nookdowntown.com.

OBON Sushi Bar Ramen

350 E. Congress St.

Even though sushi and ramen are Japanese, OBON rocks a fun 'poppy' vibe that embraces a melting pot of cultures.

Executive Chef Paulo Im:

"We have a couple of different playlists throughout the day. A lot of it is reactionary. We try and get a feel for the vibe in the dining room.

Monday through Friday we have lunch. During those times, we get the business crowd. We usually play either the seventies/eighties playlist or feel good radio on Spotify. The playlist on our computer is called "Never Ending 80s" but it has so much more. Lots of The Cure, and Hall & Oates.

Brandon (OBON owner) says that BPM (beats per minute) should match the vibe of the dining room. Happy hour and during Saturdays when we open we like to play Kygo radio, or Upbeat + Summer Sun. I love playing the "Awake" album but Tycho during the dinner rush during the weekends."

For more information, visit obonsushi.com.

Prep & Pastry

2660 N. Campbell Ave. • 6450 E. Grant Rd. Ste. 160

Prep & Pastry plays music from their Fitz and the Tantrums station via Pandora for Business, which provides an upbeat feel matching the sunny environment.

While pop rock dominates the list, oldies such as "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" make appearances.

For more information, visit prepandpastry.com.

Sushi On Oracle

6449 N. Oracle Rd.

Nujabes, Ghibli Jazz, DJ Okawari, and Yuna mesh for a chill modern vibe at Sushi on Oracle. If you enjoyed the soundtrack to Samurai Champloo, you'll be in heaven.

Sushi chef Tommy Begay:

"I love music. The music I choose needs to, first of all, fit the dining room. It needs to fill the space without taking it over.

Second, I like having music that no one else is playing. There's kind of a sense of crate digging that I like.

Third, if it's produced by Japanese artists, that's a plus.

I love it when guests ask 'where did you find this?' or 'where did you get this instrumental?' That's why most of Sushi on Oracle's music can't be found on Spotify."

For more information, visit sushionoracle.net.

Tavolino Ristorante Italiano

2890 E. Skyline Dr.

While Tavolino used to stick with big band classics like Sinatra, they began incorporating a more laid-back indie psychedelic rock sort of feel with musicians such as Tame Impala, Band of Horses, and The Black Keys.

Manager Justin Fernandez:

"Tavolino is known for its authentic Northern Italian cuisine. In our opinion, there are two ways to go with a restaurant playlist. Keep it traditional and authentic to the region and style of food being served or contrast that authenticity with an appropriate playlist.

We've been using a Tame Impala (artist) playlist on Pandora for six or so months now and the vibe is a lot different from in the past, which allows for a slightly less stuffy atmosphere. As an upscale casual restaurant, we want our customers to have the ideal dining experience combined with atmosphere, food, value, service and of course, ambiance.

Being a former musician, I highly respect the power of a solid playlist in any environment, especially in a restaurant."

For more information, visit tavolinoristorante.com.

Welcome Diner

902 E. Broadway Blvd.

While Welcome Diner features a different playlist every Sunday, their main playlist features an eclectic selection of artists ranging from jazzy hip hop instrumental group BadBadNotGood to the psychedelic rock of Rodríguez.

A dishwasher, nicknamed Creble, created the playlist in 2015. The massive 436-hour playlist now features almost 8,000 songs.

For more information, visit welcomediner.net.

The Coronet (opening soon)

198 W. Cushing St.

Global musicians such as gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and Brazilian duo Los Indios Tabajaras mesh with Tucson musicians Naim Amor and Calexico to form the Coronet's bistro playlist.

For the summertime when they're open after 10 p.m., they'll shift into a smaller playlist for late night vibes.

For more information, visit cafecoronet.com.


Which Tucson restaurants have your favorite playlists? Let us know in the comments.

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Article By

Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...

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