There I was in Cabo San Lucas, anxiously awaiting my turn to interview two living rock gods, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from KISS. The duo was in town promoting the opening of the second Los Cabos outpost of their restaurant chain, Rock & Brews, and I was there to ask them all about it.
While I had a slate of prepared questions to ask (as per usual), our conversation was anything but predictable. Stanley and I immediately bonded over being born and bred New Yorkers (he from Manhattan, I from Staten Island). He recalled fondly growing up in the world’s greatest melting pot and eating his family’s home-cooked meals.
Living opulent, rock-star lifestyles, Simmons and Stanley have had the very best opportunities to eat the most haute cuisine and stay in the most lavish of luxury hotels. They’ve been lucky, Simmons explained in great detail, but professed to have appreciated every opportunity to experience different cultures first hand. He waxed poetically about how important it is for people to travel and learn new languages.
Simmons even went as far as to ask me how I would spend my last day on Earth. I seemed to have bored him with my answer about spending it with loved ones, and his response to the same question was much more outlandish. “I would do something amazing. I would make my mark,” he said.
With the heavy existential discussions behind us, we turned our attention to the very subject of our interview: their flourishing restaurant chain. It was then that the irony of the existing dichotomy struck me as we dove into the details of Rock & Brews (it may be worth noting that Rock & Brews is similar to the Hard Rock Café concept, only with much more star power). Despite having experienced luxury on all levels throughout their storied careers, they felt compelled to launch a fast casual restaurant concept for the everyday person. Their mission, they told me, was to provide local, delicious food to all walks of life. Interesting, right? Especially coming from them.
They are, in essence, just like New York City. To me, the beauty of the City has always been that, no matter your financial situation, there are always two distinct experiences: the “bougie” and the “budget.” One can opt for the highest of high ends — the ultimate luxury experience — or one can search for the quirky, cost-effective, alternative experience. Both routes can be fulfilling, exciting, and uniquely “New York.”
As I explored my newfound theory, I found myself posing the ultimate question to my new friends: What is the price of an experience? In this instance, Stanley and Simmons chose a lower price point or a “budget” experience, if you will. Rock & Brews’ mission is to accommodate families and those who love to travel. The cuisine is simple — a menu filled with burgers, pizza, local craft beer and seasonal favorites. Menus vary from location to location, but the duo resolved to source local ingredients wherever possible at their restaurants. Diners in Maui will find traditional Hawaiian poke tacos, while those in Albuquerque will sample crispy carnitas.
KISS has single-handedly inspired me to embark on this exploration of the concept of “Bougie” or “Budget” in great detail. It seems as if the possibilities might be endless. Perhaps it won’t always be food-related (say, I don’t know, Per Se versus Shake Shack), however, there are a plethora of experiences just waiting to be revealed.
While I promise not to wear face paint during my journalistic due diligence, I do believe I will keep the spirit and essence of my two new rock god friends with me; I’m sure they don’t mind being along for the ride.