“Juicy J and me were staying in a hotel in Atlanta and wanted to go get drinks, but the hotel bar was already closed,” says DJ Paul, a founding member of the Memphis hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia and purveyor of his own line of BBQ sauces and rubs. “The hotel told us about this strip club, The Cheetah, so we we went and I ate the best macaroni and cheese I ever had. I think it had Sriracha in it.”
That DJ Paul would embrace the strip club as a dining haven shouldn’t surprise you. After all, the legacy of hip-hop and adult-entertainment venues runs deep. Emcees like Rick Ross have built up reputations for dropping major cash at clubs in Miami. But even more so than providing an audience for flamboyant displays of excess, popular spots like Magic City in Atlanta have played a key role in launching the careers of up-and-coming artists. Having the right DJ spin your new track in a room packed with industry folk can quickly turn a new track into an anthem.
And once you score a strip-club hit? Well, you head back to the club to celebrate.
DJ Paul’s bandmate, Juicy J, grabbed a stack of cash and hit up the strip spot with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz for his crossover “Bandz A Make Her Dance” video. After breaking through with “No Flex Zone,” Mike Will Made It’s proteges Rae Sremmurd shot their “Throw Some Mo” flick in a fantasy club packed with rollerskating strippers.
“The hotel told us about this strip club, The Cheetah, so we we went and I ate the best macaroni and cheese I ever had. I think it had Sriracha in it.”
But beyond the ass-shaking shenanigans and politicking, there’s a savvy group of artists like DJ Paul who have discovered that strip-club dining complements the trappings of rap life. And we’re not just talking about sticky fingers tackling grubby wings in a run-down spot: The Cheetah’s in-house restaurant, Alluvia, bills itself as a high-end dining establishment, with a chef’s table offering dishes like oven-roasted airline chicken breasts paired with a black truffle-based périgueux sauce, served by glammed-up Cheetah Girls.
It’s increasingly looking like rappers have been ahead of the curve in their endorsement. Vancouver’s all-nude gentlemen’s club, No. 5 Orange, hired chef Stuart Irving to retool its menu to feature locally sourced meats and a range of gourmet hot dogs, while Casa Diablo in Portland bills itself as an “infamous vegan house of sin” and boasts a plant-based menu to back up its claims. Even the food elite have taken cues from this underworld dining culture. Over in Los Angeles, Kris Yenbamroong—whose Night + Market restaurants have turned pop-culture icons like Lena Dunham, Daft Punk and ?uestlove into fans—openly declares that his fried-rice Khao Pad American dish is inspired by Thai “strip club food.”
But does one skip the buffet and head straight for the steak? What’s the move when it comes to ordering bubbly? Here, we recruited the help of several seasoned rappers and club vets to assemble an essential guide for eating and drinking in strip clubs.
Etiquette and Self Control 101
First up, even if your motivation in hitting the strip club is as much about ordering food as eyeballing the dancers, there are still some standard codes that you’ll need to adhere to. As the Chicago-based Cinematic Music Group signing G Herbo says, “Do not take money up off the ground. A major rule in a strip club is you have to go in there and throw some money around, even if it’s just a little bit.”
When it comes to dressing for a strip club meal, Chevy Woods, who rolls with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang, says it’s fine to wear your regular attire—“jeans and a cool shirt”—but don’t bomb to the depths of being that guy in a sweat suit.
Also note that, despite the abundance of gyrating flesh in the building, some things are firmly off menu. As DJ Paul says, “The only thing I won’t eat in a strip club is a woman!”
Order Big From Your Best Spots
Cool Amerika, an Atlanta-based duo who scored a break-out hit with last year’s strip spot anthem “Make Sum Shake,” are all about the menu at the legendary Magic City club. “It’s gotta be the steak and potatoes,” says group member Stunt, before slipping into a rapture over the spot’s starch game: “The potatoes are real mashed, like they sink right through the fork, and it’s got the perfect amount of seasoning to get the right amount of salt and not too much pepper. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had.” DJ Paul calls these places a “Steak and Strip.”
Veteran Houston fixture Trae Tha Truth likes to split his strip-club dining between V Live and Dreams in his hometown. “Chicken pops are always good in the club,” he says. “I’ll sometimes go with the tilapia and rice and these super huge potatoes.” G Herbo can also be found hitting up V Live, tempted by the banana-themed night (which is not exactly on the traditional foodie tip).
Don’t discount the chains either. Chevy Woods vouches for the Onyx franchise of strip clubs for his dining kicks. “I actually had some food that was real crazy, like soul food,” says Chevy, who has also been known to adopt the handle Cheffy Woods when firing up the grill for his squad. “It was greens, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, yams, and fried chicken that was surprisingly good.”
Hands Off Thighs, Hands on Food
If a cardinal rule of strip club patronage is to never touch the girls, the opposite is true when it comes to grub. A lot of places offer early-bird unlimited buffets, which Chevy Woods endorses due to their “grab-and-dash appeal.” At a spot called Pin Ups in Atlanta—the “home of the $5 dances”—he fills his chops with finger food and salads. Back in 2014, Wale even dubbed himself a “culinary strip-club guy,” explaining to Complex how he was capable of differentiating “all the lemon pepper” chicken-wing seasonings across the South’s strip-club belt.
The idea of hands-on strip club fare is something Chevy sees potential in. “If I was cooking there, I’d serve up platters,” he says. “I’d do maybe something like chicken on a biscuit, sirloin, and onions on a bun, [like] sliders. You can walk around with that food, and give out samplers to test things out and judge the reaction. Grab-and-dash foods work.”
Paying testament to Chevy’s hunch, the rapper Antwon recalls enjoying a grilled cheeseburger at the Los Angeles-based Dames ‘n Games. The topless sports bar enterprise is known for pairing strippers offering private dances with finger-friendly fare like southwestern egg rolls and blackened steak bites.
Embrace the Eye Candy
Let’s take a break from the food porn for a minute: When you’re chowing down in a strip club, you’re looking at a whole other level of eye candy. Being blunt, you’re going to be eating around various states of nakedness. Embrace it. “Where I’m from, the environment is one of the main reasons why people go to the strip club to eat,” enthuses Trae. “If you’re new to the scene, it can be hard to focus on the food with all these things going on around you, but once you’re there on the regular, it becomes normal.”
“When you can get steak and a set of buns at the same time—and I’m not talking about biscuits—you can’t beat that,” says DJ Paul. “Whatever ingredients might be missing in the flavor [of the food] is totally surpassed by the ass.”
DJ Paul also maintains that strip clubs serve as a superior late-night dining option for the intrepid hip-hop star. “It can be hard to find good food at those times unless you want to go to a Waffle House, an IHOP, or a Denny’s. But you can nearly always get a steak at the strip club and those other places don’t come with a side of booty.”
Stick With Classics like Gin & Juice
Leave your craft-beer snobbery at the door—strip-club dining is all about hard liquor combinations and light brews. Chevy Woods recommends Bombay Sapphire gin mixed with lemonade as “a good club drink,” while DJ Paul ups the ante by pairing a Crown Royal and Coke with a couple of shots of Jose Cuervo tequila. The Triple-Six man also throws up Corona Lite as a strip club-friendly beer.
But avoiding alcohol can also be a savvy move when settling down to chow and chill in the strip club. Trae sticks to nothing stronger than a coke, while Antwon fancies it up with the ginger beer and grenadine attack of a Shirley Temple.
Can You Tip a Stripper With Food?
Finally, let’s deal with one of life’s eternal dilemmas: Is it ever acceptable to slide a stripper a plate of food in lieu of a fistful of bills? According to the majority of our hip-hop panel, no, this is not respectable strip-club behavior.
“I wouldn’t do that because the girls get mad when you give them anything other than money,” cautions DJ Paul. “Trust me, I’ve been in that situation before.”
Bally from Cool Amerika agrees, saying, “That is not okay, and I’ll never do that.” Although his counterpart Stunt suggests that tipping a dancer with food might be a passable move in one hypothetical situation: “I think if it was a slow night and she didn’t make any money and you give her a plate, she would be very appreciative. I’d send her chicken wings and fries, you know, fill her up!”