A customer is accusing a North Carolina-based pizzeria of insensitivity for continuing to serve dishes named after songs by musician Ryan Adams. The singer-songwriter has been accused of psychological abuse by several women, in addition to allegedly engaging in sexually explicit communication with an underaged girl, according to the New York Times. In a statement, Adams “unequivocally” denied all the NYT allegations; he’s now the subject of an FBI investigation.
Sticks and Stones Clay Oven Pizza is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, not far from Adams’s hometown of Raleigh, and it gained national attention in 2010 for naming all of the items on its menu after Ryan Adams songs. A salad at Sticks and Stones, for example, is called “Peaceful Valley,” a song from Ryan Adams and the Cardinals’ 2005 album Jacksonville City Nights. There’s also an “Easy, Tiger” soup (which references Adams’s 2007 album) and a “To Be the One” pizza (named for a 2000 song).
In 2008, the restaurant’s then-chef Sandy Blocker reportedly told The News & Observer that the naming strategy was salute to Adams. “That came from a combination of the owner and one of the original chefs we had here,” Blocker said. “They’re big fans of Adams; it’s just one of those things. People who know Adams’s music get the titles, and the people who don’t are oblivious.” The restaurant has been known to occasionally add a #ryanadams when advertising dishes on social media.
Longtime Sticks and Stones customer and former Greensboro resident Erica Lane says she had a visceral reaction to last month’s New York Times report, which included stories from women who claimed Adams presented himself as a mentor and took advantage of them. The experiences, they say, had a negative impact on their lives and careers. “I lived the experience of having someone come into your life pretending to nurture a dream and then really just sexually manipulating, using, and abusing you,” Lane says, noting that she signed a non-disclosure agreement that bars her from speaking in detail about her own experience.
In light of the allegations, Lane felt compelled to reach out to Sticks and Stones by phone about removing the Adams tributes from its menus. Lane tells Eater she contacted and spoke to staff at the restaurant on at least four occasions in the week after the NYT report, requesting to speak with management and leaving her phone number. “The last person I spoke with was this server and at that point I was feeling frustrated and ignored,” she says. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if anyone there has any intention of calling me back, but I’m kind of upset.’”
Although Adams does not directly profit from the business, Lane believes the continued use of the musician’s song titles feels like an endorsement of the artist and a slap in the face to victims of sexual misconduct. “[Sticks and Stones] has wonderful, wonderful food that I can’t stomach the thought of having in front of me,” she says. Lane believes that there hasn’t been as much pushback among fellow Sticks and Stones customers, because most people may not recognize the menu items as Ryan Adams references. However, as a person who was once a fan of Adams, she says the restaurant’s continued associations with his music feels wrong. “Every name of everything on the menu immediately evokes a song for me and a memory, and now all of those memories are bad, and disgusting, and gross.”
Lane says that as radio stations and record stores stop promoting Adams’s work and the musician’s tours get canceled — a planned new album was also scrapped — it makes sense for businesses who have paid tribute to the artist to distance themselves.
Eater has reached out to Sticks and Stones Clay Oven: Messages were left with staff as well as emails sent to owner Neil Reitzel requesting comment on the Ryan Adams-themed menu. No comment was provided at press time. An employee speaking by phone on Wednesday stated that they weren’t “sure what the situation is with [the menu]” and “haven’t been informed either way” about possible changes to the names of dishes.