Grateful Dead-themed dinner at Philly’s Pinefish feat. ‘Dark Starters’

What better date to announce the event than 4/20?

Courtesy of Pinefish / Billy Penn illustration

Update April 21: The May 8 dinner at Pinefish has sold out. Call to be added to the wait list, and note that this is the first in what will be a repeating series.

The Grateful Dead did not invent 420 as code for marijuana. They did not always stay in a hotel’s Room 420 when on tour, and they did not light up a joint at exactly 4:20 p.m. every day (well, they might have, but that’s besides the point). What the godfathers of jam band rock did do was help popularize the term.

Actual origin stories lead to a group of students at San Rafael High School in Marin County, Calif., who were looking to avoid the regular after-school gathering of jocks and cheerleaders and so would meet up at 4:20 p.m. to smoke weed instead. One of those ‘70s kids, Dave Reddix, went on to become a roadie for bassist Phil Lesh, which is likely how the term became part of Dead lingo and spread underground. Popularity of 420 really boomed after High Times started using it — which likely came after reporter Steve Bloom saw the phrasing “smoke 420 on 4/20 at 4:20,” on a flyer handed out by Deadheads in Oakland.

The band’s connection to 420 is why April 20 is the re-release date of “The Grateful Dead Movie” — in theaters all over the country for one day only on its 40th anniversary. That year four decades ago was huge for the Dead; the May 8, 1977 concert at Cornell University’s Barton Hall has been called their greatest ever. It’s certainly their most famous ever. The anniversary is being marked by the release of a huge new box set from the show, and it’s also what Peter Dissin of Pinefish is celebrating with a special themed dinner.

On Monday, May 8, the Wash West restaurant — which, remember, opened with noted weed enthusiast David Ansill as chef — is offering a prix-fixe menu inspired by Dead songs.

For your $30, you get to choose three courses from a selection in these categories:

  • “I Need a Vegetable (every day)” — vegetables, miracles, it’s all the same when you want to eat healthy
  • “Dark Starters” — starters are the star of any dinner these days, so yep
  • “Uncle John’s Plates” — you can make music by smashing plates, so that’s kind of like a band?

Diners also get a “set-break” palate cleanser of “Here Comes the Sorbet,” and can opt to pony up $5 extra for the “Ice Cream Puff War” dessert. Drink specials will also be themed, and the printed menu can be taken home as a keepsake.

“I know a lot of Deadheads, and this is a legendary performance that everyone talks about,” Dissin said, craftily avoiding admitting he’s one of them himself.

Indeed, the rest of the items on the night’s menu belie his familiarity with the band’s oevure. Check out the list and see how many connections you can get (or how many without groaning), then call for a seat or make a reservation online.

  • “Mind Left Brussels Sprouts”
  • “Shakedown Shrimp”
  • “Salmon & Delilah”
  • “Brokedown Scallops”
  • “Here Comes Sirloin”
  • “Minglewood Stew”
  • “New Speedway Brisket”
  • “Terrapin Tuna”
  • “Touch of Foie”
  • “China Cat Cauliflower”
  • “I Know You Cider”
  • “Fire on the Malbec”

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