It has been 40 years since Cheap Trick released its first album via Epic Records, yet the popularity of the Rockford, Illinois, band remains as widespread as ever in 2017. Not only are songs like “I Want You To Want Me,” “Surrender,” and “The Flame” still radio staples, but the quartet is still playing arenas and amphitheaters around the world. Currently on tour with Foreigner and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Cheap Trick is out on the road in support of this year’s excellent full-length album We’re All Alright! and its lead single “Long Time Coming,” released in April.
On behalf of The Daily Meal, I spoke with Cheap Trick’s guitarist and principal songwriter Rick Nielsen. Beyond his work with Cheap Trick, Nielsen is also a partner in the Chicago restaurant Piece Brewery and Pizzeria. The guitar hero is one of the naturally funniest people this interviewer has ever spoken to.
The Daily Meal: Your restaurant Piece is very popular but I haven't had the chance to go there yet. How would you describe it to someone who hasn't been there yet?
Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen: Well, I've never been there either. We could go together.
Well, I heard that it's in Wicker Park.
Yeah, where are you from?
I am from Long Island.
So it's a long way from Wicker Park.
Well, how would you describe it? It's pizza-centric, but is there a special kind of pizza there?
Yeah, it is thin-crust pizza in a thick-crust town.
Is there any memorabilia of yours there?
Oh yeah, there was some, there was more before. There are some pictures of me on the wall. The people were getting sick so they took them down. I have a triple-neck guitar that is in there right now and then a couple others, I think. It kind of moves around. He had one of my five-necks in there, now that’s in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame or the Grammy Museum right now.
It seems like you're on the road more than you're not. Do you get to go to Slice more than once a year?
I can go there anytime I want, but I'm never there. But yeah, I go at least a couple times a year. My business partner, Bill Jacobs, he runs the place, so the reason he is doing so well is because I'm never there.
Do you have a favorite item on the menu there?
Yeah, they make great stuff there. I did the Food Network show with Rachael Ray there and we implemented a chocolate dessert pizza.
So that's your favorite?
Well, it's good. I usually start with just dessert so I never want it at the end.
I'd actually sent a question to you through Kenny Weinstein a while back and you had said that your favorite restaurant in New York was Gray’s Papaya. Do you remember when you first went there?
I never went there, I just like the way that it was.
Okay, so when you…
I went there, I went there. I thought it was cool, it was like, you know, being from the Midwest, we didn't have a Gray’s Papaya there, so I thought, it is healthy bad food for you.
And you had also mentioned Tataki is your favorite Japanese place in New York?
Yeah, it is Tataki. It's really good; it has the best shrimp tempura of any place I have ever been. We had that thing about “what is your favorite restaurant in New York?” I was like, “Oh these other guys [chose] all these really expensive places. No, the difference is it has this sommelier there and they have the best foie gras and the best truffles.” Forget that. They have hot dogs and papaya.
Well, you’re still a man of the people.
Yeah, there you go.