This Is The Real ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ That Arlo Guthrie Sang About

Anyone familiar with Arlo Guthrie's famously long song 'Alice's Restaurant,' has likely wondered where it actually is – and we've found it.

A signature song of the USA, Arlo Guthrie's anti-war anthem Alice's Restaurant has been reminiscent of Thanksgiving ever since the 20-minute hit tune was played by a local radio station.

In reality, the song is indeed about a very real place; Alice’s Restaurant is more than an American folk song, it was inspired by actual events and a trendy local café – a joint that was actually known under a very different name back in the day – and it's still in business.


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Although it's changed owners over the decades, the much-loved café is still a charming setting akin to its former self, remaining a popular attraction once made nationally famous by Guthrie's relatable, infectious song that made an impression on the country. His work perfectly symbolized the youth's dissatisfaction with pointless bureaucracy and war, further garnering their attention thanks to its easy melody and catchy chorus. And, above all, it's the story behind the fun tune that makes it all the more entertaining, a story involving very real people and a very real place.

The History Of Alice's Restaurant

Although Guthrie's hit song referred to it as "Alice's Restaurant", the place was never actually called that; its official name was "The Back Room", but it became known as the former after the song's success shot it to fame. But who exactly is Alice and what's the story of her restaurant?

Indeed, Alice Brock was a talented artist and good friend of Arlo Guthrie – the musician and writer behind the iconic musical work of art. She was also a restaurateur and the owner of The Back Room – a befitting name for her business which was, as its name suggested, operated from the back room of a convenience store in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the original inspiration for Guthrie's song.

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As time went by, the café changed hands after Alice sold up and moved on, with the only evidence that it once was the one and only Alice’s Restaurant being be found on the signs nearby the newer business standing in as its replacement – Theresa’s Stockbridge Café – the new name given by owners who purchased the establishment in 2009.

In the modern-day, Theresa's is the closest people can get to dining at the original Alice's Restaurant. It has also entered into a partnership with the local Main Street Café located in the old convenience store where Alice used to serve hungry locals hearty favorites, further enhancing the authenticity of the historical pop culture experience that people can enjoy today.

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The Inspiration Behind The Hit Song "Alice’s Restaurant Massacree"

Arlo Guthrie’s famous track entails the woes of bureaucracy, small-town policing, military conscription, and of course – garbage. Famously known as Alice's Restaurant, the song's full name is Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, written on Thanksgiving Day, 1965, when then 18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Rick Robbins had a job clearing out the house of Alice and Ray Brock in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Born on Coney Island to folk music legend Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie attended a private boarding school where Alice – a Brooklyn native – was a librarian, and her husband, Ray, worked as a carpentry teacher. The couple had somewhat of an avid fanbase at the school; students were intrigued by their interesting, laid-back lifestyle, which led to Guthrie and many other students spending a lot of their time outside of school at the pair's home – a building that was once a former church.

After much time, Alice eventually started up her own business, opening a small restaurant off Stockbridge’s main street – a local eatery that would later be catapulted to nationwide fame as the inspiration for Guthrie's eventual musical masterpiece, and the setting of his Thanksgiving slurry of sod's law luck.

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The events that led to Arlo Guthrie's song began on the day of a Thanksgiving feast made by Alice. Several of Alice and Ray's young guests who were celebrating the holiday at her abode decided to stay overnight, drifting off in sleeping bags on the first-floor sanctuary of the church – wherein Alice and her husband inhabited the bell tower. As a show of gratitude for their hospitality, Arlo decided to stay behind and help Alice and Ray clean up the post-Thanksgiving feast mess.

With bags of bottles, food, paper, and myriads of festive rubbish and titbits on hand, Arlo and a friend realized they had nowhere to dispose of it all; the city dump was closed for the holidays, leading them to the bright idea of dumping the trash atop a pre-existing heap that they found by the roadside. However, four days later on November 29, Arlo and co were charged with the crime of “illegally disposing of rubbish”, with both pleading guilty and each paying a $25 fine. Consequently, the two youths were also ordered to remove the trash from a residential property on Stockbridge’s Prospect Street, unluckily during a heavy bout of rain on a gloomy Saturday afternoon.

In the immediate aftermath of his brush with the law, Guthrie began manifesting his frustrations in the form of a song, which he didn't actually put to paper until he learned he required copyright. He named his storytelling masterpiece Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, the latter word being a colloquial term for a series of silly events.

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Foot-tapping, fun, and overflowing with war-resistant sentiment and disdain for bureaucratic officialities, Guthrie continued to spread his story of Thanksgiving misfortune in musical form over many years, playing at local, national, and international venues where it was positively received – and even celebrated. Varying in length from 19 to 35 minutes, Guthrie's performance has bounced all around the world and the track itself continues to be a Thanksgiving staple today.

And what better way to experience the story behind the music, as well as celebrate it, than popping down to Alice's (or Theresa's as it's now called), to enjoy a wholesome meal? Such would be made even better if it's part of one's Thanksgiving vacation. If doing so is indeed on the cards, be sure to put any trash in the appropriately provided bins, not on the street – a visit to this pop-culturally significant part of town is not an excuse to become the next unfortunate Arlo Guthrie, writing songs about one's littering mishaps and woeful clashes with local law enforcement (as pettily entertaining as it all might be).

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