You met someone on a dating app and their only interests are: bluegrass, craft cocktails, and spending time with their four-year-old nephew. You’ve seen pictures of the nephew, and he looks boring, so you roll with the other two interests. Now you need a bar that has bluegrass.
If you’ve been in this situation, this guide’s for you. Also, if you like bars and restaurants with live music, this guide is for you. To be clear, this isn’t a list of venues. These are spots that serve food and drinks that also have live music. Even when there isn’t music, most of these places are still fun spots to hang out.
This Japanese jazz bar is one of those rare Midtown spots that makes you forget you’re half a mile from Auntie Anne’s in Penn Station. But now they’re offering live music, sake, and delicious cod roe spaghetti on their sidewalk every night starting at 5pm. Music typically starts around 6:30pm, but we’d recommend showing up early to get a seat. Tomi isn’t taking any reservations at this time.
You’re going to contribute to the live music at Marie’s Crisis. If that brings back memories of singing You’re The One That I Want with your ex at a karaoke bar, you can take a breath. This is a piano bar, and the songs tend to be showtunes. You can just be a bystander if you want, but it’s pretty hard to not join in when everyone in this West Village bar crowds around the piano and belts out songs from Les Miserables in unison.
If you visit Guantanamera in the daytime, you’ll think it’s just a Cuban restaurant with tiki ceiling fans and an empty stage set-up. That’s because, like owls and animated cowboy dolls, this kitschy 9th Avenue spot comes alive at night. The live band, crowded bar, and kind man selling hand-rolled cigars are the real reasons why you should come here. So the next time you want to hear some live music while simultaneously eating a cubano and learning how to mambo, try this place.
Thanks to all the tree-lined streets and stunning brownstones, Fort Greene might just be the most date-worthy neighborhood in the city. And that’s probably why this French bistro, which is right across the street from Fort Greene Park, is usually packed with couples of all ages. It’s the kind of place you visit when you want to gaze up at some trees and share a bottle of sparkling wine at a sidewalk table. But you can also swing by for lunch, dinner, or brunch with someone you might want to explore Paris with in a few years. But above all else, you should know that Cafe Paulette has a live jazz band on Tuesday nights and takes reservations ahead of time online.
Between the spacious sidewalk setup, fresh pasta, and great wine, going to this west Soho restaurant will probably make your week. But going to Cafe Altro Paradiso when they have live jazz on Sunday night may make you weep. You can make a reservation for either their indoor or outdoor dining area here.
Cafe Erzulie, a Haitian cafe in Bushwick, often hosts live performances, Caribbean music nights, and steel drum bands in their backyard (as well as stand-up comedy). While you’re here, you can order things like plantain chips with guacamole, Haitian patties filled with beef, and a platter of black rice, pikliz (a spicy pickled relish), and sweet green peas. Make sure to follow Cafe Ezrulie on Instagram so you never miss something great.
Greenwich Village used to be the center of a bohemian renaissance, and now it’s mostly filled with NYU students looking for bouncers who don’t use ID scanners. So you won’t find Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, or Joni Mitchell hanging out at The Bitter End like the old days, but it’s still a good place to go when you want to hear live music. They have everything from hip-hop to acapella - as well as an acoustic open mic every Saturday afternoon.
This music bar in Crown Heights opened in the summer of 2020, and it’s somewhere you should pin on your Google Maps if you enjoy things like frozen cocktails and saxophone solos. Their outdoor areas has different performers every night. Check out their menu and schedule here.
According to Google, a honky tonk is a “cheap or disreputable bar, club, or dance hall, typically where country music is played.” Yeah, that sounds like Skinny Dennis. This Williamsburg bar is cheap and disreputable in all the best ways. We suggest you lean on the bar, double fist some Lone Stars and chat with a friend while you catch some country music with your peripheral hearing. Most nights there’s a band - just check the calendar to see what’s coming up.
The Grange’s wooden, string-lit sidewalk cafe looks like a deck in a home improvement show. It’s a charming place to bring a date or your family for American dishes like spicy cauliflower steak and scallops, especially because they host live jazz nights on Sundays from 6pm to 9pm. You can make a reservation for this Harlem spot’s outdoor (or indoor) area through their website.
Every Saturday and Sunday between noon and 5pm, this South Bronx spot hosts bottomless brunch with live DJs or drummers (like this incredible drummer named Anthony Anderson) as well as unlimited mimosas and sangria for $24. Make sure to follow their Instagram here so you don’t miss any events.
If you often wake up on the UWS on Sundays, watch TV, and eat eggs that are slightly overcooked, you should change up your weekend routine with this all-day Australian cafe on 96th Street. Gertrude opened up at the end of summer 2020, and they’ve been hosting live music most weekend morning - with acts like a guitarist who worked on Cats the musical. It seems reasonable that the only way to improve banana bread and a cortado is by adding in some upright bass. You can stay up to date with their events on Instagram here.
You’ve told your friends countless times that the Upper East Side isn’t the snoozy place they make it out to be, and yet they still treat 59th Street like the fence in The Sandlot. Bring them to Ethyl’s. If the live music and ’70s-themed space with a disco ball don’t convince them, then the burlesque and go-go dancers will do the trick.
You go to Delmonico’s for the Delmonico steak, King Cole Bar for the Bloody Mary, and Minton’s for bebop. This big, sleek Harlem jazz club is where bebop was invented in the ’30s, but even if the history doesn’t interest you, it’s just a great place to listen to music while having clams casino and a martini. Just know that there’s usually a $20 cover and drink minimum at the table.
This East Village bar always draws crowds for jazz, reggae, soul or whatever else they feel like putting on their calendar. Bands play Sunday through Wednesday, and unlike other days of the week, you can actually get a table or seats at the bar without needing to arrive while the sun’s still up.
If you go to Arlene’s Grocery on a Monday night, you’ll be providing the entertainment. This dark LES bar, which has $3 drafts and $4 well drinks until 8pm every day, does a karaoke night where you put your name on a list, and then go on stage and sing in front of a full house band. In case you’re not looking to be out until 2am on a Monday or you’d rather see real bands perform, come any other night, some Happy Hour drinks in the bar area up front, and then pay a $5 or $10 cover to get into the venue.
This cocktail bar in the Carlyle Hotel has so much genuine old New York charm that you’ll half-expect to see Robert Moses and some politician speaking in hushed voices in the corner. Wear a tie or something with fur, order a $25 martini from a white-jacketed server, and listen to a phenomenal pianist while pondering whether you’ll ever finish The Power Broker.
Even if you don’t get one of the seats near the band in the small back room at Sunny’s, you’ll still be able to hear the live music that goes on here every night. That’s because the speakers throughout the narrow Red Hook bar play the music from the stage, and the open windows next to the band mean you can hear the blues, swing, or r&b when you’re hanging out in the nice backyard.
There’s not much standing room at Anyway Cafe, but you can still go there just to have some drinks and listen to music. In fact, that’s the best way to use this East Village Russian spot. Sit at a table with a date, and share some house-infused vodkas or a chalice-sized martinis while listening to an accordionist or three-piece band play in the corner of the small, dark space.
Getting a table at an underground jazz bar is a good way to increase the likelihood of another date. Canary Club is one of the few places where you can accomplish that without having to buy a ticket or slip a few twenties to the host. The downstairs lounge at this Cajun spot on the LES takes reservations just like the ground floor dining room, and the red fabric booths, boudin, large-format cocktails, and live jazz make it feel like a speakeasy in New Orleans.
Most places with live music are either date spots where you listen to jazz while sipping a $16 shot of whiskey with a giant ice cube, or they’re so loud that you just smile and nod when you think someone is speaking to you. In other words, they’re not great places to meet people. The Red Lion is an exception. The big Greenwich Village bar, which has three different bands every night, tends to be crowded in a good way, with a dancefloor that gets used more and more as the night goes on, and a long bar where ordering a drink doesn’t feel like trying to hail a taxi in a rainstorm.
Radegast has brats, massive communal picnic tables, and groups of people locking arms spilling Hofbrau down their chins as they drink from giant mugs. In other words, it’s a prototypical beer garden. But this Williamsburg spot has one thing most beer gardens don’t - live music every day. Our favorite time to experience it is on weekend afternoons, when a brass band keeps us from thinking about how we’re going to crash before dinner time.
We like to go to Mona’s when we’re trying to hide from the world. It’s dark, we never have to wait for a drink, and the bartenders don’t bat an eye when we ask for more glasses of whiskey than we have people in our group. You can also use this Alphabet City spot as a low-key place to play pool or skee-ball, or to listen to live music. The house specialty is New Orleans jazz, but there’s bluegrass on Mondays.
Maybe you don’t feel like going home quite yet after Happy Hour drinks on Stone Street, or perhaps you’re looking to celebrate with clients after closing a deal at dinner. Head to Ulysses, an Irish pub with a stage in an attached bar room where bands play every Wednesday to Saturday. It’s your best option for live music in FiDi.
There’s almost never a cover charge to get into Terraza 7 in Elmhurst, and while the sound quality by the bar in the small space is perfectly fine, the only view you’ll have of the band is the bottom of their shoes. If you want a better vantage point to see where the jazz, salsa, or cumbia is coming from, you’ll have to head up to the benches on the elevated mezzanine, which is like a big catwalk overlooking the rest of the bar.
If you’re looking to significantly improve a random Tuesday night, go to Rue B in Alphabet City and drink an Old Fashioned while you listen to live jazz. They post info about their nightly musical performances on Instagram here, but you can generally expect shows to typically run from 7pm to 9pm. On Saturday nights, they always host a barbershop quartet out front called Scout Ford And The Blue Moons. A tip: you can hear the band from the outdoor seating areas at Haile and Frangos Peri Peri.
St. Mazie is an excellent date spot in Williamsburg. Bring someone you like, order at the bar, then listen (and maybe dance) to live flamenco. We can’t promise it’ll always be flamenco, but there’s some form of live music most nights around 10pm. The bar itself is dark and cozy, and there’s an excellent patio. Should you get hungry, there’s also a full restaurant in the basement.
The Flatiron Room
Sure, The Flatiron Room can feel like you’re in the American Prohibition section of the Epcot Center, but that’s part of the fun. The other parts are the live music and the deep selection of whiskey. Music is typically jazz and blues, and it’s a good option for a third date.
Little Branch isn’t quite a speakeasy, but it also isn’t a normal bar. There’s no sign out front, there are a bunch of rules, it’s in a basement, and the cocktails are excellent. That last part’s why you go to Little Branch. It’s in the West Village, and it can feel like a tourist trap at times, but if you go on a weeknight you can usually catch some live jazz and have a cocktail in relative peace.
If you leave a Broadway show wanting more, it’s probably a sign that the show was either really good or really bad. Either way, you can keep the night going at Haswell Greens. This massive bar across the street from the Broadway Theater has performances every night, like bands on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and dueling pianos on weekends. Critique the show while drinking cocktails with names like “That’s So Fetch” and “Glitz And Glamour.”
Belly Bar used to be called The Leadbelly, and only the name has changed. It’s a long, narrow bar on the LES with a raw bar and standing room up front, and candlelit tables in the back. Both work well for first or second dates, and there’s usually live jazz or folk music before a DJ takes over late-night.
From gospel to dubstep, the performances at LunAtico are all over the place. But whichever night you show up to this narrow Bed-Stuy bar, you’ll here something upbeat and fun, and you’ll get some very good cocktails with ingredients like absinthe or tea-infused gin.