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 place 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.
You might think that secret entrances, low ceilings, and a “bartender’s choice” cocktail on the menu are red flags for a bar. Saint Tuesday in the Walker Hotel Tribeca has all those things—but the place doesn’t feel cheesy. Rather, it’s a spot where you can relax in a cushy booth and maybe do some smooching while you listen to some gypsy jazz or Brazilian choro. There’s live music every night, all the cocktails are $19—and there is no food, so don’t come hungry.
Pete's Candy Store
The space that is now Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg used to be a general store, a diner, and a place to play poker before it became a spot for live music in 1999. Shows are still free here—although there’s a suggested $5 donation, which seems pretty fair considering none of their cocktails cost more than $12. If you need a break from the music, there’s a large backyard where you can reminisce about a time when $12 was considered expensive for a cocktail.
Ornithology Jazz Club
When we hear “jazz” and “no cover” in the same sentence, we immediately assume that we'll be listening to some kind of high school band recital. And that’s what makes Ornithology Jazz Club a bit of a unicorn, since you can listen to all the shows here free of charge (and they won't be high school band recitals). This place also has relatively affordable cocktails and a menu with vegan food like a chana masala bowl and fried rice with bok choy and fried tofu.
The Nines is a piano bar in Noho with velvet seats and cheetah print carpet, and the pianist here might be playing a cover of “Buy U a Drank" when you stop by. In other words, this is a downtown piano bar—which means you won’t be forced to check your coat, and you can drink some good cocktails while you snack on tuna tartare. If you want to sit in a warmly lit room and exchange some light banter as you try to figure out if you’re listening to a soft jazz cover of “Shallow,” this is the place to do it.
The Wolfhound is a neighborhood bar in Astoria with a little stage set up in the corner where you might see anything from a Zeppelin tribute band to a solo singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. You can check out what’s happening on any given night here, and on the first Friday of every month, this place hosts live band karaoke. We know you love Adele and might be tempted to jump on that stage, but remember that what you hear in your head when you sing “Someone Like You” is not what the rest of the world hears.
Hanging out at Cherry On Top in Bushwick feels a little bit like being at a friend’s place where you can listen to some jazz saxophone, a string quartet, or some other kind of live performance. There’s a list of funky wines at reasonable prices and a large rooftop with picnic tables on which to drink them. Snacks like pickles, cheese, and salami are available, and there’s an indoor area downstairs that we’d describe as "extremely cute."
Rebel Restaurant and Bar
This Haitian restaurant on the Lower East Side always feels like a party and often has a DJ spinning with rainbow globe lights going every which way. But on Wednesdays, they bring in a live band to play while you enjoy your griot and Barbancourt mussels in a pool of spicy and garlicky broth. Think of this place the next time you want to skip any pregaming and get right into a fun night in the middle of the work week.
Rockwood Music Hall
Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side has attracted big acts in the past like Sara Bareilles, Mumford & Sons, and even Lady Gaga. You would think that you'd have to pay money to listen to music here, but Stage 1 at this three-stage music venue never charges a cover. You might just see someone who racks up a few millions streams one day.
Prohibition, which has been around since 1996 on the Upper West Side, refreshed its decor after closing during the pandemic. (You’ll feel like you’re in an episode of Boardwalk Empire.) There’s a $10 cover for shows after 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, but other sets are free. While you’re listening to the music here, you can grab cocktails and food like cheesesteak egg rolls, bourbon baby back ribs, and wild mushroom risotto.
After taking a break for a couple of years during the pandemic, BAMcafé Live is hosting live music performances again in Fort Greene. On certain Fridays and Saturdays, you might hear a band playing rock, jazz, or R&B in a lounge space—and all of these shows are free.
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. Stop by for live music, sake, and delicious cod roe spaghetti any day of the week (with $10 covers on Fridays and Saturdays). Music typically starts around 6pm, but we’d recommend showing up early to get a seat. Tomi doesn't take reservations.
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 show tunes. 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 Misérables in unison.
The Most Fun Bars In NYC Right Now
If you visit Guantanamera in the daytime, you’ll think it’s just a Cuban restaurant with 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. 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.
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, 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 host everything from hip hop to a capella performances.
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. Check out their menu and show 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 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 $20. Make sure to follow their Instagram here so you don’t miss any events.
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 Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30pm, and you can book a table online.
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 spot. Sit at a table with a date, and share some house-infused vodkas or a chalice-sized martini 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 dance floor 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 on Thursdays. It’s your best option for live music in FiDi.
Terraza 7 is where you should be listening to live music in Elmhurst. While the sound quality by the bar 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.
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 8pm. The bar itself is dark and cozy, and there’s a great 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, so stop by 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 well-made. 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, with live music daily 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.
From gospel to dubstep, the performances at LunÁtico are all over the place. But whichever night you show up to this narrow Bed-Stuy bar, you’ll hear something upbeat and fun, and you’ll get some very good cocktails with ingredients like absinthe or tea-infused gin.