New York City actually has a long and rich history of piano bars, going back many decades. With the city’s affiliations to both opera and Broadway, it’s no wonder that the singalong bars have flourished here.
Currently, there are a dozen or more piano bars, just in Manhattan, and they run the gamut in musical style, decor, demographics, and approach.
The holy trinity of NYC piano bars are Brandy’s (uptown), Don’t Tell Mama’s (midtown) and The Duplex (downtown). All three are very similar in that they will feature pianists who sing and take requests all night. The staff are all singers (and have their black binders of music at the ready) who each perform a 3-song set throughout the night, showcasing their own formidable vocal chops. Mixing comedy and music, these venues prove every night why they have stood the test of time and become favorites of locals and tourists alike.
Leaning more towards the showtune side of the street are Marie’s Crisis and The Monster, both nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village. You won’t find much pop/rock music here, and the customers are purists for musical theater singalongs, often flawlessly recreating the lush harmonies of a Rodgers tune or the rhythmic intricacies of a Sondheim tongue twister.
Another piano bar that leans heavily on the standards is Mimi’s in midtown. But this venue has a little something different – in the form of it’s pianist and resident personality, Chicken Delicious (yes, that’s his name). Replete with costume changes before every song, and floor-to-ceiling lexans full of masks, boas, wigs and enough sequins to choke Liberace, an evening at Mimi’s is like none other. Again, don’t expect much rock n roll here, but for flamboyant fun, there’s no piano bar like it.
Many of the midtown hotels have their own piano rooms, including the Carlysle, the Waldorf Astoria and others. These posh venues drip with elegance, and the price tag proves it. Don’t order a martini without your ATM card.
The new kid on the block is Sid Gold’s Request Room, in the midst of Chelsea. The vibe is hip, the decor is mod, and the song list is edgier than any of their competitors. The structure is primarily piano-karaoke, so the quality of your evening will be largely dependent on who else is in the room.
The most rock n roll for your buck can still be found in the dueling piano bars, and among those, Shake Rattle & Roll is still the industry leader for the best in NYC Dueling Pianos.