Owners Paul Stache and Frank Christopher have created a jewel of a jazz joint. On weekends, folks line up around the block to hear a set by one of jazz’s remaining big names, and they are well rewarded: Low-lit chandeliers, comfy sofas, plush carpeting and unobstructed sight lines make it seem like the greats are playing in your living room. Early in the week, evenings are themed: On Sunday, it’s Latin jazz; Tuesday, organ jazz; Wednesday, funk. On weekends, internationally renowned jazz locals (George Coleman, Eddie Henderson, Cedar Walton) hit the stage, relishing opportunities to play informal gigs in their own backyard.
For the past nineteen years, there had been only one official chef change at any of Danny Meyer’s restaurants, and it was a success: The addition of chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park. Thus, the Gramercy Tavern handoff a few months ago, from founding chef Tom Colicchio to Michael Anthony (Blue Hill at Stone Barns), carries the rarity of a papal succession. Gramercy, after all, is the restaurant that transformed Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur to a full-blown impresario, made Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual yet upscale American eateries. On a recent visit, the place felt like a parallel-universe version of the old Gramercy: The farmhouse-style setting (a look that’s getting dated), with its decorative brambles, pinecones and intoxicating smell from the wood-burning oven, are all there. But Colicchio and his hearty, meat-heavy fare are not. In a significant shift, it’s delicate constructions of vegetables and fish that dominate now. The influence of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant given to ingredients-worship, is evident as soon as the first course (of the main dining room’s mandated $76 three-course prix fixe) is rolled out. The broccoli soup was a light broth poured over dried shiitakes, airy sweetbreads and a runny quail egg. Each element appeared to have been prepared with care, but the interplay among them did little to elevate the dish. Meanwhile, a shellfish ragout, with baby turnips and a bitter escarole sauce, was a pun
This sprawling spot’s two bars—one nestled in an ornate front room, the other in the rear performance space—provide plenty of drinking options. Skip toxic cocktails in favor of one of 12 beers on tap—from Anchor Steam to Smuttynose—or a taste of more than 20 bourbons. The large rear performance space is a favorite for podcast recordings, intimate band gigs, and wild comedy shows.
Run by local promoter Bowery Presents, this Williamsburg outpost is basically a mirror image of similarly sized Bowery Ballroom, one upping its Manhattan counterpart with improved sightlights—including elevated areas on either side of the room—and a bit more breathing room. With booking that ranges from indie-rock bands to hip-hop acts, it's one of the best rooms in New York to see a show.
This eatery, bar and stage—located on a happening little Williamsburg strip—has already become a local musical institution in a few short years, with its lively schedule of au courant musical acts and DJs that range from experimental (Pharmakon) to the voguish (Ariel Pink). And the food's pretty good too.
This bowling alley and live-music venue fully embraces the new mania for local nostalgia. The space takes its design cues from Coney Island with old freak-show posters and carnival-game relics, and all of the beer sold inside—by Sixpoint, Kelso and the Brooklyn Brewery—is made in the borough. This is a great place to kill a few hours with a big rowdy group: You can tackle a pitcher and the stoner-food menu from the Blue Ribbon team (delicious fatty brisket, Old Bay–fried chicken) laneside between frames. The plush tufted couches are the most luxurious alley seating we’ve ever seen.
This is probably the best venue in the city for seeing indie bands, either those on their way up or the ones holding their own. Still, the Bowery also manages to bring in a diverse range of artists from home and abroad. Expect a clear view and bright sound from any spot. The spacious downstairs lounge is a great place to relax and socialize between (or during) sets.
RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions Visitors may think they know this venerable theater from TV’s Showtime at the Apollo. But as the saying goes, the small screen adds ten pounds: The city’s home of R&B and soul is actually quite cozy. Known for launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo, among others at its legendary Amateur Night competition, the Apollo continues to mix veteran talents like Dianne Reeves with younger artists such as the Roots and Lykke Li.
Big, beloved and not-so-beautiful MSG is perhaps the most famous sports arena in the world. Perched above Penn Station since 1968, the 20,000-seat venue is not only home to New York basketball and ice hockey teams the Knicks and the Rangers, but also is a favorite spot for college basketball tournaments (The Big East), professional boxing, MMA fighting and as a destination for WWE. Non-sports fans, however, mainly know the Garden as the best spot in town to catch touring international sensations like Adele, Beyonce and Aziz Ansari and countless other amazing concerts. To learn about the history of the arena, which existed in several other iterations at other locations for the past 130 years, check out the All-Access Tour ($30, seniors and students $26, group rates available), which stops in the arena bowl and takes visitors to exhibits featuring images and paraphernalia from iconic moments in sports and performance history.
Once a mainstay of NYC’s downtown scene, true rock & roll clubs feel like a dying breed in the post-Giuliani era. But this Greenpoint drinkery—moodily decorated with all-black walls and dead roses hanging above the bar—reinvigorates the tradition with a New Brooklyn twist. Rock fiends make the pilgrimage to satisfy a yearning for Marshall amps and screaming guitar riffs; when there’s no show in the back room, the front bar serves as a sleek clubhouse for drinkers who prefer Black Sabbath to Lady Gaga as a boozing soundtrack. Nouveau headbangers don’t have to settle for the usual well shots and Buds: Taps dispense mostly craft beers from New York, like Captain Lawrence and Ommegang, and bartenders are competent enough at classic cocktails such as old-fashioneds and vespers.
Since it first opened its doors in 1891, Carnegie Hall has been a mainstay of the New York music scene. George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong and the Beatles have all performed here, and to this day, artistic diector Clive Gillinson continues to put his stamp on the renowned concert hall. Whether you catch a show in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, Zankel Hall or the Weill Recital Hall, you're sure to be dazzled by the history and ambiance of the place.
The Knitting Factory finds its latest incarnation in Williamsburg (previous NYC locations include Soho and Tribeca), with a medium-size space divided in two by a huge glass window. There’s a low-lit bar in the front and an even dimmer stage in the back. The sound is great, the bookings even better.
After extensive renovation, this storied tennis stadium—home to memorable matches and concerts from the ’20s through the ’80s (including the Beatles, Stones and others)—reopened its doors in 2013 with a rowdy Mumford & Sons gig. These days, the venue regularly hosts a wide variety of artists ranging from Chainsmokers to Tom Petty.
In a sure sign that summer's on its way, NYC's largest amusement park is back for another season of rollicking good times. The Coney Island institution boasts more than 50 attractions, including the iconic Cyclone, the high-flying Air Race and the family-friendly Wild River. After trying your luck at dozens of carnival games, refuel with a burger at White Castle Express or cool down with a sweet treat from Coney's Cones.
Formerly a movie multiplex, this center—one of the last bastions of commercial Off Broadway in New York—impresses with its shiny, space-age interior and five stages, were it presents such campy revues as The Gazillion Bubble Show.
When it opened in 1830, the historic Ear Inn was popular with colorful characters ambling in from the docks of the Hudson. The basic decor (dark-wood bar, wobbly tables and chairs, lots of retro ephemera) hasn’t changed much since, but locals continue to pack the place thanks to its relaxed vibe and historical charm. Free snacks such as fried chicken and sausages can be had weeknights from 4 to 7pm, mitigating any wallet damage wreaked by a few $6 pints of Guinness.
RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions The Bombers’ current field opened in 2009 to much fanfare and stands opposite the now-flattened original. It may not be the House That Ruth Built, but many elements of the new arena—the limestone exterior, the gatelike frieze around the top—mimic the old, while cup holders at every seat and a high-def scoreboard are noticeable improvements. A museum behind right field aims to hold signed baseballs from every living Yankees player, but the most potent relic wasn’t allowed to stay on site—in 2008 the construction staff jackhammered out a Red Sox jersey a rival fan tried to install in the structure’s foundation.
BAM, which showcases local and out-of-town companies, is one of New York’s most prominent cultural institutions. The Howard Gilman Opera House, with its Federal-style columns and carved marble, is a beautiful dance venue. (The Mark Morris Dance Group generally performs there each spring.) The 1904 Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St between Ashland and Rockwell Pls), formerly called the Majestic, has hosted the work of John Jasperse, Wally Cardona and Matthew Bourne. Each fall, BAM’s Next Wave Festival highlights established and experimental dance groups; in the spring, there’s an assortment of African and modern dance and ballet.
Thanks to BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, the Prospect Park Bandshell is to Brooklynites what Central Park SummerStage is to Manhattan residents: the place to hear great music in the great outdoors. Huge names routinely perform all summer long—often for free—from indie-rock royalty to hip-hop and soul veterans.
RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions This historic harbor is home to the former Fulton Fish Market, the Seaport Museum, the country's largest privately owned fleet of historic ships and a shopping mall with retail stores and restaurants. It hosts outdoor concerts during the summer, as well as a range of lectures and public programs.
B.B.’s joint plays host to one of the widest varieties of music in town: Cover bands and soul tributes fill the gaps between big-name bookings. The Harlem Gospel Choir buffet brunch, on Sundays, raises the roof; another regular buffet brunch presents Beatles cover bands (occasionally including family favorite Bubble Do Beatles).
Coney Island has had its ups and downs, but one thing has been constant for years: a series of dance parties on the boardwalk, with local veterans spinning soulful house, disco, reggae, Afrobeat, Latin rhythms and more.
Highline Ballroom brings quality bookings to a part of town that's otherwise pretty barren, live-music–wise. The atmosphere can be slightly stiff (some of the fancier shows have table service), but everything from hardcore to hip-hop and classic prog regularly finds a home here.
One of the largest Gallic cultural centers in the country, this language and cultural center has extensive offerings of theater, dance, music and performance throughout the year. Among its impressive facilities is the Haskell Library, stocked with French-language newspapers, magazines, DVDs and books.
This crimson-hued East Village spot is one of the only bars in the city where you can slam a shot of unicum, a 200-year-old bittersweet spirit from Hungary (owner Attila Draviczki’s homeland). Need something a little sweeter? Keybar also offers a selection of signature shooters, like passionfruit and lychee shots made with real fruit and a Rolo shot based on Draviczki’s secret recipe. Come on your birthday, and you’ll get a free round of any shot; come for the happy hour (all day Sunday and Monday or from 4pm to 10pm on all other days), and you’ll enjoy two-for-one drinks. That deal includes the entire bar: beer, signature martinis, well cocktails and anything else you can think of. On any given Saturday night, local DJs will likely be spinning some deep house or techno.