Among the best things to do in NYC this year, live music feels like a distant memory. But in a surprising twist, restaurants have now become the best venues to catch musical acts IRL as outdoor dining is more popular than ever.
Across the five boroughs, we’ve seen restaurants and bars create stunning outdoor dining spaces as they do their best to entice New Yorkers to dine out. And with al fresco dining here to stay, the city has helped set the stage for artists, whether street performers or professional musicians seeking gigs that were non-existent at the beginning of the current crisis.
“One of the amazing things about New York is the creativity,” says Angie Mar, the owner and executive chef of The Beatrice Inn, where you can often listen to live music at this West Village favorite. “The artistic talent in this city is unparalleled, and it’s been a beautiful reminder of the artistry that abounds during this pandemic.”
The convivial atmosphere at the Canary Club is more subdued than the shenanigans you’d find on Bourbon Street. But the live jazz—from 6-8pm Wednesday through Sunday, last we checked—combined with the New Orleans-inspired menu is bound to put anyone in a good mood (if not, try ordering the tequila-based Chili Dream cocktail). Reservations via Resy are recommended.
The Bailsmen, a local jazz band, performs every Friday afternoon 3-6pm at Dante, a Greenwich Village mainstay which was also named the best bar in the world last year. An extensive menu of Negronis and Italian aperitivos is the idyllic backdrop for the quartet’s live jazz and gypsy swing music.
Restaurants across New York City have had to dive into a sea of unpredictability this year: takeout and delivery options, when to offer outdoor and indoor dining, the latest edicts from Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. But in 2020, live music has played a part in the dining experience at one of the most popular West Village restaurants. “When outdoor dining started, there were weeks when artists arrived at our doorstep to perform, night after night,” says Mar. “It was never something that we planned, but the authenticity of it has added so much to our dining experience.”
Bistango at The Kimberly Hotel
This Midtown hotel recently reopened, and at its Italian restaurant, Bistango, the outdoor dining setup gives you occasional access to Broadway singers crooning from a balcony with live accompaniment. Other musical acts are slated for the fall.
Between its intimate park and the residents living in buildings known for their historical neo-Gothic architecture, Tudor City feels like a private oasis removed from the city’s frenetic energy. Tudor City Steakhouse may be mistaken for the community’s own restaurant, but it’s a welcoming space where you can enjoy a comforting meat-and-potatoes dinner with classy musical acts on many nights, including Bob Arkin (Alan Arkin’s brother) playing his bass.
This Chelsea French bistro and speakeasy comes to life when jazzy tunes waft through the air at the corner of 19th Street and Eighth Avenue. A neighborhood favorite named after the owner Mathias Van Leyden’s rescue dog, it was a destination for its nightly music even before restaurants had to shutter indoor dining earlier this year.
This hidden speakeasy was known for its intimate atmosphere where you could enjoy Japanese snacks while sipping well-crafted cocktails. Now everything is outdoors—including the live music. Along this stretch of East 53rd Street between Third and Second Avenues, fans of Tomi Jazz regularly take over the tables the moment the bar opens, but if you have to wait, there’s often music to keep you entertained.
The Financial District has a reputation for being sleepy (even more so these days). But at the original location of Clinton Hall, you can enjoy craft beers and burgers while local performers take the stage. In October, guitarist Reginald "Guitaro 5000" Guillaume is slated to provide entertainment on Sundays between 2:30-5:30pm.
If you’ve recently taken a stroll through Little Italy, you’d think everything was normal. During the weekends, some of the streets are closed off to traffic and so packed with diners that you may forget that the Feast of San Gennaro was cancelled this year. At Il Cortile Restaurant on Mulberry Street, you’ll catch singers serenading guests as they savor red sauce classics.
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