Eat to the Beat

Julie Besonen

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The weather outside is not so much frightful as it is unpredictable, so it's smart to be prepared with layers—as well as entertainment options that combine food, drink and live music under one roof. Down in the Financial District, there's no cozier venue than the Dead Rabbit, whose cocktails, reliable Irish fare and minstrels have earned it a reputation as one of the world's great drinking destinations. Moving north, Greenwich Village's Knickerbocker Bar & Grill is a time-honored steak house animated by Friday and Saturday night jazz. In the Flatiron District, there's nightly rock, roots and twang in the basement of Hill Country Barbecue—while over at Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke you can step downstairs to the renowned Jazz Standard. In the Theatre District, Chez Josephine features pianists, composers and singer-songwriters nightly (save Mondays, when it's closed) and during Sunday brunch. Up in Harlem the exciting Ginny's Supper Club, below Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster, has a compelling music calendar—as does Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which features blues performances on weekends. There are also melodious meals to be had beyond Manhattan: Greenpoint's Manhattan Inn showcases pianists and Red Hook's Hometown Bar-B-Que hosts vocally driven honky-tonk, while Astoria's plenty-cool Queens Kickshaw boasts an eclectic Friday night live-music series. Astoria is also home to The Strand Smokehouse, where rowdy rockers and ramblers regularly take the stage. Check out our slideshow for more ideas on where to make the winter blues go away.

Photo: Alexander Thompson

Arturo's
106 W. Houston St., 212-677-3820, West Village, Manhattan
Arturo's is a place that time forgot, with a murky mural of an Italian landscape and walls of fame honoring Clark Gable and a young Al Pacino. The coal oven has been turning out crisp pizza since 1957, and the rest of the old-school menu appears to have changed little over the years—featuring baked clams, pasta with vodka sauce and chicken parmigiana, all hearty and good. On the border of ever-changing SoHo and the West Village, Arturo's is still family owned and presents excellent live jazz sets nightly at no cover. Regulars grab seats at the bar and halt their convivial chatter to applaud each number. Do make a visit to the restroom, if only to see the vintage bathtub—and drop a few dollars in the tip goblet on the baby grand.

Photo: Alexander Thompson

Caffe Vivaldi 
32 Jones St., 212-691-7538, West Village, Manhattan
This raffish Village venue looks straight out of the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis; how fitting the film's star, Oscar Isaac, shows up to play here from time to time. Promising and established musicians of many genres—jazz, bossa nova and classical, to name a few—perform every night and pass the hat rather than charge a cover or drink minimum. Proprietor Ishrat Ansari has dedicated himself to Caffe Vivaldi for more than 30 years, keeping the fireplace stoked and the menu (mostly) simple—cheese plates, panini, pasta and pan-fried trout are among the offerings.

Photo: Melissa Hom

Center Bar
10 Columbus Circle, 4th fl., 212-823-9482, Midtown West, Manhattan
What could have simply been a passageway to Per Se and Masa at the Time Warner Center was cleverly turned into Center Bar in 2012. It's pleasing to gaze out from the sophisticated space and lounge onto Columbus Circle, and up at the spaceship-like ceiling and light fixtures that suggest the fringe of a flapper's skirt. Every Tuesday to Saturday, a pianist covers selections from the Great American Songbook and also takes requests. The music underpins the hubbub of conservation so adroitly it could be recorded for a Woody Allen soundtrack. Drinks mostly run $15–$20 and are accompanied by bowls of fiery wasabi peas, peanuts and mini pretzels. The crowd is all ages, the men jacketless, the women with universally good hair, some here for a drink before dinner, others partaking of a New American menu devised by Michael Lomonaco of Porter House next door. Look for charcuterie, grilled cheese with black truffles and a lovely salad of lacinato kale with duck confit, almonds and pomegranate molasses. If you're hungry for more music, take the elevator to Jazz at Lincoln Center, right by the entrance.

Photo: Dan McCarthy

Cornelia Street Cafe 
29 Cornelia St., 212-989-9319, West Village, Manhattan
Cornelia Street Cafe opened its arms to the West Village in 1977, embracing locals like family and welcoming musicians, poets, storytellers and stand-ups to strut their stuff. The cabaret is downstairs from the charming bistro and serves a wide-ranging Mediterranean-American menu: boudin blanc, bouillabaisse and burgers, to name a few bites. The dark cave of a room holds around 60; thrice-nightly performances take place on a red-curtained stage not much bigger than a puppet theater. There's a cash-only $10 cover charge and a $10 food/drink minimum. An international crowd packs in for jazz nights and includes the sort of friendly type who may inquire during a lull, “Are you Tina from Hamburg?”

Courtesy, Iguana New York

Iguana New York 
240 W. 54th St., 212-765-5454, Midtown West, Manhattan
Thanks to HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks are the bee's knees these days for their orchestrations of 1920s and '30s tunes. When they're not appearing on the show, in period films or at jazz festivals they can be found at Midtown West's Iguana on Monday and Tuesday nights, doing three-set shows starting at 8pm. Since Monday is when most Broadway theaters are dark, show people and musicians from the orchestra pit turn up to gig with the band, maybe crooning “You Oughta Be in Pictures” into a vintage microphone or cutting up the dance floor like Fred and Ginger. A dozen or so players cram on the stage, dressed in black tie and standing for solos during Louis Prima's “Sing Sing Sing.” It all happens on Iguana's third floor, where there's a full bar and Mexican-American fare like avocado fries, Texas chili and fried calamari with jalapeño tartar sauce.

Photo: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Minton's 
206 W. 118th St., 212-243-2222, Harlem, Manhattan
Bebop was born in this swanky Harlem supper club, whose building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1938 by saxophonist Henry Minton, its stage hosted greats like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie before closing in 1974. Last year, it was revived by business titan Richard Parsons and executive chef Alexander Smalls—the same team behind the happening Cecil restaurant a drumstick toss away. Banks White executes the menu of Low Country cuisine, which has flourishes like wild arugula in the black-eyed-pea and ham salad and Creole crawfish gravy smothering a casserole of lobster and shrimp. Gentlemen must wear jackets Wednesday to Saturday, but sartorial rules are relaxed for Sunday supper—when down-home dishes like buttermilk fried chicken make an appearance. Jazz sets accompany every seating.


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