Lady Gaga makes her lead acting debut this month in a remake of A Star Is Born. So it’s an ideal time to revisit Gaga’s own journey toward stardom, which mostly took place right here in New York City. Born and raised on the Upper West Side, Lady Gaga (nee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) cut her teeth as a musician in small Manhattan venues before scoring her first hit, “Just Dance,” in 2008. The debut single sold more than 7 million digital copies in its first year of release and vaulted Gaga to megastar status around the world, but she has always remained a New Yorker at heart. These places, listed as near as possible in chronological order of her association with them, still connect Gaga to her hometown.
Washington Square Park
Gaga attended the NYU Tisch School of the Arts for a few semesters before leaving to pursue her music career full-time. As an undergrad in 2005, Gaga performed two original songs in the university’s annual talent show, UltraViolet Live, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. She placed third. The center is adjacent to Washington Square Park, the heart of the Greenwich Village campus and a place every student has walked through at some point. (She also spent time at Bobst Library, on the south side of the park.)
This corner hot dog spot is an Upper West Side staple—open 24/7 and known for its inexpensive hot dogs and refreshing papaya juice drinks (it’s $6.50 for two dogs and a drink). Gaga tweeted about the spot in 2012, fessing up as a fan of the two hot dog special with ketchup and mustard and all the toppings. There was a Greenwich Village location back when Lady Gaga went to NYU, so we’re going to bet she ate there as a cash-strapped student—though she also lived on the UWS, so that location is possible too.
Cornelia Street Café
Since its debut in 1977, this Greenwich Village restaurant and bar has been a place for artists, especially singer-songwriters, to showcase their work—Suzanne Vega is among those who got their start here. Gaga waitressed at the café after dropping out of NYU and spent her tip money on Xerox flyers for her shows.
Upon leaving NYU, Gaga moved from her parents’ place on the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, where she became part of the local music scene. She lived at 176 Stanton St., in a one-bedroom walkup where she worked on some of the songs that would appear on her debut album, The Fame. She performed at clubs including the Knitting Factory (which has since moved to Brooklyn). The storefront below her apartment belongs to streetwear brand Only NY.
The Bitter End
Before she was Gaga, Germanotta played at this Greenwich Village club during open-mic nights from 2005 through 2007. She did covers and original hits-to-be here, including one that would eventually become a top ten single: “Paparazzi.” In 2016, she would return and performed on the roof to promote her Joanne album.
Welcome to the Johnsons
Another former Lower East Side hangout of Gaga’s, this grungy dive bar is as no-frills as it gets. Wood-paneled walls, graffiti-covered bathrooms, a Ms. Pac Man game and a questionable sofa that looks like it’s been there since the dawn of time round out the decor, while cheap liquor and beer specials keep locals well-oiled. Gaga met bartender Luc Carl there in 2005; they dated on and off for six years. Carl was the inspiration for many of Gaga’s lyrics. Today, the singer still references the bar as one of her must-visits for anyone in NYC.
The Cutting Room
Another venue where Gaga built her performing repertoire was Flatiron rock club the Cutting Room. In 2006, the venue hosted Gaga at the New Writers Showcase, where she met producer Rob Fusari. The two would later co-write music that helped the singer get signed to Island Def Jam (though she was later dropped before recording anything). The venue, which has since moved to Murray Hill, continues to host up-and-comers and established artists.
Hotel on Rivington
When Lady Gaga lived and performed on the Lower East Side, she frequented dives and bars like now defunct St. Jerome’s and Motor City. This spot is a little more upscale than those. Following a 2006 Killers show at Madison Square Garden, Gaga and friends hung out at an after party with the band at the hotel. The experience inspired her song “Boys Boys Boys,” which she wrote later that night.
Gaga’s friend DJ Brendan Jay Sullivan booked the singer for a Sunday night series at local haunt Pianos, trying to bring people in on what was considered a dead night at the Lower East Side club. Gaga and her onetime stage partner Lady Starlight performed a rock burlesque show as Lady Gaga and the Starlight Revue.
Madison Square Garden
Just a year after watching The Killers headline the famous arena, Lady Gaga would headline her own sold-out shows at the Garden in July 2010: three nights of the Monster Ball Tour, in support of her record The Fame Monster. Two MSG performances later in the tour (the following February) were recorded for an HBO special first shown May 2011. Liza Minnelli and Paul McCartney attended the shows that were taped for the network.
This Italian restaurant, owned by Lady Gaga’s parents and chef Art Smith, has been serving homespun food on the Upper West Side since 2012. The space previously operated as Vince & Eddie’s Fireplace, a spot Gaga frequented with friends and family when she was in town. Try Joanne’s Spaghetti and Meatballs, a dish that uses the secret Germanotta family sauce recipe.
Best friends with Gaga since kindergarten, chef Bo O’Connor (who cooked for the singer on her Joanne tour) opened this Astoria restaurant in 2015. The restaurant serves comfort food like honey-chipotle-glazed chicken wings, mac-and-cheese, burgers and fried mozzarella. Gaga dined at the spot on its opening night.
Electric Lady Studios
Converted from a nightclub by Jimi Hendrix and his manager (it was a favorite hangout of the guitarist’s), this recording studio opened just before Hendrix’s death in 1970. It gained fame in the ensuing decade for hosting sessions with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. Gaga recorded her hit album Joanne here in 2016.
Art Bird & Whiskey Bar
Located on the lower-level dining concourse of Grand Central Terminal, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar is a venture between Gaga’s father, Joe, and chef Art Smith. It serves up fried chicken sandwiches, grits bowls, biscuits and mac and cheese. The booze menu includes wine, cocktails, beer and a long list of whiskey varieties. The singer celebrated the restaurant’s opening in July 2018 by serving drinks and food to lucky diners.