“Play me a song, Mr. Piano Man,” Billy Joel croons in his aptly named hit, “Piano Man.”
Piano bars in New York run the gamut from all out performances to quiet crooners sitting in the corner, but perhaps theater historian John Kenrick said it best when he described the piano bar as a hybrid creature: “part performance space, part living room, part cruise-a-thon, and part saloon.”
However, that’s not to say that all places with a piano can classify as a piano bar. In a New York Times piece from 2010, Frank Bruni makes the distinction that there’s a large difference between piano bars, and bars that happen to have a piano – mainly that in order to be considered a piano bar, “the music and maybe the chance to sing it are more crucial to the establishment’s identity than anything the bartender concocts.”
We’d tend to agree with Bruni on this front, though it must be said that music comes more easily with a few martinis or a whiskey on the rocks under your belt.
Below, we dive in to the 10 best piano bars in the city, from institutions like Don’t Tell Mama to fancy affairs like Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel.