In days gone by, the piano bar was a social staple in many cities throughout the United States. Taking a date out on the town, listening to someone tickle the ivories while sipping on a martini was the way many people choose to spend their free time. Over the years, the concept of the "classic" piano bar has been adapted to take many forms and can be found anywhere from hotels to bars to lounges and restaurants.
Piano bars are often synonymous with cabaret, Broadway stars, and show tunes, but others are throw-backs to an era gone by, with old-school cocktails in speakeasy-like atmospheres. They can also be full of energy, like those with dueling pianos where groups go to party, sing, and let loose amongst friends.
Arguably, one of the cities with the best and brightest piano bar scenes is none other than New York City. With the vibrant lights of Broadway at the center of town, the piano bar atmosphere is nothing short of amazing. At one of New York’s most famous and well-known piano bars, Don’t Tell Mama, it is quite commonplace to see a Broadway star or starlet to grab the microphone and belt out a classic on Monday or Tuesday (typically a night off, when the theater is dark). Down in the West Village lies The Duplex, famous for catering to and entertaining the sing-a-long LGBT community for a number of years.
Piano bars can also have that boisterous, raucous live-music aspect, like at Pat O’Briens in New Orleans or Howl at the Moon in Denver, which are both chains that are entertaining people across the country through the spirit of song. They often have dueling piano players playing everything from classic piano bar songs to contemporary hits with a unique twist. Taking requests is a specialty in these types of piano bars, making them great for special events and group outings.
And finally, there is the ultimate high-end classic piano bar. These spots are often found in hotel lobby bars or in fine dining restaurants where the cocktail list is just as impressive as the song list.
While piano bars may range from wild and crazy to rather traditional, one thing remains the same. Good piano bar etiquette dictates its best to tip the man or woman sitting on the piano bench to show your appreciation for a night of entertainment. As Billy Joel so eloquently said, "We’re all in the mood for a melody, and you’ve got us feeling all right."
When crafting this list, The Daily Meal, took into account the overall atmosphere and ambiance of the piano bar, as well as their food and drink menu offerings.