In NYC, life truly is a cabaret—at least for a few hours nightly. Cabarets can be Old School entertainments or avant-garde spectacles, but what they do make is a memorable night on the town, and sometimes at a fraction of what you might pay to see a show on Broadway. Sometimes the shows are revues; at others an intimate evening with a famous singer or chanteuse. As the song advises, "come blow your horn, start celebrating...Right this way, your table's waiting!"
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
The former home of the legendary (and notorious) Studio 54, this titular venue opened in 2012 as the singular 54 Below. But once cabaret impresario Michael Feinstein added his contributions in 2015, Feinstein’s/54 Below became a midtown hotspot renowned for both its performers and crowds alike. Nicknamed “Broadway’s living room,” the venue has been lauded for spotlighting a diverse array of A-list talents, from Laura Osnes and Ethan Slater to Lea Salonga and Brian Stokes and a who's-who of others.
In addition to performance, there's a top-tier seasonal menu, including specialties such as Arctic char, quinoa pilaf, crab fritters, and their decadently addictive bacon truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. The club showcases between one and three shows nightly; ticketholders need not make a separate dinner reservation.
For more information: 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St., 646-476-3551, 54below.com
The Green Room 42
Situated at the very heart of the Theater District atop the trendy YOTEL in Hell’s Kitchen, The Green Room 42 is a hip and updated approach to modern cabaret. This modern urban lounge was founded in 2017 with the idea of "chillaxing" baked deep into both its concept and execution. They showcase nightly performances spotlighting a bevy of sizzling stage personalities, including Alice Ripley, Frances Ruffle, Frankie J. Grande, and Eva Noblezada.
Paired with their modern retro art-deco aesthetic and a blend of the YOTEL’s signature purple and splashes of deep crimson and white —as well as a selection of casual bites and alcohol, and ticket prices that are lower than a student rush ticket, The Green Room 42 is a welcome addition for a night of funky fun.
In addition, it's nice to see a strictly enforced “no food or beverage minimum” guideline. (However, the management would be quick to point out that there’s also no maximum either. So if you’re feeling adventurous...)
For more information: The Green Room 42, 570 Tenth Ave., 646-707-2990, thegreenroom42.venuetix.com
Birdland Jazz Club
It's hard to imagine a better location: footfalls from the A, C, E trains of 8th Avenue and in the literal shadow of Broadway's bright lights, Birdland Jazz Club is the stuff of legend. Named for sax immortal Charlie "Bird" Parker, they've been playing host to concerts and musicians since 1949 (albeit in three different locations). Steeped in history, this nightspot was immortalized in the eponymous Weather Report tune (with words later added to create a hit for Manhattan Transfer) brand has hosted memorable sets by jazz icons known by one name alone: Coltrane, Miles, Basie, Dizzy, and their namesake headliner Mr. Parker.
Since undergoing renovation and reopening at its current location in 1996, Birdland has continued to burnish its image as the place for New York jazz and blues entertainment, beckoning stars of stage, screen, and soul for up to three different sets per night. Post-revival performers have included Pat Metheny, Diana Krill, Michel Legrand, and John Pizzarelli, to name check but a few.
Beginning in 2018, the venue debuted the more intimate, cabaret-style Birdland Theater on its lower level (outfitted with a classic bar, natch). Both spaces offer equally diverse menus—Italian-influenced on the bottom floor, with a signature Southern/Cajun mix on the top—complete with chef-curated wines, cocktails, classic beers, and can’t-miss decadent desserts.
For more information: Birdland Jazz, 315 W. 44th St., 212-581-3080, birdlandjazz.com