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Eat Feature

Restaurants With Live Music or DJs Where That's a Good Thing

Emily Flake

Eat Special Issue 2005

Stuff It City Paper’s Annual Guide to Filling Your Face

Get Stuffed The Restaurants A-Z

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Eat 2005

By Richard Gorelick | Posted 3/2/2005

We thought about making a category for places not to go with live music or DJs. So many restaurants get plain old recorded music wrong. They'll neglect to calibrate the sound to accommodate different-sized crowds or, worst of all, leave the music selection to their jaded little staffs--Sunday morning is not the time for Hüsker Dü. Throw in a live band or an ambitious DJ and you've got a recipe for indigestion. But a few restaurants do make the music work for them.

Canton's Pearls

The owners here have created a swinging gathering spot, and they installed a real performance area, a vast improvement over the vestibules and coatrooms jazz combos are forced into at other restaurants. Live jazz is played Tuesday through Saturday, and the Greg Hatza Trio brings its own following in when it takes the floor.


DJ competitions, ballroom dancing, salsa lessons, tango afternoons: Gardel's go-for-broke attitude toward its music schedule borders on the reckless, and you're never absolutely sure your table won't be shoved aside at any second to make room for tango dancing. But it's an essential destination for anyone ready to boogie at the drop of a hat, or in between courses of pretty damn good food. When the music's not live, one of the owners will step in to handle the DJ duties. The sound system is tops.

Kooper's Tavern

Shout-out to our favorite he-man of music--DJ Jazzy spins music people like on Friday nights here.


Jason Grey is the music supervisor responsible for assembling the nightly playlist that provides the shimmering curtains of clubby beats that magically avoid obnoxiousness, and he shows up on weekends to spin the music himself. He was a great investment, guys.

Red Maple

A full weekly schedule of ethno-proud spinning events--Wednesday's Shantra, Thursday's Sutra--amplifies the gorgeous vibes spun regularly at Mount Vernon's eternally chill headquarters of California style. Borderline irritating sometimes? Sure, but every so often you need to go someplace where you have to shout over the music--it keeps you young. Go early in the evening for a truly mellow vibe.

Sascha's 527

Darius Scott and the Resolution Jazz Trio alternate Thursday nights with Tamm E. Hunt. This has turned into quite the scene for downtown jazz lovers with nowhere else to go. And the ebullient, high-ceilinged space lends itself to big expressions. But it definitely falls into the “nowhere to hide” category of live music--if you're not feeling it, you'll really be unhappy.

Simon's of Butcher's Hill

Fierce New Orleans-style jazz combos play up front in the bar, and if you're sitting too close, your étouffée will crumble. Back in the dining room you can still hear every plunk of the guitar string, but your other senses will be free to admire the stunningly good Louisiana cuisine.

Ze Mean Bean Café

The performers that play here operate on the type of comically cramped stage that used to accommodate Phoebe Buffay. Sometimes jazz, sometimes folk, and absolutely intimate.

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