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Joe's Pub: the best music/food venue in NYC?

For years, the food served at Joe's Pub was barely tolerable, a necessary evil given that most shows require a food and drink minimum. But with the year-or-so-ago makeover and the opening of the Library at the Public upstairs (a GREAT place for a casual and relaxed dinner), the menu and food being served during shows has improved tremendously. Over the course of the last year, I've tried the burger several times, the kielbasa sandwich, the shrimp tacos, and the rigatoni bolognese, all of which have been very good. The burger, in particular, is excellent, as are the accompanying fries. The prices are a little bit on the high side, as often is the case with music venues that serve food, but not terribly so, particularly given the quality. I now very much look forward to my meal when seeing a show at Joe's Pub.

(BTW, they've upgraded their beer, wine and spirits selection, too.)

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  1. best i've been to, no question. a great burger, the fries too (although they're cut a bit thin and small, making eating them a bit of a chore). the only disappointment for me has been that kielbasa sandwich -- i'm polish and grew up eating the stuff, so i'm a tough judge.

    i try to get there a bit early so i'm not stuffing my face as the performer is singing ten feet in front of me, though.

    1. Glad to hear the food is improved at Joe's Pub.

      Have you eaten at Hill Country BBQ? To me that's the best food/music venue.

      But I've yet to eat at City Winery, so I'd be interested in hearing whether anyone thinks their food is good or even great.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Elisa515

        i've eaten at Hill Country and seen bands there, but never done both at the same time.....that would be a good choice;

        1. re: debinqueens

          I've done both, and it's great! Most nights there isn't even an extra charge for the music, despite many of the performers of a caliber where one would expect an extra charge or at least a hat-passing.

          1. re: debinqueens

            I don't put Hill Country or a place like Knickerbocker, which are restaurants that happen to have live music, in the same category as Joe's Pub and City Winery, which are music venues first and foremost that also serve food.

            1. re: Blumie

              I only go to Hill Country BBQ for the music. Sometimes I eat dinner, sometimes just have drinks.

              You may not think of it primarily as a music venue (why, because it has good food?), but many people do. It's not a restaurant that happens to have a guitar player in the corner once in awhile. They have a stage, a listed calendar with music programs, and sponsorship from WFUV sometimes. And sometimes there's a separate cover charge for the music.

              How about Rodeo Bar? Would that qualify as primarily a music venue to you, or a restaurant/bar that happens to have music? I did like the food there (haven't been in awhile), but it wasn't of a caliber where I would have gone there to eat without having a specific musician/band appearing that I wanted to see.

              Like Hill Country BBQ, though, people can eat there without being where the live music is.

              Perhaps I misunderstood. From your subject header, it seemed as though you were putting up a challenge about music venues that have good food.

              1. re: Elisa515

                Hill Country does indeed have a great reputation for roots music, and gets some national names. saw Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls there a couple months back. the shows are downstairs in a room with about the same capacity as Joe's.

                1. re: Elisa515

                  Clearly I'm mistaken about Hill Country.

                  1. re: Blumie

                    it's easy to miss the music component, since it's somewhat separate a la Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard.

              2. re: debinqueens

                One could actually eat before the bands, at Hill Country, and linger afterwards with coffee, beer, etc, until the live music begins. It is a very well managed versatile venue, with so many options, thus popular.

              3. re: Elisa515

                The only think I order at City Winery (which I go to fairly often) is the charcuterie and cheese...they source it from Murray's, so it's good...but it's expensive.

                The Jazz Standard, downstairs from Blue Smoke, serves Blue Smoke's food.

                1. re: mitchleeny

                  Jazz Standards is another great place. I do find southern barbecue something I have not assimilated to, though, the venue does it well with the food space, and the performance space.

                  1. re: mitchleeny

                    the food at city winery is a big miss. same for the wine. avoid or keep it simple. im no fan of hill country or blue smoke bbq, i am super picky about my 'cue, but i like a lot of the other sides and things you can order there. those are definately leagues ahead of city winery's so-called food.

                2. I'm not quite as enthusiastic about the food at Joe's Pub, which is certainly the music venue I attend in NYC, but the food HAS improved and the burger and fries are comparable to what you'd get in a better than average restaurant. The service and attitude among the whole staff is so much friendlier and professional than most of the clubs in the city. Thumbs up.

                  I'm also not as enthusiastic about the food at The Library as you are, but it's an invaluable place, nevertheless. In my experience, it's never too crowded or too loud. You can do a civilized post-mortem about the concert or play you have just seen, with no pressure to leave. Prices are reasonable, too.

                  1. My friend saw Diamanda Galas, at Joe's, some years ago, and never had a bad comment about the food.

                    Hill Country is mentioned below. I have yet to go there for a major feeding, but quite impressive space.

                    As a rule, I find value in separating entertainment (performance; live music; live theatre; etc) and eating meals, and even snacks.

                    The peasants, our ancestors, feasted separate from entertainment, unless it was a celebration, holiday, or festival.

                    The National Press Club (or Amway for that matter...jest) is a do-able lunch, but could hardly see myself eating to Iggy Pop, McCoy Tyner etc.

                    Are there attributes to mixing food with live entertainment that I am missing?

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: jonkyo

                      I didn't intend to start a pseudo-intellectual debate about the attributes of mixing food with live entertainment. The fact of the matter is that some places do. And when they do, it's a bonus when both the food and the entertainment are enjoyable. It's not that complicated. (And I'm not sure why the habits of our peasant ancestors has anything to do with it. Do you find yourself often looking to them for guidance as to how to live your life?)

                        1. re: debinqueens

                          there is an attribute.

                          Good food and good entertainment.

                          I had made statement about dangers of eating at a comedy. That seems to have flown off.

                      1. re: jonkyo

                        well, iggy pop and peanut butter went together rather well in 1970 or so.....

                        1. re: jonkyo

                          "Are there attributes to mixing food with live entertainment that I am missing?"

                          There are clubs where the best seats go to those with dinner reservations. Or when the timing won't work out otherwise due to work, travel time, etc. Or when you want a guaranteed seat and don't want to stand, therefore you must eat there. Or when there's a food/beverage minimum and you don't drink/don't drink a lot at all. Etc.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Well, in Korea mostly, I encountered food in 노래방 Norae-bang, sing-room literal translation, or karaoke in private rooms just as they have in China.

                            As we performed, large trays of fruits, as welll as some savory snacks, such as dried fish, and other items would be brought in with the whiskey bottles and beer.

                            That was snack. I could not imagine eating a meal while singing here or there.

                            Perhaps it all goes back to the prom, or better yet, Kings who fattened up while violins and pianos or harlequins would perform.

                            In any even, just individual preference.

                            Older folks would go to big band music concert and eat. I have eaten to Indian raga, decades ago, near St. Marks. Dinner with piano, or guitar, have had that too.

                            Never larger known acts though. So, individual preference and digestive process considerations, or absence from that. To each their own.

                            1. re: jonkyo

                              dont forget the russian supper clubs with the big cabaret acts going on while you feast and drink that vodka. beware them actually!

                              1. re: mrnyc

                                Are there any of these in Manhattan (the subject of this board)?

                                1. re: Elisa515

                                  oops! glad my spelling was ok tho ;)

                                2. re: mrnyc

                                  For one like myself, dining and drinking is putting others at hazardous risk, of slipping, that is.....

                                  So now you understand.

                          2. Had an excellent seafood pasta at Smoke last week! and the jazz was killin'! Mike LeDonne and guest altoist the wicked Vincent Herring!