Finding the 10 best karaoke bars in New York City is a process of whittling. The Big Apple has so many great spots to sing over muzak, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s the cream of the crop:
- Duet. Duet is a Japanese karaoke bar with two locations in Manhattan. Private rooms, a well stocked bar, and an enormous catalog of songs in English, Spanish, and Japanese, make Duet New York’s prime karaoke spot. The East Side bar is a block from Japan Society, if you’re looking for a Japanese night. Duet: 53 W. 35th Street 646-473-0826, or 304 E. 48th Street, (212) 753-0030.
- Top Tunes. Top Tunes advertises itself as New York’s hottest karaoke bar. They’ve twice been featured on Japanese television, and offer three VIP rooms. While this urban-dandy attitude may seem to some the antithesis of karaoke, you’ll have a great time once Top Tunes charms away your preconceived notions. Top Tunes: 303-305 East 53rd Street, (212) 758-3818.
- Pulse Karaoke Lounge and Suites. Pulse is a trendy midtown karaoke bar for the young working set. It offers private and communal rooms, cocktails, and finger food. A major selling point is the Rockband set up. Be forewarned: Pulse has a dress code, so put on some decent threads. Drinks are half price from 6pm-8pm. Pulse: 135 W. 41st Street, (646) 461-7717.
- Karaoke 17. As with all of NYC’s best karaoke bars, Karaoke 17 has a complete drink menu. You’ve probably deduced the point of karaoke in NY: drink too much and sing like a buffoon. 17 offers that in spades: their top three songs are “Tell Me More”, from Grease, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, and “Sweet Caroline”. Karaoke 17: 29 W. 17th Street, (212) 675-3527.
- iBop. Definitely one of New York’s best karaoke bars, iBop’s charm lies in its creepiness. Walk up a narrow staircase that smells like vomit and has bloodstains on the carpet and wall to iBop’s door, a slab of metal straight out of“Hostel”. Once you’re in, there’s the middle-aged Korean proprietor, who is incommunicative, and plays Beatles songs on his classical guitar at the front desk. But iBop is a bargain, and BYOB. Bring your favorite booze, and it’s the cheapest night out in NY. iBop: 25 W. 35th Street, (646) 752-4895.
- U2 Karaoke. Capitalizing on the name of one of the world’s most famous bands, U2 karaoke offers the image to match. One of New York’s best karaoke bars, its equipment is top notch. The bar itself is a futurescape of shocking ultraviolet neon. The overwhelmingly bizarre décor of U2 makes the experience a must for karaoke fans. It feels like you’re in a Wong Kar-Wai movie. U2 Karaoke: 6 Saint Marks Place, (212) 228-6250.
- Pieces Bar. Pieces prides itself on having a “hot, sexy staff”, “fabulous clientele”, and glittery decoration. If this sounds to you like the makings of a gay bar, you’d be right. Pieces offers Tuesday night karaoke that it is totally over-the-top. Fill out a song slip and get onstage before a room of screaming, buff young men and…well, it’s quite the experience at New York’s top gay karaoke bar. Pieces Bar: 8 Christopher Street, (212) 929-9291.
- Sing Sing. Sing Sing has two locations on the Lower East Side. Both are very New York bars, with a uniquely Japanese twist. Sing Sing was voted best karaoke in NY by Citysearch in 2008. Sing Sing: 81 Avenue A, (212) 674-0700 or 9 St. Marks Place, (212) 387-7800.
- Karaoke Champ. Karaoke Champ has an interesting claim to fame: its equipment was featured on Saturday Night Live. While this doesn’t equate quality, Karaoke Champ’s location, a few blocks from Union Square in the East Village, makes it an attractive spot. The sunny slogan “Singing Heals the World!” attests to Champ’s enthusiasm for karaoke. Karaoke Champ: 380 Lafayette Street, 212-375-0091.
Stout. Stout is an enormous Irish bar a block from Penn Station. On Saturday nights in Stout’s cellar, karaoke reigns. The event is called Karaoke Idol, and the drunken regulars, cutting loose for the weekend with some pints of the black stuff, have a riotous time making asses of themselves. Stout: 133 W. 33rd Street, 212-629-6191.