An Inside Guide To The Best Open Mics In NYC

by Rebecca Brunn · March 15, 2011

    Do you play guitar? Do you have too many feelings and no outlet for them? Then this post has just the thing for you! That's right, for a not-so-limited time only, you can play at an OPEN MIC! Or, you know, just go to one to listen. Here are some of the best open mics in town guaranteed to rock your inner Marc Bolan to his very core.

    OK, maybe Marc Bolan was a bad example. Regardless, get down with your acoustic self and check out some of the best open mics the city has to offer. Alternative reasoning: cheap beer! Here are a week's worth of open mics. If you don't make it this week, there's always next week, and the week after, and the week after...


    Pete's Candy Store

    Though the only candy Pete's actually offers is of the alcoholic variety, this Williamsburg staple hosts a solid Sunday afternoon open mic. The back space is narrow but surprisingly comfy and if you get hungry they make some wicked grilled ciabatta sandwiches. (Psst! Sometimes they let you smoke inside...)

    Where: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take the L to Lorimer St.

    When: Sunday, 5pm - 8pm

    Who: Strictly singer/songwriters with their own tunes. No bands, no poems, no covers.


    The Sidewalk Cafe

    The legendary stomping ground of the antifolk scene, the community-turned-genre that launched the careers of the likes of Beck and Regina Spektor, holds an open mic every Monday night. There's a definite camaraderie in the velvety back room where the music happens--a tight-knit crowd, solid songwriting and a wide age range of performers make for a great vibe. Also, the talent is just tops.

    Where: East Village. Take the L to 1st Ave, the 6 to Astor Place, the N, R to 8th St-NYU

    When: 8pm til it's over.

    Who: Anybody doing anything. Suggestions from their website include, "sing, rap, a live bat, it's all welcome"


    Bar 4

    This Park Slope corner bar is known for its cozy ambiance--red lights, vintage couches and candles are staples of the decor, but its open mic is the biggest highlight. This is a great one for newbies, as evidenced by testimony like this: "By the time I left, I wanted to give everyone a hug and then sing a song about it." (Katherine Heller) So if you're feeling a bit shy, this is a good, small one to start with.

    Where: Park Slope, Brooklyn. Take the F, G to 7th Ave-Park Slope or the D, N, R to Prospect Ave.

    When: 7:30pm til it's over. Also worth noting is their 2 am-and-later "late night" portion which tends to be a little less low-key. And, if you end up playing late night you get a free drink!

    Who: mostly singer/songwriters with some comedy here and there.

    Penny's Open Mic

    An anything-goes open mic perfect for those with an imagination. Some weeks are themed! The venue is tiny but you'll see some of the most innovative acts on the east side here, from singers to interpretive dancers to puppeteers. According to Penny herself, the only things unwelcome are "heckling and glitter". There's a back garden for mingling and smoking, plus $4 Budweiser tall boys.

    Where: East Village, Under St. Marks Theatre, take the L to 1st Ave, the 6 to Astor Place, or the N, R to 8th St-NYU

    When: 9 pm - 2 am

    Who: Anyone with an open mind.

    Goodbye Blue Monday

    The "Tuesday Teacup" is the weekly open mic at Goodbye Blue Monday, a single room venue for which "funky" is the best descriptor. The walls are covered in random toys and plaques and antiques and yeah, there's a cat wandering around. Somehow, GBM manages to embrace its peculiarity without being douchy, which is quite impressive. The proprietor, Joe "Crow" Ryan, has some good stories, too. For the quirky and the curious, GBM is a safe Tuesday bet.

    Where: Bushwick, Brooklyn. Take the J, M, Z to Myrtle Ave

    When: 7:30 pm

    Who: Musicians, comedians, poets, and whatever band can fit on the 10x10 stage.



    Pronounced kee-yawl, (the Gaelic word for "music"), this Brooklyn bar is home to Wednesday Night Song Club, an "invite-mic" created by Irish singer Niall Connolly. This is an open-mic with a twist: in order to play you must be invited to play, or one of the regulars must vouch for you. This weeds out the iffy ones for sure, inspiring comments like "It attracts such incredible talent as to make everyone in the room look at each other and go, "Wow, (s)he's good. I should QUIT. Just get out of their way and QUIT."(The Acousticrat). Ceol is pretty standard for a classy Irish pub--and easy to spot, it's painted fluorescent green--and their bangers and mash are not to be ignored. Delish.

    Where: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Take the F, G to Bergen St

    When: 8 pm - midnight

    Who: Get invited and find out!


    Little Skips

    Little Skips is that adorable little cafe you've walked by a million times but never checked out. Well their Thursday open mic is a perfect time to do so. It's a relatively new contender in the open mic scene--a baby compared to some others listed here that have been around since the dinosaurs, i.e. the 70's. Little Skips owns its youth though, declaring itself on its website as "a fun, cute and friendly cafe". Aww! This is a fun one if you're just looking for a laid back, warm atmosphere.

    Where: Bushwick, Brooklyn. Take the J, M, Z to Myrtle Ave.

    When: 8 pm - 11 pm

    Who: Your basic singer/songwriters and poets, the nice ones!

    A Gathering of The Tribes - Catweazle Club NYC

    Read more about Catweazle HERE!!

    Music, art, beer, cigarettes, friends, what more could you ask for? And all in a blind man's apartment! Catweazle is one to remember. Check out the article to see what they're all about.

    Where: East Village, 285 E. 3rd St (between Aves C & D) Take the F to 2nd Ave or the J, M, Z to Essex St.

    When: 8 pm to 11 pm

    Who: Strictly acoustic, but otherwise open. Make friends while you're there--it's usually a similar crowd each time.

    The Path Cafe

    Conveniently located right next to, you guessed it, the PATH train for all you Jersey folks (you know who you are), The Path is another sweet spot for Thursday night tunes. This is another one run by Niall Connolly, a name you might very well get familiar with if you keep up with the open mics. The evenings tend be small, sweet, comfy and completely undemanding. Path also right in the heart of the Village, so if the music doesn't do it for you, most likely you'll find something else that does nearby.

    Where: West Village. Take the 1 to Christopher St or the A,C,E  B, D, F, M to W. 4th St.

    When: 6 pm - 11 pm

    Who: Villagers starting their nights early, singer/songwriters.


    Postcrypt Coffeehouse

    Postcrypt is a cafe on the Columbia campus, run entirely by student (gasp!) volunteers! They feature all-acoustic sets every Friday and Saturday and have even managed to wrangle high-profile acts like Ani DiFranco from time to time. Folk music is the reigning genre, so don't forget your harmonica. Come early--the maximum capacity is thirty people, and how else are you going to get the free popcorn? Obviously, this is a nice one for the college crowd and anyone looking to snag a Columbia hottie.

    Where: Morningside Heights. Take the 1 to 116th St-Broadway or the A, C, B to 116th St.

    When: 8:30 - 11:30

    Who: Though it's student-run, Postcrypt has been a staple of the folk scene for forty years, so the crowd it draws is pretty diverse, on a folksy level.


    Banjo Jim's

    You gotta love Banjo Jim's! They've got live music 7 days a week but their Saturday afternoon open mic is a special treat. It may actually be impossible to have a mediocre time at Banjo Jim's, I mean how could you? What with the bluegrass, the cheap beer, the taped-up banquettes, it's a flashback to a lost time when dive bars were the most fun. It's mostly folk and country-rock but it almost doesn't matter. This is the most fun you'll have on a Saturday before the sun goes down.

    Where: East Village. Take the L to 1st Ave, or the F to 2nd Ave.

    When: 2:30 pm - 6:30 pm

    Who: Your dad's friends and clued-in young people who are tired of lounge clubs.

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