A ceiling of mirrors. A small bouquet of flowers at each table. A breezy, outdoor patio festooned with white trellises and hanging foliage. The decorative accents at the newly redesigned Effie’s Restaurant and Lounge set a handsome backdrop for refined, contemporary American cuisine. In the kitchen, multitalented chefs craft hearty entrees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all while juggling wooden mixing spoons. Their culinary repertoire covers everything from brawny burgers topped with mushrooms to sole filets bathing in lemon butter. Effie’s bar and lounge area, meanwhile, morphs into a lively neighborhood hot spot where regulars wet their whistles for karaoke night with sips of beer, specialty cocktails, or wine from Effie’s extensive, five-page drink menu.
Homestead Bowl welcomes friends and families to hurl balls down 32 glistening lanes equipped with electronic scoring and gutter returns. A medley of drafts and bottled brews such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Newcastle, and Guinness stock shelves in The X Bar, a full-service sports bar where bowlers can celebrate strikes with live music and Friday-night karaoke. The bar also tends to college nostalgia with beer pong and weekly billiards tournaments.
The name Planet Gemini would imply that this club has two sides to it, but that's not quite accurate. There are at least three. Since opening Planet Gemini more than 20 years ago, the Lane brothers—Frankie and Anthony—have built a venue that functions as a comedy club, a live-music space, and a full-service restaurant. Each night, the club transforms into something new: on Tuesday, Frankie, a master chef, puts together a menu of homemade Italian food as Anthony croons classic Italian songs; Wednesday and Sunday are dance nights, with Latin bands taking the stage as the audience dances the pachanga, merengue, and salsa; and Thursday is for karaoke, during which professional lighting and sound make amateurs feel like rock stars or a circus tiger.
On Friday and Saturday night, however, the music gives way to laughter, as the stage is reserved for a rotation of nationally touring comedians. Although Planet Gemini is mostly known for featuring up-and comers—many of whom have been featured on HBO, Comedy Central, and other national programming—they've also had the good fortune to host famous funny men such as George Lopez and Jimmy Fallon.
Asian and American karaoke styles join forces at Pandora Karaoke & Bar, whose moodily lit space hosts both an open stage for crowd-friendly crooners and 15 private rooms for groups. In either setting, singers scroll through Super Master touch-screen karaoke systems to choose from more than 100,000 songs in languages including English, Mandarin Chinese, and Frank Sinatra’s native pig Latin. Wireless microphones then capture crooning voices as lyrics scroll across 50-inch plasma TVs, serenading spectators as they munch sushi and Asian-fusion fare from the menu. Inside private rooms, colorful cushioned banquettes host groups of up to 40 harmonizers beneath themed decorations such as brewery logos or a rebus representing the complete lyrics to “Eye of the Tiger.”
Playground serves up classic Korean dishes and a few American standards, whether you’re fueling up before a long night of karaoke or stopping in for a few happy hour bites. Bibimbap comes in beef or spicy seafood varieties, while a house sauce sweetens thin-sliced bulgogi. Shareable finger foods, such as popcorn chicken and garlic fries, make grabbing a bite between songs easy.
Soju—a Korean spirit that’s generally made with rice—is similar to vodka but lower in ABV. This smooth liquor dominates the drink menu and can be ordered on its own or in one of many tantalizing fruity cocktails, such as lychee or mango. But it’s not all about soju. The drink list also offers domestic and European beers, along with Korean brews like Hite and OB. A full liquor selection rounds out the choices, including 17 different whiskey options.
Guests gather in Playground’s private karaoke rooms, which can hold up to 20 people or 5 hyenas. Lyrics flicker on a flat-screen television as singers croon, cushioned by leather banquettes. Note that a food and beverage minimum applies to private room rental.
At Knet Karaoke, patrons can take the mic any night of the week. And they won't have to suffer through a stranger's rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot," because karaoke kings and queens perform in their own private chambers. Behind the crimson door to each room, some of which hold up to 22 people, low banquettes offer cozy seating and glossy tables reserve noshes chosen from the menu. Wireless microphones enable performers to work the room, dancing to the melody or crowd surfing to Hilary Duff's rock hits.