Every weekend, the soulful notes of blues bands fill the air of the casual, Zagat-rated eatery with lively and exciting ballads. National acts such as Popa Chubby, CJ Chenier, and Jeffrey Gaines complement the sounds of tribute bands as well as Monday open mic participants. Having first opened in 1991 in Westchester, experienced chefs in the kitchen orchestrate dishes of spicy jambalaya, boiled crawfish, and exotic alligator sausage that are every bit as expressive and flavorful as the tunes they complement. Dishes arrive with steam still curling into the air, awaiting diner's selection from a menu of 100 gourmet hot sauces that customize dishes with fiery flavors of habanero peppers, smoked chipotles, peach and vidalia onion, and dragon tears. Bayou?s chefs also whip up their creole food for special events with their catering services.
If the zebra-skin walls of Lenox Lounge’s Zebra Room could talk, what stories they would tell. Perhaps they would open with an account of how poet Langston Hughes once mesmerized his audience with “The Story of Jazz.” They might then try to recapture the magic of one of those nights when Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, or Billie Holiday stood close to the mic and everything else came to a standstill. The Zebra Room’s famous—or infamous—reputation dates back to 1939, when Lenox Lounge first opened its doors to the legends of jazz. The club has since appeared in TV shows and movies, but it continues to put live music first. To complement the intimate atmosphere, there’s a menu of traditional soul food such as fried chicken and waffles, stuffed catfish, and collard greens.
Named after the iconic Central Park monument, Cleopatra’s Needle has earned a reputation of its own with a daily schedule of open mics, jam sessions, and jazz performances. As one might expect, the club’s menu references Egypt and other Mediterranean locales, though its cocktail list is classic New York—martinis, wines, and frozen drinks are all well represented. While the performers are taking a break to warm up their vocal cords or massage the grand piano’s tense strings, guests can watch local sports on the big screen.
Brasserie Julien’s chefs pamper palates with gourmet French specialties, sea delicacies, and expertly crafted signature drinks in a romantic setting. New York magazine writes that “it’s impossible to dine at this Upper East side brasserie and not think of Paris.” Upscale small plates whet appetites and facilitate the enjoyment of French aperitifs, with selections such as 24 plain oysters or shells stuffed with misplaced pirate-chest keys. Endive salads, quiche lorraine, or an assortment of soups sate cravings for light fare, and steak, fondue, or filet mignon quell ampler appetites. During wine tours, accomplished sommelier Mollie Battenhouse regales guests with about 10 samples of varietals from around the globe, as well as portions of the eatery’s brasserie fare.
Inside Brasserie Julien’s romantic and relaxed dining room, art-deco-inspired pendant lights illuminate the space's elegant columns, flowing curtains, and trumpet-playing silverware to create an authentic brasserie-style experience.
Open since 2009, Tutuma Social Club is one of the first Afro-Peruvian jazz venues in the city. Helmed by owner Santina Matwey, the club mimics those found in Lima, combining a party atmosphere with contemporary Peruvian cuisine. Peru's international chefs, Carlos Testino and Rodrigo Conroy, craft a dinner menu of ceviche and seafood dishes made with ingredients native to South America.
As diners spoil taste buds with flavors from Peru, ear-tongues can savor live music from Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet or from national touring artists, whose schedules can be found on the club's event calendar. Long tables line the white walls of the venue, ending with a small stage pronounced by an eye-popping red wall.
Aza's chefs concoct a menu of traditional Spanish tapas dishes alongside an array of other small plates, brunch, and desserts. Patrons dine Spanish-style on classics such as mussels in a white wine sauce ($8.25) or the paella valenciana, a bed of saffron rice nestled with fresh seafood, Spanish sausage, and chicken ($8.95). Spanish wines ($8) complement charcuterie platters ($15 each) as gracefully as a bandit’s ammo belt complements his grenade bracelet. Desserts such as chocolate mousse and crema catalana ($6 each) end meals on a sweet note, while eggy brunch options provide savory morning fare ($6+). After guests have exhausted their sharing skills, they can lean back in one of Aza's red high-backed chairs and enjoy the exposed brick walls’ bashful vermilion hue.