Pianos opened in October 2002 without feeling the need to rename or even change the sign at the front of the building (possibly taking influence from the nearby Arlene’s Grocery).
Located at 158 Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side, it’s just a few feet away from another LES staple: Cake Shop (152 Ludlow). Subway stops are Delancey or 2nd Av on the F, as well as Essex on the J/M while Grand Street (B/D) isn’t much of a walk either.
You enter the venue into the main restaurant/bar. I’ve been to Pianos a handful of times, and the most recent occasion was the first time I’ve ever managed to get a seat at one of the tables, it’s usually pretty packed at all times. This is no doubt partly due to the prices at happy hour, which affects both food and drink – check the menu here (some items come with “beer cheese sauce”, yes, this is real).
I decided to chow down on the red wine burger, which had a deep and rich flavour, I was impressed. The $4 frozen margaritas went down well, whilst the beer selection is fairly standard.
Bathrooms (there are three individual ones) are downstairs after navigating a narrow staircase and hallway.
The showroom is on the ground level at the back of the restaurant and has a capacity of around 120 or so at a guess, it’s a nice spot and has a bar off to the side albeit serving an uninspiring selection.
The showroom does have decent sound with good separation, but it’s often too loud, which is a shame because the overall experience would be improved if the levels just dropped a tiny bit (this isn’t merely fuddy-duddy talk, when you go to multiple shows a week the last thing you want is permanent ear damage).
Shows in the upstairs lounge are usually free, I’ve only been up there once during CMJ a couple of years ago to see Fletcher C. Johnson. There is no stage, it was cramped and the sound wasn’t great but I can imagine it’s a decent spot for a more intimate/acoustic set that isn’t so packed.
Pianos is another small venue where you can see a fine mix of local and touring bands, the food is good and the happy hour prices are enticing. Keep up to date with their schedule HERE.