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Some Fun Pre-Concert, Pre-Gaming Locations In Manhattan

Keegan Forte is blogger from New York City. On her Blog, Music Is My Forte, she writes about concerts and music industry happenings. You can follow her on Twitter at @keeganforte.

Concert going should never be a stressful task. Actually, it shouldn’t be a task at all. It should be an experience that not only brushes any stress off your shoulders, but one that transports you to your own world where song after song makes you smile and sway.

Of course, meeting up with your concert companions beforehand is a given, whether it for a sit down dinner or to get in as many cheap beers as possible before venues empty out your bank accounts for the smallest vodka soda in America. This decision is an important one, as it will set the tone for a frank free evening.

I know the feeling personally: you mass email all day about times to meet and where to go, “but that place is always crowded,” “should I make a reservation?” “I don’t know when I’ll be out of work,” eek … my anxiety creeped up just thinking about it.

I’m all about helping out fellow music fans, so I’m suggesting to you a place (or places) to either sit for a quick bite or throw back a few beers … or both. I’m including 8 venues around NYC that I’ve been to recently. Share your favorite spots too and what venue they’re best for pre-concerting at!

1. Madison Square Garden

Café Lugo: Set back a bit on 33rd and 8th – this place is a breath of fresh air from the jam-packed, tourist filled joints that surround it. With high ceilings and classic rustic décor, you’ll be sitting pretty with a cold glass of white. I suggest it for a sit down, just tell your waiter you have a show to make and you’ll be in and out. Call ahead for sure.

Irish Times: Directly next to the most crowded bar in the world (Brother Jimmy’s), Irish Times doesn’t seem to get as much love, but it should. It’s a huge place with a staff that makes you want to stay all night. Great beer selection, never stuffy or unbearably crowded. Best of all, it’s a hop skip and a jump from The Garden on West 31st Street at 8th Ave.

2. Radio City Music Hall

Johnny Utah’s: You may say typical, I say awesome. On 51st between 5th and 6th, this basement rodeo is clean, big and more then happy to get you in and out in time for your show. Don’t let the mechanical bull scare you, just promise yourself to go back and ride it after the concert. Call ahead if you’re looking to sit and eat.

3. Webster Hall

The Smith: I suggest this for a sit down dinner. The Mac & Cheese is killer and it’s located right on 3rd Ave at 11th Street. Call ahead.

The Village Pour House: Conveniently located on the South/West corner of 11th and 3rd, this place screams binge drink. It may even say that on a sign outside that says so! Go in there and get your monies worth before you stumble across the street to Webster.

4. Irving Plaza

Brother Jimmy’s: This place and I have a love/hate relationship, but with this location just opening up last month on 16th Street between Irving Place and Park Ave South, it’s definitely worth a shot. I haven’t been to this particular location, but frequenting the others I can say I’m a pretty good judge. Comfort food for the eaters and $4 16 oz Natty Light’s for the drinkers.

Pete’s Tavern: On the corner of 18th Street and Irving, get at any of the burgers and you won’t leave disappointed.

5. Bowery Ballroom

Bowery Ballroom: Although its pricey, I still like to hang out there before a show. With a spacious downstairs bar, you’re given the freedom to head up to the show whenever you’d like.

Lombardi’s Pizza: Located on Spring and Mott Streets, it’s known as the “birthplace of NYC pizza.” Lombardi’s is a great place to sit down and have some traditional pizza and beers.

6. The Highline

Pop Burger: This place is a gem. Satisfy your hunger at the counter with some mini burgers and fries or head to the back to enjoy some pre-concert cocktails and pool. Located on 9th Ave and 15th Street, you’ll find yourself heading back there on the frequent.

Standard Hotel Beer Garden: An outdoor haven for hipsters and the like. With the highline as the roof and picnic tables all around, its swanky yet comfortable. Although $8 per beer ticket may seem steep, that giant German beer stein will work its magic.

7. Rumsey Playfield

McKeown’s: Although hard to find a descent pub-like place so close to Central Park, walking from 3rd Ave to 5th Ave isn’t hard at all. McKeown’s is a great spot located on 3rd Ave at 75th Street.

Phoenix Park: Located at 67th and 3rd, Phoenix Park is a close walk to Rumsey. It has a pool table in the back and a small outdoor garden to enjoy the weather.

I for one know that making the final meeting-place-before-a-concert decision can make you want to pull your hair out. There are a ton of great places in NYC to get your fix before a show. Like I said, share your favorites with us, the more places listed here, the less time you’ll spend scouring the internet for that perfect spot!

Keegan Forte I want you to leave here everyday with a good sound in your ears with something new to listen to, a song that defines your day or week or life, a quote that will get you by and, of course, a desire to come back for more. As it says in Time Out New York’s book “1,000 Songs To Change Your Life:” “Music is everywhere we turn, unavoidable and inescapable. It provides a soundtrack for adolescence and adulthood, Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, relationships and break-ups, lives and deaths. Its simple ubiquity makes it the cultural air that we breathe.” …see full bio

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1 Legacy Comment

  • Comment by Josh posted April 13, 2010 at 16:58

    just skimming thru this article and its already awesome!!! Great idea keegan