New York’s karaoke scene can seem a bit intimidating—especially when an off-Broadway actress on her night off belts out a perfect rendition of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You before you even up the nerve to put your name down on the list. But it’s worth exploring—even if you just go to watch. From dive bar gems to glittery Koreatown palaces, here are eight of NYC’s best karaoke bars.
Both East Village locations are dark, divey blasts. While there are larger, private rooms in the back that can be rented for $8 per person (complete with flatscreens and Saran-wrapped wireless mics), the best way to karaoke at either Sing Sing is in the main barroom. There, in the company of complete strangers, you can practice your best Ozzy Osbourne wail, Mick Jagger swagger or R&B siren call. Best of all, at just $2 a song you can save all your money for pints of Sapporo and sake shots.
This upscale Midtown karaoke bar has something for everyone—from drinks, to songs, to vintage stereo equipment. If you’re the type of karaoke rock star who travels alone, you can stroll into Radio Star for a couple of drinks at the bar where singing is a group activity. Or, if you’re the shy type who prefers to sing only in the company of your crew, there are nine different private rooms, which can accommodate up to 40 people. Best of all, Radio Star has one of the most ridiculously affordable open bars: The starting rate for an open bar featuring unlimited beer, well liquor and wine is only $20 per person, per hour. If that doesn’t encourage you to sing, we don’t know what will.
Identified only by its inconspicuous awning, this Chinatown den is one of our favorite secret spots to sing. One of the only karaoke bars in town where, depending on the night, you can spot either a 60-year-old Chinese man singing Cantonese classics or Greta Gerwig and her crew holding down the mic, Upstairs hosts a melange of artists, celebrities and neighborhood locals who come together in the name of karaoke. Whatever night you go, make sure to warm up your pipes with a winning combo of baijiu and Tsing Tao.