The 10 Best Jukebox Bars in New York City
In a perfect world, jukeboxes aren't Top 40-spewing robots, those glowing ATM-like contraptions hooked up to an infinite Internet playlist that charges $2 a song and inundates you with too many choices to the point where you're just playing The Outfield's "Your Love" on repeat for the billionth time. Jukeboxes, good ones, are curated experiences that either stick to a theme (bluegrass, MoTown and soul, etc.) or catalog the classics in order to appeal to regulars and patrons popping in for a first pint. The best ones reside in bars that enhance this experience, the kind of haunts that emphasize the connection between the music you've carefully chosen for yourself and your surroundings for the evening. You could be home and plugged into your iTunes or a turntable, but you're not--you're here, in this bar, with these strangers, drinking this Sixpoint Sweet Action or PBR or what have you--and you're listening to exactly what you need to hear exactly where you need to hear it.
The trusty juke at The Rusty Knot.
These jukebox bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn are our favorites for this reason, this totally perfect sense of time and place that's solidified with the perfect song. In an age where robo-jukes are taking the place of vintage beauties across all boroughs, we're happy to stock up on quarters and hole up in any of these bars, even if we are playing "Your Love" without a shred of irony or dignity. Or both.
See also: The 10 Best Bars in Park Slope Not Yet Ruined by Babies
118 Rivington St.
Though some old dependables are missing from the jukebox at The Magician (the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, but you'll be too busy knocking back $3 glasses of wine at happy hour and blasting the Black Keys to care. This modest LES dive is dependably comfortable on a weeknight, where you can actually sidle up to the bar or snag a table and feed the juke some cash for some shame-free returns to Cheap Trick's catalog.
The Rusty Knot
426 West St.
Picklebacks, hot dogs, beer specials and a galaxy-themed pool table are reason enough to trek to the West Side Highway haunt, but a massive jukebox? The standing musical encyclopedia that awaits you seals the deal. Jay Z's one of the partners behind this tiki bar, and the standard held to the musical focal point of the establishment is seemingly up to HOV standards: it's comprehensive, classic and provides exactly what you're looking for when you're looking for it. Any situation that involves "Bad Moon Rising" and Abita on tap is a good one--especially when you're surrounded by nautical knickknacks in a place where you can scratch your initials on the tabletops.
224 Ave. B
Any bar that hosts Johnny Cash live cuts on the jukebox and live jazz during the week is one worth calling home, and East Village staple Mona's fits the bill on both fronts. They're not afraid of volume at Mona's either, so choose wisely, as you'll elicit some eyerolls for throwing "Don't Stop Believin'" on there as a tired joke. The pool table and the jukebox are cozily nestled in the back, so if you plan accordingly, you could easily wind up dominating both for the better half of an afternoon--just stock up on quarters before you head over, and take it easy on playing through At Folsom Prison more than twice.
140 W. 44th St.
Though we'd normally discourage anyone and everyone from intentionally seeking out a bar this close to Times Square, Jimmy's Corner is an exception to the rule, and one that you should flock to should friends crashing on your couch insist on hitting a show the next time they visit. It's an Internet juke, and that's no fun, but a tone of Motown, Soul, Rat Pack classics and other staples from your parents' record collections is set by owner Jimmy Glenn, whose long-time career as a boxing trainer and cut man is in photo evidence plastered all over the bars old mirrors and walls. Additional bonus: snack time! Jimmy's is big on free bar fare by way of Chex mix, which totally helps when you realize you've been listening to the best of Marvin Gaye for upwards of four beers.
Welcome to the Johnson's
123 Rivington St.
The sign on the front of the bar is a neighborhood landmark, and for a reason: Welcome to the Johnson's is a fairy light-strewn must for those interested in nothing more than a beer for pocket change and seriously good tuneage below Houston. Come for the $2 PBRs and kitschy surroundings that wouldn't feel out of place in a deleted scene from Wet Hot American Summer; stay for the juke and the picks of your fellow patrons, who might surprise you with new favorites or reacquaint you with the Elvis Costello or Dolly Parton deep cut you accidentally flipped over when you were perusing tunes.
118 Rivington St., New York, NY