Revisiting Marie's Crisis Café

The WPA mural behind the bar at Marie's Crisis Café depicts the French and American revolutions.
It's been a few years since I've stopped by Marie's Crisis Café, known by many as one of the best places in NYC to sing along with your favorite show tunes. A friend of a friend was visiting from Liverpool, and she wanted to check out an open mic or karaoke spot. As we were nearby, we decided to pop in to the famous piano bar. I'd only been a few times before--usually on busy nights when the place is jammed--and an entertaining, song-filled three-and-a-half hours proceeded to fly by!

I'd never checked out the history of the place, and after doing a brief search, I'm kind of gobsmacked at how cool the location is. For years, I've known the place as merely "the gay piano bar near Sheridan Square where you sing show tunes" and just figured it was in another Greenwich Village building, but its history is fairly complex. The current structure, from the 1850s, replaced another in which Thomas Paine died (hence "Crisis," reflecting his Crisis Papers). The room was originally a prostitutes' den, became a boy bar in the 1890s, survived Prohibition, and has been in its current piano bar state for more than 35 years. Even more fascinating is the WPA mural behind the bar--nobody seems to know how it got there.

I'd forgotten how fun Marie's Crisis Café can be. So, if you're in the mood for a sing-along or need a Broadway fix on the cheap (the drink prices are low!), head on down to Grove Street.

Marie's Crisis Café, 59 Grove Street just west of Seventh Avenue.

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