Two things stick out immediately about Silver Lining, the jazz bar that just opened in the basement of the cast-iron Bogardus Mansion (75 Murray). First, unlike at most jazz bars, tables aren’t jammed up against each other, and patrons seem unlikely to have to share space. Second, the acoustics are such that even though the sound is rich, the music doesn’t dominate the evening. You don’t have to sit and worship it; you can have a conversation. In that sense, it’s more of a bar with jazz—and there’s neither a cover nor a minimum.
Opened by two veterans of the West Village’s Little Branch, Silver Lining has no sign, just a bouncer sitting in the vestibule. He asked for ID, which seemed strange for this kind of establishment; perhaps it’s a result of overflow issues from the rowdier bars elsewhere on Murray. As you walk down the stairs, you can see the bar through a picture window—a neat effect that makes the stools on the other side of the glass far more interesting than they’d otherwise be. The bar is along the eastern wall, and the northern half of the room is tables. Some are booths by the wall; some are freestanding. The ones that left us cold were the two-tops lined up in the middle of the room. No one ever really wants to be in the middle of the room, but the bigger issue is that the chairs were all positioned to face the band (along the western wall). If one of Silver Lining’s main virtues is that you don’t have to stare silently at the band, then these tables felt out of place. Moreover, they have ankle-length white tablecloths that call to mind a catering hall. An aside: Tablecloths came about in the Victorian era, according my friend Lisa, because seeing men’s legs rub up against table legs was too provocative.
The vibe is Art Deco Yacht—love the wallpaper and padded bathroom doors—along with a dash of white New England cabinetry behind the bar and old family photos on the walls. (Look for the class picture from the Worsham College of Embalming.) Despite the electric candles on the tables, Silver Lining is definitely going for old-school swank, with cloth cocktail napkins, cloth towels in the restrooms, and metal straw/swizzle sticks.
A menu of small plates is served, but having been conditioned to avoid food at jazz bars, I was content ordering a drink. I let the bartender decide for me—cocktails are $14–$16—asking only that it be weak. (While Silver Lining will begin opening at 5 p.m. as soon as next week, right now it’s still opening at 8 p.m., and I had already had a glass and a half of wine.) She made me a tall drink with vodka, a dash of gin, Angostura bitters, lemon, seltzer, and probably something else. It was refreshing, although I’m not sure I like the tall rod of ice that bartenders tend to use these days instead of cubes. I like to hear my drink.
We arrived just before 9 p.m., and a piano trio led by Marcus Persiani began playing around 20 minutes later. They were excellent! The bar was pretty empty—it was a Tuesday night in August—so I’ll be interested to see how respectful the audience is once the room fills up. Just because you can have a conversation doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respectful. If there’s a calendar of performers or a schedule of any kind, I can’t find it, so be prepared to chill a bit without music.
Note: My photos make the place look darker than it is.
Silver Lining is at 75 Murray (bet. W. Broadway and Greenwich), 212-513-1234.