88 Broadway Falls Flat

I went to 88 Broadway (the piano bar at Lincoln Square) this weekend for a friend’s birthday.  It was the second time I’ve been there and I must say… it didn’t get any better.

There are a number of problems with this place

  • Its in the mall. Okay, it’s called Lincoln Square “village” now, but there’s a Hallmark store directly across from it and it definitely still feels like a mall. They really don’t do much to disguise the fact that it’s in the mall. No matter where you sit, you’re always reminded you’re in the mall. If you’re lucky enough to get a table inside the bar, you’re facing out towards Hallmark.  If not, you may actually have to sit in the mall itself.  And if it’s after 9:00, you have to pay $5 for the privilege.
  • The fondue isn’t very good. The first time I went, I didn’t go for dinner, but I had a bit of the chocolate fondue my friends had ordered.  It was fine.  But it’s also hard to mess up.

    This time, I went for dinner and was planning on giving the fondue a try (even after reading this report on Champaign-Taste). No dice.  They were out of cheese fondue.  On a Friday night.  I ordered appetizers and some of our party had pizzas and they said it was good.  But if they’re trying to be a fondue place, maybe they should have fondue.  Oh, and a tip: If you go after 9 you can’t get fondue.  Not even the chocolate.

  • The dueling piano show is lame.  If you’ve ever been to The Big Bang or Howl at the Moon, you know how a dueling piano show goes;  you sing along to cheesy pop songs, you make requests, you convince your friends to go on stage and make fools of themselves.  It’s a good time.
    Well, 88 Broadway is kinda like that.  Without the fun.  There’s not a lot of room on the stage.  There is NO dance floor.  The songs and jokes are already stale (and a couple are stolen directly from The Big Bang).  I can’t comment on the piano playing, but man they botched the singing this weekend. I’ll give them credit… it takes a lot of talent to be able to play such variety, but the singing was awful.
  • The atmosphere is boring. Even though they encourage audience participation in the piano show, there’s really no way to get up and mingle with people.  You’re mostly just sitting in your seat watching a show (and a lame one at that).   The service is slow (but nice) and they don’t seem to be very organized.  I realize it’s a new bar, but come on… they should have some of the kinks worked out by  now.

The bottom line is that they’re trying to do too much and not doing any of it well.  It’s trying to be The Melting Pot, The Big Bang, a martini bar, and a sports bar all at once.

(They even had the Olympics on during the piano show on Friday.  I think the biggest applause they got all night was when the crowd cheered for a former Illini player as he was walking in the opening ceremony.)

I’d say if you really want to check it out… go for the piano show.  Go before 9:00 so you don’t have to pay cover, get a table inside and see if you like it.  It could be fun under the right circumstances, but it’s definitely not the kind of place I could go to regularly.  In fact, if I wanted to see a dueling piano show, I think I’d drive to The Big Bang in St. Louis before going back to 88 Broadway.

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3 responses to “88 Broadway Falls Flat

  1. As you know, we didn’t even make it into the experience as far as you did…and I couldn’t agree more. We certainly wanted to like the place, but we knew there was trouble from the moment we discovered that flat screen televisions, not the pianos (digital…yuk), were the most prominently featured attraction.

  2. That’s so sad! A quality piano bar can be so much fun!

    You know, I used to work at that Hallmark, back in the day. I’m sure the salespeople there are thrilled to have a piano bar across the way during the evening hours… There’s not a lot to do when you don’t have any customers, so any entertainment would be extremely welcome, even if it’s just watching the happy hour crowd eat fondue.

  3. I also had the same experience at 88 Broadway. Only I pd the 5 bucks and couldn’t get a table AT ALL. I’ve been to a couple of other piano bars, one of them being at NY NY in Vegas and it was GREAT fun… but same as you, I’m not impressed with 88 Broadway at all.

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