01/28/2011 02:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York's Best Piano Bars

It's 9:30 PM on East 54th Street: you can hear the tinkle of piano keys and someone singing Billy Joel. Follow the music down a set of stairs, through the swinging double doors of Bill's -- and back to a time when piano bars weren't such a novelty in New York.

If this were the 1920s you would have to knock and give a password to enter what was then known as Bill's Gay Nineties -- an 1890s-themed speakeasy. (Can you believe they were doing retro back then?) Today, the false wall is gone and the original glass doors reveal the bar where an old (and sometimes cranky) bartender turns out drinks beneath a low ceiling. There's a coat check girl and a manager by the door. It still feels very much like the speakeasy of yore.