Looking for a way to spend a Sunday afternoon? How about listening to some contemporary jazz music? And, while you’re at it, grabbing some great and hearty classic American continental dishes? If this is what you’re searching for, Ryles Jazz Club is the place. Owned and operated by the Mitchell/Wheeler family, who are fifth-generation restaurateurs, Ryles Jazz Club is located in the heart of Cambridge.
Even from the outside, the restaurant looks the part of a jazz club. Located on Hampshire Street, it is in an old-school building — like it’s been well used, well loved, and has had many lively lives inside to dine and listen to wonderful jazz. And during my visit, that’s exactly the aura that the place gave off — lively, even at 11 a.m. on a Sunday.
Once inside, it is like being transported into another era. The interior is a dark wooded space with dim lighting and utilitarian chairs and tables. There was nothing too glitzy or over-the-top. Only the right kind of furniture to get the job done.
But the main feature is one that isn’t as outwardly visible as wood paneling or antiquated light fixtures: it is the music that creates a cool energy in the room without drowning out the ability for casual table conversations and invites a diverse range of patrons. The crowd was a mix of all ages, from babies to grandparents.
The menu is filled with your classic breakfast options, such as pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls and eggs. These standard staples are all reasonably priced at about $10. Then there were the more adventurous options on the menu, such as pumpkin pancakes and inventive omelet combinations.
Choosing is difficult. My table definitely went the adventurous route and ordered things we could barely pronounce, such as eggs Copenhagen. A bit like eggs Benedict, the eggs Copenhagen was beautifully presented but ramped up with smoked salmon, onions and home fries on the side. After powering through our meal, we were ready to enjoy the music.
Ryles Jazz Club does not play your typical restaurant ambiance soundtrack. The enthusiastic quartet engaged the audience by playing classic songs such as “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and also more contemporary numbers such as Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” Audience involvement was also a huge part of the experience. There was a big chorus of “Happy Birthday” to an unexpecting man, as well as audience requests from the band. And if the jazz quartet did not know how to play the specific request, they did their best to improvise.
It is extremely hard to be a bystander at Ryles Jazz Club. Instead, you are part of the event. No matter if the day is cold, warm, sunny or cloudy, at Ryles, it will feel very bright.
Ryles Jazz Club is located at 212 Hampshire St., in Cambridge. Jazz Brunch is served every Sunday. Reservations can be made through the club’s website at rylesjazz.com.