In a city of millions of people, you wouldn’t think there were places that intentionally are hard to find. For residents of New York City, it’s that very fact that keeps speakeasies in business.
People love the idea of discovering a secret and at these places, there’s a built-in sense of comradery between you and the other patrons. Although these aren’t the best kept secrets, the speakeasies below all offer either great drinks, ambience or both.
The Back Room
102 Norfolk Street
When looking for this bar, keep an eye out for a sign that says “Lower East Side Toy Company.” Then go through the gate, down a set of stairs and through an alley to get to the entrance of The Back Room. Upon entering, you’re greeted by velvet wallpapers, large oil paintings and cushy velvet couches.
More often than not on a weekend it will be packed, but there’s another hidden room behind a bookcase. This bar has been around since prohibition and it uses the same entrance as it did over 80 years ago. They serve you booze in a teacup and beer in plastic bags, just like how they used to do in the good ‘ol days. There’s some food here, but you should really go for the Bees Knees – a honey and lemon gin cocktail.
324 West 46th Street
You might walk around the block a couple times trying to find the entrance to this bar. That’s because the bar is hidden inside a brownstone apartment. When you step inside though, it looks just like any other bar. They provide a good assortment of tapas style food so you can grab a bit while you drink.
While it can get very crowded, it’s definitely worth checking out during the evening. Rumor has it many of the stars and starlets from Broadway productions find their way here after their shows finish. They don’t offer any specialty cocktails, but you can expect any drinks you order to be tasty and get you tipsy.
Raines Law Room
48 West 17th Street
As you’re walking down 17th street, look for an unmarked stairwell. As sketchy as it might seem, follow it down and then ring the doorbell. A host will greet you and take you in, if the place isn’t packed. Inside, the den is filled with curtained-off couches and music from the 1920s.
There’s no bar you can see here. Instead, you pull a lamp string to summon your waiter who will then take your order. So where are the drinks prepared? Half hidden behind the curtains is a hidden back room where the bartender resides. There are plenty of drinks to get here, but if you’re in a festive mood try the 10 Gallon Hat – mescal, ancho chile, lime and pineapple.
296 Bleecker Street
If you’ve walked by the Five Guys in the West Village, you’ve likely seen a bar on top of it, but no actual entrance. At least not on the outside. You need to go inside the burger joint and then turn left at the ketchup dispenser. There you’ll find a staircase leading to the second-floor. In contrast to the fast food joint on the bottom, The Garret has sweeping chandeliers and a fireplace mantel. Of course, the drinks here offer some amazing combinations like gin and matcha called The First Lady.
131 ½ Chrystie Street
At Fig. 19 you can enjoy art AND have a drink in the same place. Fig. 19 is in the back of an art gallery – Envoy Enterprise. Towards the back you’ll see an unassuming doorway that normally wouldn’t catch your eye, that is until you notice the chandeliers. Well, that and the bouncer in front is also a dead giveaway. The setting is quite intimate so on weekends it gets very crowded. If you want a seat at a table or bar, make sure to get there early or go on a week day. The cocktail list changes frequently as it focuses on using seasonal ingredients. That means you’ll get some drinks that makes use of herbs like mint, rose, ginger, lavender or basil. If you get bored of the bar crowd, you can take a stroll and look at the art.