The Grand Betrayal: New York's 10 Best Speakeasies

The Grand Betrayal: New York's 10 Best Speakeasies

by Luiza Oleszczuk

Miss moonshine? Though it’s good to have times of prohibition behind us and indulge in all kinds of liquors glorifying shelves of any local bar, as it often happens with overabundance, people get tired of it after a while. As proven by the number of “secret” spots blooming around New York, its citizens crave times of speakeasies, secretiveness and exclusiveness. Just another trend among the spoiled scenesters or a legitimate need of bored bar-goers? Explore the truth yourself, as we incur the rage of the elitist explorers who like to count themselves as the only ones in the know, and reveal a list of best speakeasies in New York. Welcome to the conspiracy.


Best New York Speakeasy #10: PDT
113 Saint Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009
(212) 614-0386

PDT stands for Please Don’t Tell. That is exactly why we are not telling you, but writing about this cozy, quaint speakeasy full of draught beers and whiskey labels. It tops the list of secret bars thanks to its ultra conspirational entrance. A small hot dog joint on St. Mark’s, Crif Dogs is only a shabby cover (by the way, good dogs) to this wood-clad hangout filled with shiny bottles, leather couches and stuffed raccoons. An old-school telephone booth inside the dog joint serves as an entrance. All you have to do is pick up the receiver, and if the place happens to not be packed, you’ll be let inside. PDT is probably not as secret as we might wish but, hey, try to keep such a cozy secret on the bustling St. Mark’s Place and in a joint that sells really yummy hot dogs. No wonder that people entering a phone booth and never going out of it raised some questions.


Best New York Speakeasy #9: Sakagura
211 E 43rd St
New York, NY 10017
(212) 953-7253

Nothing exceptionally good should be available to everyone, and, thus, one of the best sake bars on the East Coast is carefully camouflaged as an average midtown apartment building entrance and available only to those in the know. Once you enter the hallway, turn left and follow the shabby signs (printed on copy paper and taped to the wall) posted along a narrow corridor appearing to lead to the basement or boiler room, only to get surprised by a dim, chic and sexy modern-Asian restaurant with rows of small tables, booths and a cozy bar ornamented with every bottle of sake available on the market.


Best New York Speakeasy #8: Decibel
240 E 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 979-2733

Fans of sake and cozy, bohemian spaces, where people keep bumping their elbows with each other, will appreciate Decibel. This small, clandestine bar has a small, obscure neon sign that makes you think of a shady yakuza dive, but you have to be buzzed inside. The décor is bustling with with red lighting and most adorable theme-kitsch in the world. Every square inch that is not occupied by customers is occupied by cheap-looking lanterns, Chinese lucky cat figures, scrap notes, sake labels, bathroom-like scribblings, and, of course, bottles upon bottles (literally) of sake. For obvious reasons, reservations are not accepted.


Best New York Speakeasy #7: Shalel Lounge
65 W 70th St
New York, NY 10023-4542
(212) 873-2300
There is no sign, but a menu placed right next to a mysterious iron stairway leading down the brick wall and additionally enlightened by votives, should at least spark your interest. The stairs lead to one of the sexiest and most romantic lounges in New York (located beneath restaurant Metsovo), a dim, six-room Moroccan haven filled with cozy low seats, pillows, small faux waterfalls and lots of candles. The space, divided into charming grottos, bares a look that could be interpreted as anything from cavernous (with stone walls and lamps hanging from the ceiling above the bar like in a secret vault) to that of ruins of a Constantinople-an castle, with arabesque mosaics on the floor. The bar offers a not-your-common-bar list of wines and bottled beers, as well as a menu of Moroccan nibbles.


Best New York Speakeasy #6: Back Room
102 Norfolk St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 228-5098

The back room is more of a faux prohibition speakeasy than a real secret bar, but it is a great pain to find, even if you do have the address, and a great fun to explore. Mammoth clue: it’s behind the toy store. The space is styled dully to resemble a glamorous salon of the late 19th and early 20th century, but the entrance door features a peek-and-speak hole. Not to mention another back room (yup, the back room of the Back Room—is there an end to this conspiracy?), which  is “hidden” behind a “secret” bookshelf door. And even with the décor bending towards Marquis de Sade castle (with crystal chandeliers, dark wood and red velvet seats), drinks served in tea-cups and beer bottles wrapped in brown paper bags (even cups of the 1920s wouldn’t think that fits the place), the Back Room got closest to recreating a speakeasy feel while creating a comfortable atmosphere for those who simply want to get a drink.


Best New York Speakeasy #5: Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211-6005
(718) 384-144

New York is a city full of surprises— you never know who had already used the chopsticks served to you at a sushi place or which of your coworkers works as a stripper after hours, but at least even small Brooklyn delis (selling good pastries) can surprise you with a cozy, booze-filled bar hidden inside.  Marlow & Sons is a place showing clear marks of pure Williamsburg cool in wooden, old-schoolish simplicity of the décor and a pondered wine and oysters menus. The rustic bar also offers a cocktail list of colorful concoctions, like pomegranate martini.


Best New York Speakeasy #4: Level V
675 Hudson St.
at 14th St. New York

It would be rather hard to find Level V (no sign), if not for the line of scenesters who flock in front of Vento restaurant waiting patiently to be admitted to the red-lighten depths of this hip lounge hidden in the basement. It’s a clever way of taking away the obviousness of another snazzy Meatpacking District club. Level V holds with the classy side—rather white, collared shirts and dark jackets than hipster extravaganza. Except for the quite traditional, though well put together modern lounge décor, it boasts a tempting cocktail list, which includes such signature drinks as V(ini) (minty Mojito with Matusalem White) and Hellfire. Live dj spins every night, subjecting the lucky patrons who managed their way through the door to supreme beats.


Best New York Speakeasy #3: Milk and Honey
134 Eldridge St
New York, NY 10079
(212) 625-3397

Milk and Honey is arguably the most exclusive bar in New York. Not only is finding the door a hassle, but once you do, you need a constantly changing password in order to get inside. The owner, Sasha Petraske, knows that conspiracy sells, and exclusiveness sells even better. Therefore, the table at this cocktail stronghold (hiding behind a “tailor shop” front) is available only upon reservations, and there even exists a system of memberships. The only question is: how much are you willing to go through for a few cocktails? No matter how well mixed.


Best New York Speakeasy #2: The East Side Company Bar
49 Essex St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 614-7408

Another brainchild of the secret bars’ aficionado, Sasha Petraske, the swanky East Side Company Bar, is more accessible than Milk and Honey, though still hard to find. The unmarked storefront bares a tiny sign and is practically unnoticeable, but the place itself is way less exclusive and it’s even possible to simply walk in. Behind the camouflaged door is a very dim, modern interior clad in dark wood and tin, and illuminated with a number of small candles. Come in on the early side, since, as many secret spots, this one also fills up fast.


Best New York Speakeasy #1: Angel's Share
8 Stuyvesant St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-5415

Hidden behind a Japanese restaurant and above a bookstore, Angel’s Share is famous for its well-mixed cocktails (ex. lychee martini). As famous as a secret bar can be that is. The long and narrow space, which fails to resemble a rococo salon of an anglophile, brings to mind rather an Orient Express car with leather booths and seats put almost in a train-like manner and paired with chandeliers, polished wood, posh curtains and plump cherubs painted above the bar. That being said, Angel’s Share has seating issues. Of course it is understandable that a small space requires special arrangements, but the ‘seating code’ here is nothing but strict. There is no standing around, and waits for tables get pretty long, with only groups of four or less being seated.


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