Top Underground Lounges in NYC

by Taryn Haight
11.18.2009

The term "trendy" is blurred and slightly skewed for Manhattanites, compared to what is deemed "trendy" or "elite" in other big cities around the world. The hottest clubs in LA may only hold 50 people and clubs of the upper echelon in Miami may have a strict door, but for some of the hippest, trendiest spots in New York City, you may not even know where the door is - and it's that clandestine nature, that word-of-mouth-only invite, that keeps the cool cats in and the club rats out. Some of these spots have recently become more popular, while others remain hidden below the radar in the basement of some average-looking pizza parlor downtown; but either way, we reccomend you check out these hot spots deep below the city streets.

 

The Submercer

How to get to the Submercer step one: observe SoHo's grand Mercer Hotel... and then go right past it. Step two: find tiny nook you thought was a utility entrance just a ways down the block and dip in. Step three: enter freight elevator, reassure yourself that you are not getting lured into some serial killer's dungeon and exit two floors below. Step four: follow long, dark hallway (slash supply closet filled with toilet paper and cleaning supplies) past boiler room until you arrive at big red door. Once inside, follow the sounds of ambient lounge music until you reach the final - (rub your eyes, no, it's not a mirage) - destination. The exposed brick walls, black-light lit bar filled with top-shelf booze and low ceilings give off a dungeon-esque vibe, while the looks of the crowd and the treasure hunt you went on to reach the club tell you this is no ordinary basement party. If you care to venture any deeper into the laire after your long haul, you may stumble upon "the red room," with red-painted walls, red banquettes and, to compliment the sexy vibe, a stripper pole. Have a seat, have a few drinks and get up on the pole if you feel like it - just don't wear yourself out before the long haul back to the outside world.

 

 

La Esquina

The first time I went to La Esquina ("The Corner") I was told to dress up, which confused me when I saw only flourescent lighting and a dinky taco stand upon my arrival. I was led to a door in the back where two big guys, ear-pieces and all, guarded the entryway with a clipboard and list in hand. We made the cut (aka dinner reservations made weeks in advance) and headed down  the stairs, through the kitchen and into a gaping, cavernous restaurant, equipped with all sorts of nooks and decorated with gothic candle-holders dripping with wax. The food alone left me satisfied, but it was the extensive menu of oak-aged tequila that has kept me coming back since, for more than just a meal. With over 50 different kinds of tequila and a sexy, dimly lit bar hopping with beautiful people, La Esquina is perfect just as it is, so it's probably better off left hidden underground.

 

 

D'Or

The Dream Hotel is without a doubt one of the best places to go in Midtown Manhattan - but while the hotel's rooftop hotspot, Ava Lounge, provides the perfect space to drink and catch up with friends on a warm summer evening, the venue doesn't quite cut it on those cold winter nights. The solution? D'Or - a leather and gold hideaway below the hotel's upscale restaurant, Amalia. Descend the century-old carriage house staircase below the restaurant and enter a secret cavernous lounge with warm lighting and a cool atmosphere. After a meal at Amalia, D'Or provides the perfect mood for a casual drink and a low key conversation while some of the best DJs in the city spin their way from evening to night. This part of the evening would best be described as desert.

 

 

The Cabin Down Below

Perhaps this place is better off being called "that bar below the pizza place," since that's how it's referred to by even the most in-the-know New Yorkers. This homey little watering hole below an East Village pizzeria has generated quite a buzz - maybe from its celebrity hipster clientele or perhaps from its obscure location alone. You won't hear any techno and you won't see any bedazzled Ed Hardy, but you will see a spot reminiscent of your own apartment, fully equipped with book shelves and a cozy, cushioned fireplace, perfect for canoodle-ing. The vibe starts off low-key, but can get pretty rowdy, especially if a band decides to drag in their entourage for an impromptu afterparty... that is, if they can find it.

 

 

Underbar

This hip, swanky, provocatively-charged lounge dipped in red velour is ultra-intimate and extra-confidential, even more so because of its location down below the W Union Square Hotel. After entering on 17th Street, a stairway adorned with white floating candles will guide your way into the 2,000-square-foot subterranean lounge. The dark space is filled with thick, draped curtains and hidden tables, making for a great date spot - well, if your date is the one paying the bill. Expensive drinks is what's to be expected from this upscale hotel lounge, and if you're looking to impress someone special with a classy hidden venue and a high bar tab, then this is the place to take them. Otherwise, Underbar is not our favorite pick of the sub-terranean scene.

 

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