A few years ago “hidden” New York City watering holes became trendy. The return of the speak-easy, if you will. I’ll admit that at first I was skeptical. I mean, is it really that much cooler to go to a bar whose door is hidden underneath the second trash can, five paces from the entrance of the Whole Foods, where you have to ring a door bell and climb down a ladder two rungs at a time? No thanks. I’ll just walk into any bar where I can get what I came for – a beer.
Or at least that is how I first approached the subject. But it turns out after visiting a few of these secret spots (which are becoming increasingly more well-known), that they are actually pretty cool and can be impressive places to take your out-of-town friends.
1. PDT. Okay, for all you New Yorkers-in-the-know, you could sense this one was coming. By far the most popular of hidden New York spots, PDT (short for Please Don’t Tell) is located behind the popular hot dog joint, Crif Dogs at 113 Saint Marks Place.
How to get in: Walk down the four steps into Crif Dogs and look for the wooden phone booth. Enter the booth, pick up the phone and press a button. Obey the rules of etiquette posted nearby. I’m telling you. They mean business. This speakeasy is at the bottom of my list. Why? I didn’t get in. Probably because I didn’t obey the rules. But hey, maybe you’ll have better luck.
2. Dutch Kills. I rarely venture off of Manhattan. If I do it’s probably because I’m visiting some friends who have made the move to Astoria in Queens. On one particular visit they led me to Dutch Kills in Long Island City, Queens. On an industrial street with practically no signage, this bar stands unassuming at 27-24 Jackson Avenue. Pay no attention to the surroundings. Knock on the door and be prepared to take a time warp back to the 1920s. Waiters dressed in full flapper garb (spats included!) prepare specialty cocktails while a scratchy jazz plays on what sounds like a phonograph. I love this bar.
3. Cabin Down Below. Besides beer one of my other great loves in life is pizza. So when I heard that there was an underground lounge under a pizza joint, I had to check it out. Head to 110 Avenue A. Here you will find The Pizza Shop. Wednesday nights through Saturday nights from 10 p.m. on, the men behind the counter will let you through a dingy door. Head down some stairs and emerge in an ultra-swanky underground lounge. Keep in mind that drinks are kind of pricey, but I think it’s worth it. This little gem is really off the radar, so it pains me a little to share its location, but I think you’ll get a kick out of it.
4. Sakagura. Okay, let’s throw a restaurant in for good measure. That’s right. A secret restaurant. If you’re in Midtown and in dire need of some Japanese food, I wouldn’t point you any further than Sakagura, located on the basement level of an office building at 211 E 43rd Street. Head down the service stairs and open the door. It opens up into a Japanese garden, decked out in wood and bamboo. This is some of the most authentic Japanese food I have ever had (and their sake list goes on forever).