Whether it’s behind an unmarked door, hidden inside or underneath another bar, or just down a dark alley, secret bars are (somewhat ironically) all the rage in major cities across the country. There is definitely something to be said for bars that make a point of staying off the beaten path and not packing themselves to the brim. And most of these places are reservation only, which makes for a quieter and more personal drinking experience. So for those of you who hate packed bars, these hidden gems are a great way to have a fun night with a classy cocktail in hand and avoid massive crowds.
Most of the secret spots we uncovered are going for the 1920s speakeasy vibe, so naturally their menus are full of original cocktail recipes. Leather booths, dim lights, retro jazz music, shaved ice—these places pay attention to the details and make their patrons feel like they’ve truly been transported back in time.
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We’ve done the detective work for you in our slideshow above. But remember, it’s a secret!
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Browse our slideshow to find the perfect secluded spot for your next night out.
New York: The name says it all. Ironically, PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is one of the city’s most popular “hidden” speakeasies. To be fair, it really is hidden - the entrance is in a phone booth inside Crif Dogs, a well-known East Village hot dog joint. Table reservations are taken same-day only, and usually sell out by mid-afternoon - but you can also risk the wait at the bar, which is first-come, first-served. For more information visit pdtnyc.com.
/IMAGE FROM PDT WEBSITE
New York: Hidden behind an unmarked door at the back of Stone Street Coffee Company, Bathtub Gin is a Victorian-style speakeasy located in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are encouraged. For more information visit bathtubginnyc.com and check out our exclusive video at Bathtub Gin here, featuring Jeannine Morris of BeautySweetSpot.com.
/IMAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Washington D.C.: To find this prestigious cocktail bar, just head to the back of The Passenger. Bartender and owner Derek Jones of Columbia Room turns cocktail making into true art. Having trained in Japan, home to the most precise bartenders. This bar is reservation only, and is a bit pricey - $69 tasting menu (per person) which includes two cocktails and a small plate from the kitchen. But seeing as GQ named it one of The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America, we’d say it’s worth the price. For more information visit passengerdc.com/columbia.
Los Angeles: Head past the meat-carving station at Cole's in downtown Los Angeles and walk into the 1920s. The Varnish, marked only by a photo of a cocktail glass on the door, is dedicated to making some of the finest cocktails in town. This place takes its cocktails so seriously, that the staff arrives two hours before opening to start hand-cutting cinderblock-size blocks of ice, making sure each piece is cut to perfection. For more information visit 213nightlife.com/thevarnish.
Los Angeles: “The best of everything, nothing but the best.” That’s the motto for Roger Room, a tiny speakeasy located in the heart of midtown Los Angeles. Having trouble finding it? Look behind the neon sign for an old psychic parlor and next to comedy club Largo’s. There you’ll find a 900 square foot bar, dimly lit with circus-themed murals and vintage photographs, offering a variety of tasty cocktails. Reservations aren’t required, but it’s recommended you arrive early (re: before 8pm) if you want to avoid the lines. For more information visit therogerroom.com.
Miami: Foxhole, the self-proclaimed “upscale bar for locals,” is certainly off the beaten path. Connected to a Dominos Pizza and located in a tiny alleyway in South Beach, you will find an unmarked grey door that may or may not have a bouncer hovering outside. This place is part sports bar, part lounge, with walls lined with antique guns and great happy hour specials. While it may not have the same elegance as some of the other speakeasies on our list, there is definitely something to be said for five for $20 beer buckets and a locals-only spot in trendy Miami! For more information visit foxholebar.com.
Philadelphia: Owner Lêe traveled across all 48 contiguous states, picking up cocktail-making secrets along the way, to bring patrons in the City of Brotherly Love some of the best cocktails in town. Located behind an unmarked door in Philly’s Chinatown, this craft cocktail bar has all the elements of mystery. A very non-descript website. A no phone-photo policy. No telephone number. But from what we’ve uncovered, their cocktails can’t be beat, so it’s definitely worth all the detective work. For more information visit hopsinglaundromat.com.
San Francisco: Getting into Wilson & Wilson is no easy task. This reservation-only, password-protected bar is hidden inside of the popular San Francisco bar Bourbon & Branch. Named for a missing woman whose bloodstained purse was found within the walls of the bar during construction, this bar (which also goes by the name “Wilson & Wilson Detective Agency) offers some of the most unique cocktails in the city and also offers Beverage Academy classes, for those interested in creating these concoctions at home. For more information visit thewilsonbar.com.
/IMAGE FROM RESTAURANT CONTACTS
Chicago: Psst, Gilt Bar in Chicago has a secret – and it’s called Curio. Located down a dark stairwell underneath the Gilt Bar restaurant is an intimate lounge, illuminated by candle light, and decked out with retro leather couches and antique mirrors. As an FYI, this bar is cash only, so make sure to have plenty on you – you’re going to want to try more than one of their creative cocktails! For more information visit giltbarchicago.com.
/IMAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Boston: This classy champagne lounge is tucked away inside the depths of the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston. The only sign of the Champagne Bar is the mahogany door with gold statues of the goddess Venus for handles, discreetly located inside of Rumba bar. With its Moulin Rouge themed walls and amazing selection of rum-inspired drinks, this spot is perfect for private parties or lavish celebrations. For more information visit intercontinentalboston.com.
/IMAGE FROM FACEBOOK