One of the hottest nightlife trends in recent years is the resurrection of the secretive speakeasy bar. Made popular during the 1920s prohibition era, hidden craft cocktail lounges are making a comeback all around the U.S. From New York to LA, these intriguing establishments channel the aesthetic of America’s historical 13-year dry spell with contemporary (and legal) takes on the drinking atmosphere. The lack of advertisement and a sign out front means you may need to be ‘in the know’ to know these destinations even exist. So what exactly is going on behind the doors of these modern, covert hot spots?
If you’ve spent time out on the town in Los Angeles, you may have heard some buzz about at least one bar under the Houston Hospitality umbrella. Each of their ten speakeasy locations boasts a whimsical theme allowing patrons to step into another place and time. A visit to No Vacancy will take you back to the roaring 20s in a vintage houseparty environment. La Descarga acts as an homage to Havana, Cuba, with impressive performances matching the detailed cultural décor, and an even more secretive cigar room. If the 80s is your preferred era, you can stop by the group’s most recent venture, Break Room 86. With a wall of retro TV sets, fully-functioning arcade games, and karaoke rooms hidden beyond secret doors, the speakeasy concept is brought into the 21st century with a touch of nostalgia. Each location is preceded by a mysterious and theatrical entrance that’s sure to make a lasting impression on your night out.
| Read More: 20 Best Hidden Speakeasy Bars in Los Angeles |
The Windy City is fully-stocked with exclusive underground hot spots for you to duck into during your visit. The Walk In boasts a unique cooler door entrance where a live DJ keeps the vibe flowing on weekend nights. Keep an eye out for Three Dots and a Dash, where you can find an upbeat Tiki bar at the end of an alley. With strong tropical drinks and servers adorned in Hawaiian dresses, you’ll completely forget you’re in the middle of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. You can also head to the nearby Blind Barber, known for its barbershop storefront, to party all night in the secretive lounge hidden away by an unmarked door. For a truly exclusive experience, you can head to Room 13, a members-only speakeasy located beneath The Old Chicago Inn. Complete with an ever-changing password and strict dress code, a membership grants you live jazz music to go along with the 1920s-style craft cocktails.
If your travels lead you to Phoenix, you’ll have a number of hidden watering holes to choose from—if you can find them. To get to Honor Amongst Thieves you’ll have to head up a back staircase where a door with a peephole awaits. Knowledgeable bartenders help you choose your evening spirit with guests enjoying the seductive velvet seating. Just outside of Phoenix, you can visit Kazimierz World Wine Bar in downtown Scottsdale. To get a taste of one of the over 1,800 selections from their wine list, your only clue to the entrance is to look out for a sign with the prophetic message, “The Truth Is Inside.” For a bit of exclusivity, you can head to Phoenix’s former red light district and journey into the basement of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel to find Melinda’s Alley. With a maximum capacity of only 45 guests, this cash-only tavern will have you feeling like a lawless VIP in the middle of prohibition.
New York City
New York State, once home to 100,000 of the nation’s speakeasies during the 1920s, has brought the trend full-circle in the 21st century. Tucked behind a coffee shop’s storefront, Bathtub Gin is easy to miss but worth the find to taste the elaborate, Victorian cocktails or take a photo in the copper bathtub decor piece. You’ll receive a dash of insight with your cocktail at Employees Only, a West Village hot spot with a glowing “Psychic” sign out front hinting at its presence. The house psychic will forecast your future as the eclectic food and drink menu keep you satisfied ‘til dawn. To live out a truly authentic night, you can visit former prohibition-operated speakeasy the Back Room. Don’t let the “Lower East Side Toy Company” sign distract you, this bar hides beyond a gate and down a flight of stairs—the original entrance used by law-breaking patrons almost 100 years ago.
Experience a Modern Speakeasy
As this vintage form of nightlife finds a resurgence in the coming years, there are sure to be more unique speakeasy locales showing up on your city’s radar. The concept has even garnered an international appeal with new American-style hideaways popping up in Paris, London, Rome, and Amsterdam. Whether you’re looking for a seductive night-cap, a unique craft drink, or an energetic dance floor, the endless possibilities for creativity allow the speakeasy concept to thrive. So keep your eyes and ears open the next time you pass by what seems to be a simple barber shop, storage room, or furniture store, because it might just be the doorway to your next favorite hot spot.
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