You probably weren’t around during Prohibition, when speakeasies were essential for New Yorkers looking to throw one back. Though we in NYC may not need secret bars any more, that doesn’t mean the rush of walking up a secret staircase or knocking on an unmarked door is obsolete. New York City still has a trove of incognito drinking dens hiding in unexpected places—under restaurants, inside ice cream shops, behind laundromats—that add a thrill to any night out. We’ll break down how to spot some of our favorite hidden bars below, and you’ll decide if the effort of finding the place makes its drinks taste that much better.
The 18th Room
Outside: Look for a faux coffee supply store on Ninth Avenue—similar to the fake coffee shop concealing sister bar Bathtub Gin—to enter this Chelsea gem named for the 18th Amendment (the one that banned alcohol).
Inside: Gatsby-worthy art deco style—with the likes of velvet booths and gold accents—fills this sleek barroom. Step up to the marble bar and request a custom cocktail based on your flavor and spirit preferences. There’s also an intricate drink menu, which includes the Pharmaceutical Stimulant with rum, housemade salted hazelnut, cacao liquer and the house blend from Stone Street Coffee (the real coffee shop brewing next door).
Outside: An old-school barbershop serves as the alter ego and entrance for this East Village favorite (which also has newer iterations in Chelsea and Times Square). If you get here before 8pm (or 6pm on Sundays), you can even get a haircut prior to retiring to the backroom lounge.
Inside: Pass through a sliding door at the back of the barbershop to get to Blind Barber’s bar space, where a dance floor and plenty of drink and pizza options await. Try a refreshing sip like the Batman—made with gin, St. Germain, cava and mint.
Outside: Casual Mediterranean restaurant Local92 used to have a storage room in the back; now it has cocktail bar Blue Quarter just behind a keyhole-shaped cobalt-blue door.
Inside: This cozy space was developed by the team behind Amor y Amargo, an East Village essential for bitters-based drinks. Cocktails here have a Moroccan and Mediterranean flair (taking cues from the Local92 menu), and many incorporate tea. Current selections include the Not My Presidenté—with mint tea, rum and Aperol—and the Unfinished Story, a tequila, matcha and coconut concoction.
Outside: A white-walled art gallery is the first thing you’ll see at 131 Chrystie St. Go through a door at the very back of the space and you’ll find this low-lit cocktail lounge.
Inside: Perhaps in a nod to Prohibition, the menu here has plenty of rye- and gin-based drinks, like the Vanishing Point with vanilla- and cinnamon-infused gin, lemon and egg white. Make it a highbrow evening by sipping on-tap prosecco while you discuss the art you saw on the way through the gallery.
Outside: This West Village spot is best described as “that bar above Five Guys.” That’s accurate; enter by passing all the way through the casual burger joint, through an unmarked door and up the black staircase.
Inside: Once you’ve made it past the burgers and fries, settle in to this relaxed drinking den. It’s styled like a cozy living room, one where you’ll feel equally comfortable with a Founders IPA or a bourbon cocktail in hand. (For the latter, try The Beatles at Shea with black tea- and peach-infused bourbon, chipotle agave, lemon and mint).
Outside: This ever-popular Soho spot has a diner-style taqueria as its upper-level entrance, where you can order tacos and grab a stool with a people-watching view.
Inside: Snag a reservation at the clubby subterranean lounge and a host will guide you beyond the casual upstairs portion, past the kitchen. Do your best to see and be seen in this dimly lit space while enjoying plenty of tacos and a killer margarita.
Outside: Brooklyn Heights bistro Chez Moi provides an elegant cover for Le Boudoir. This romantic bar occupies a secret tunnel space underneath the restaurant, accessible through a fake bookcase doorway.
Inside: The interior of this cocktail hideaway was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private chambers. Expect to see oil paintings, bronze busts and crystal glassware. Get your Versailles on with a glass of something bubbly and snacks like frog legs and foie gras torchon.
Outside: Before 5pm, this spot operates as a friendly neighborhood coffee shop, Patent Coffee, in Nomad. After hours, the café space becomes an entryway leading to an unassuming back door. (Psst...the code is 4927.) A cocktail bar waits on the other side.
Inside: Built in the basement of the Radio Wave Building, Patent Pending channels its location by sorting drinks into categories like “Vibration,” “Frequency” and “Energy.” Snag a candlelit booth to try one of the carefully crafted beverages, like the Light Me Up with bourbon, Jamaican rum, amaro and Szechuan peppercorn.
Outside: Don’t mind the friendly Greenpointers folding their hoodies in this fully operational laundromat. Just pass through to the back door that conceals the (slightly) less practical side of Sunshine.
Inside: This divey pinball bar is perfect for a low-key date or a quick drink between loads of laundry. Draft beers rotate, but you’re sure to see some local Brooklyn brews like the Evil Twin Modern IPA or Greenpoint Milk & Honey blonde ale.
Outside: As you may have guessed, this hidden spot is located on the Upper East Side, specifically within a functional ice cream shop. Walk into the bubblegum-pink storefront, ask to see the storage room, and you’ll be led through a concealed door to the bar.
Inside: The color palette of UES’s bar space is much less cotton candy than its scoop shop exterior, though the bar stools do sport a similar hot pink shade. Cocktails show neighborhood pride with names like the Second Avenue Subway, which is a mix of maraschino liqueur, blood orange, sparkling wine and lemon sorbet.