It’s no secret that New York City is filled with the history of eras gone by. And when you think of the roaring 20s, those Gatsby-like bright lights of the big city will likely cross your mind. So if you’re in the mood to party 1920s style in the 2020s, we have the best speakeasies for you to wet your whistle this weekend.
The Back Room
120 Norfolk Street
If you’re really looking to step back into Prohibition-Era NYC, your first stop must be in Lower East Side at The Back Room. This is one of the city’s oldest speakeasies as it has been in operation since actual Prohibition. It catered to the mob and celebrities in the days of secret watering holes, passwords and hidden passageways.
Today, you enter much like the crooners of days past did. The storefront on Norfolk Street appears to be a vintage toy store, but it’s not what it seems when it comes to speakeasies. If you open the gate just to the left of the store and walk down the short staircase, you’ll find yourself under the tenement building in a dark and eerie underground hallway. When you’re questioning if you’re in the wrong place, or trespassing on someone’s property – don’t worry, keep going! At the end of the walkway you’ll find a single door with a tiny window. And once inside you’ll be transported to days long gone.
The Back Room is packed full of velvet couches and leather ottomans, with decor you’d expect of the intended era. Drinks are served in paper bags or tea cups – just in case there’s a raid from local law enforcement. Rumor has it there’s even a secret exit that comes out on the next block so the mobsters would never be sitting ducks.
On certain nights of the week you can enjoy period jazz music and the occasional swing dancing troupes. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Please Don’t Tell
113 St. Mark’s Place
In the mood for a late night hot dog and some tater tots? Well, look no further than the old phone booth inside Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s Place. That’s right! To get into this next speakeasy you’ll need to belly up to the pay phone to be let in the secret wall door to Please Don’t Tell.
Inside you’ll find an intimate, narrow bar with a meticulous craft cocktail menu. And don’t worry, you can still order hot dogs from the spot next door once those drinks kick in. While PDT wasn’t an actual speakeasy back in the day, it sure feels like it was.
20 7th Avenue South
When you get to this nondescript front door in the West Village, you’ll think the place has either shut down or that you took a wrong turn somewhere. Stick around – you’re in the right place.
This corner building with its single, unmarked door is the entrance to our next favorite NYC speakeasy, Little Branch. Take a walk down the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a dimly lit, cozy bar that boasts live jazz music most evenings.
The cocktails are actual works of art with their custom ice cubes and elaborate mixing by well dressed bartenders. Make sure you get there early to snag a table, or to even be let in at all. It’s a great spot for a winter evening date or to bring out-of-towners for the full NYC experience.
There is no shortage of speakeasies in the big city the next time you feel like stepping back in time. Some of our other favorites include Fig. 19 (behind a secret door at the back of an art gallery), Death + Company (a cocktail institution), and Apotheke (what feels like an 1800s apothecary on a quiet street in Chinatown). Go out and give both your taste buds and senses a visit to another era this weekend.
Alda is a mom, Brooklynite, and real estate lover. In her free time, she cruises real estate listings to dream of a perfectly attainable several million-dollar brownstone, much to her husband's annoyance. Alda is also convinced she knows everything there is to know about New York City, based solely on consistent people-watching and eavesdropping. Mrs. Burrows would be an amazing trivia partner but instead chooses to write about all the random stuff she knows.