Secret Bars Revealed in NYC



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Secret Bars Revealed in NYC

February 19th, 2013
by Artie Vincent




At its peak in the mid-1920s, New York City was the center of bootlegging and speakeasies. It was widely considered the "wettest" city in the world before prohibition went into affect -- sporting a bar on nearly every street corner. And when alcohol became illegal and the Volstead Act went into place to enforce the law, the majority of those city saloons went underground and in disguise. Hence the birth of the speakeasy or the blind pig.

The end of prohibition has reached 80 years, but the city still marvels at the legacy left by the speakeasy. In the last five years, there has been a significant increase in hidden or secret bars. Most of these are bars are known solely by word of mouth. But the city resident loves the thrill of adventure. So here's a quick peak of some of the best "secret" bars of the city.

If you ever take a trip to Chelsea Piers or a stroll on the nearby Highline, don't forget to make it to Bathtub Gin. On the outside there's a coffee shop -- named Stone Street at 132 9th Avenue. Then take your time to search for a secret door that leads to this hidden lounge with a bathtub in the middle of a dance floor. Of course, the club specializes in gin, garnering a drink menu with more than 14 gin-related cocktails. The best will be the The Bathtub Gin Martini -- Plymouth, dry vermouth, lemon oils with olives. But it's the decor of the joint that sells the place. You are brought back to yesterday -- original tin ceiling, gold patterned wall paper and toilet tops that hang from the wall. It's an experience. Bathtub Gin is the most commercial you will get in the city.




For more a cerebral experience, take the train ride down to West Village and visit the 124 Old Rabbit Club. The bar is in the basement at 124 Bleeker Street with a bland black steel door as its entrance. The words -- Rabbit Club -- is placed in tape above the door. Once you enter, it's claustrophobic nightmare. The white brick walls surround the long granite bar sits in a small room with nearly 20 stools. But the bar has some of the best selections of beers in the city -- including a wide selection of Belgium brews. After a couple glasses of La Trappe, make your way over the Manhattan Bridge into Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and you have plenty to choose from -- No Name Bar, Kings County, The Narrows Bar.

The best of the bunch, however, is Larry Lawrence at 295 Grand Street
Everything in this unmarked gem is original and custom-made. They combined wood and brick with it's low-lit atmosphere. You need to travel down down a long, dark hall until you reach the end where the door eloquently reads: "Bar". The bar is a large college hangout so it fills up but there's quiet glass-in deck that over looks the bar and doubles a smoking area.




As you continue your speakeasy tour, I would take cab ride back to East Village and visit The Blind Barber. The name is from the title of the 1934 mystery by John Dickson Carr and has the feel being inside of the set of Sweeney Todd. The Blind Barber, located at 339 East 10th Street, doubles as an actual barbershop -- an expensive one at that. But as there's a door -- a la Bathtub Gin -- that leads to the back lounge. At night there's a local DJ boosting the vibe. The lounge is surrounded by scuffed up mirrors, leather couches and cream-colored wallpaper. The crowd does get to be too much.





So once the barber bar fills, get back into the cab and take it over the 59th Street Bridge (aka Ed Koch Queesnsborough Bridge) and make the final destination at Hell's Gate Social in Astoria. The trendy, music venue, located at 1221 Astoria Blvd., can easily be missed. The entrance doors blend into the black concrete facade. The small silver handle gives away it's disguise. But once inside, the spacious and darkly lit, late-night bar is quite relaxing. There's live music and outdoor patio. There's plenty of booths and seating for a social rendezvous. Sure, the weekends get crazy. But for a late night swirl -- stops serving close to 5 am, depending on the crowd -- this place is great way to end a night of secret games.





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