Oct 14, 2010

The Top 3 Speakeasy Bars in New York

The non-descript entrance to Death & Co 
The passage of the Brooks High License Act in Pennsylvania in 1888 requiring saloon owners to increase their taxes from $50 to $500 immediately resulted in the closing of "legal" drinking establishments thus opening the doors for speakeasy's to operate under the radar to sustain their businesses. One McKeesport, Pennsylvania "illegal" saloon owner, Kate Hesler,  is credited for coining the term "speakeasy" when she instructed her saloon guests to
"Speak easy, boys! Speak easy" when things start getting out of hand. The resurgence of the speakeasy became more prominent during the prohibition years.

The allure of the speakeasy continues to this day. Speakeasy's usually have a secret code, passageway or a fake storefront to cover up the "illegal" activity inside the bar. New York claims three of the top speakeasy's in America. Each with it's signature libation and seductive appeal.

On this fateful night in the city, my speakeasy tour guides were my brother, Brian, and his girlfriend, Vivian. No online research can replace the inside knowledge of locals. Brian and Vivian are the perfect companions for they provide first hand experience from each joint along with the occasional friend guarding the door or tending the bar. We hit four bars but one bar, PDT, failed miserably on the guest service portion by putting us on a 45 minute wait list but neglecting to call us when a table became available. So much for the hype on the Travel Channel - PDT is banned from my list of reputable speakeasy's.

304 E. 6th st.
212.253.5888
Subway: Astor Pl. 8th st Lexington
Dig: home to the best bar tacos and tequila cocktails in NYC

Mayahuel's basement bar is home to the finest tequila cocktails. From the 
basic blanco to reposado to anejo to mezcal. Every cocktail on the list
raises tequila's status from bar shot torture to cocktail heaven. 
Michelada - spicy sangrita with citrus & beer $9
I've had my share of incredible tacos, but Mayahuel's is special. Above is
the chorizo and tinga (stewed pork) tacos with cilantro, radishes and lime.

433 E 6th
212.388.0882
Subway: Astor Pl 8th st Lexington
Dig: NYC's best mixologists work here
The menu ups the ante on bar food - Goat Cheese Profiteroles with red
pepper and Mexican honey $12 to Crispy Pork Belly with polenta, mission
figs, port glaze $14.
Last train to Oaxaca - Pueblo Viejo Anejo, Los
Amantes Joven Mezcal, Lillet Blanc, Don's
Spices $13
Floor to ceiling wood sets the masculine tone at Death & Co
Chandelier above our booth

82 Berry St Williamsburg, Brooklyn
718.387.1945
Subway: take a cab
Dig: Old Buenos Aires atmosphere, good but pricey cocktails
Despite the name, don't expect a bellman to escort
you to your room because there are none. This
former tattoo parlor is divided into three salons
filled with thirty something Brooklynites
The red salon
Delmano's unisex bathroom is a voyeur's legal
delight.
An authentic Parisian absinthe dispenser
Buenos Aires finds

Why not...
PDT
113 St. Marks Pl
212.614.0386
Take the steps down to Crif Dogs, go inside the
phone booth and beg for admittance

"Secret" entrance to PDT
Vivian on the phone - only to be forgotten by
the hostess guarding the secret door

10 comments:

JR said...

any equivalents in GR? Curious what you would recommend to visitors for late night cocktails and conversations off-the-beaten-track?

My Hotel Life said...

John,

Speakeasy type - Viceroy on Commerce st. but their martini glasses are so tiny. Punch the code 1930 on the keypad to get in.

French Quarter - only on Friday nights when they have jazz. Predominantly an African-American crowd but the music is good.

Rocky's - small joint with 80's type tunes, indie bands. Nice little outdoor patio in the summer.

My favorite bar in town (besides Mixology at the JW) is Reserve Wine Bar - not off the beaten path but very, very sexy atmosphere. My style all the way.

GA

Monica said...

Last month I've been to apartments in Buenos Aires and the city has many bars and discos! I recommend Palermo or Recoleta neighborhoods.

everything is big in america said...

and has a lot of good places to offer for fun! I like Mayahuel - A perfect place to have one of those semi-uncomfortable first/second/third/fourth... dates. Dark, intimate, and lots of tequila! An excuse to get a little tipsy. I mean comfortable getting to know someone. I've had some of the best drinks I've ever had at Mayahuel. I will definitely suggest this place as a place to go to a guy I'm first getting to know- everyone needs a little liquid courage! This can be a good dating place.

filipino love said...

I've never been a huge fan of tequila and most of my experiences with this libation has been doing shots. Regardless, I've heard that Mayahuel has been doing some pretty interesting things with tequila and wanted to give them a shot. Perhaps I just hadn't had tequila prepared properly? maybe? :)

If you appreciate tequila, agave, mezcal and other liquors from that family, as well as good Mexican food, you should definitely check this place out. No complaints about any of the staff or the service either. Everyone is very helpful and attentive

filipino said...

And btw, speaking of food, I tried their Tacos. For $12, you get four tacos and are able to choose from beef, chicken or pork. I chose two beef and two pork. They tacos also come with cilantro, radishes and lime. I'd say the tacos were definitely up there. Quite yummy.

John-Paul said...

Filipino Love, the comments you posted about Mayahuel are taken from my Yelp review of Mayahuel. Some of the review you posted is taken directly, some of it is paraphrased, and some of it you left out. However, this does not excuse your plagiarism.

My Yelp review for Mayahuel was posted on March 25, 2012. Your "review" was posted here on July 29, 2012.

John-Paul said...

Here was my full review of Mayahuel:

I've never been a huge fan of tequila and most of my experiences with this libation has been doing shots. Regardless, I've heard that Mayahuel has been doing some pretty interesting things with tequila and wanted to give them a shot. Perhaps I just hadn't had tequila prepared properly?

After having my ID checked by one of the owners, who was very friendly, I took a seat at the bar. The bartender was helpful in suggesting different cocktails that I might like and on her suggestion, I went with the Randy Cocktail, made of Reposado Tequila, Ginger, Lime and a rinse of Mezcal.

Upon putting the glass to my lips, there is an intense smokiness, which comes from the mezcal rinse. In terms of flavor, it is definitely a unique concoction. Sadly tho, I've never been much of a tequila fan. It's flavor is too dominating for me and I didn't taste much ginger or lime in this drink. However, I definitely appreciate the craft that went into creating this cocktail menu, especially since one of the owners, Phil, used to be head bartender at Death & Company and the Pegu Club. There's nothing wrong with this place, it's just that tequila isn't my poison of choice.

In terms of food, I tried the tacos. For $12, you get four tacos and are able to choose from beef, chicken or pork. I chose two beef and two pork. They tacos also come with cilantro, radishes and lime. I'd say the tacos were definitely up there. Quite yummy.

If you appreciate tequila, agave, mezcal and other liquors from that family, as well as good Mexican food, you should definitely check this place out. No complaints about any of the staff or the service either. Everyone is very helpful and attentive.

levice willson said...

Wow!! What a great location you have!! I hope you enjoy your party there. As I like the location most and thinking to throw my party same location you have.

best hotel bar nyc

Keri said...

For those lucky enough to be traveling to NYC, I would recommend any of the boutique hotels by Grandlife hotels - they are quite lovely.