Once the sun goes down, step into a secret speakeasy where bartenders swirl together inventive cocktails.
“Going out to eat and drink in New York City is an investment,” says Jim Meehan, co-founder of PDT, a speakeasy-style nightlife spot on Manhattan. “You have many great options, and you want to reap the benefits of your choice.”
In a city filled with impressive bars and lounges, here are a few clandestine nightlife hot spots worth checking out.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell)
A standout is PDT, a speakeasy-style establishment whose name stands for Please Don’t Tell. Located in the East Village inside a hot dog shop, the space admits guests by reservations only. But it’s much more difficult than just booking a table: To gain access, you must enter an antique photo booth and ring in. Once the hostess on the other end checks you off the list, they will assign you to either a secluded table or a seat at the sleek bar. Inside, drinks can be tailor-made to your tastes and there’s also a detailed cocktail menu. Gourmet hot dogs and plates of melty, cheese-covered tater tots round out the fare offerings.
“Quite simply, the phone booth entrance gives people something to talk about at the table and after,” Meehan says. “It’s remarkable, and that’s important—whether you think it’s gimmicky or not—when you’re investing your hard-earned time and money into a night out.”
Over in West Village, visitors may miss the entrance to Little Branch altogether on first glance. The door, which is unmarked on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Saint Luke’s Place, leads guests who are able to locate it downstairs and into a den of delicately crafted cocktails. Co-owned by renowned barman Sasha Petraske, the bar is open daily, but truly cultured night owls know to visit Sunday through Thursday at about 10:30 p.m., when the mood gets even more sultry with live jazz.
Later, saunter down the street to Employees Only to enjoy artisanal cocktails or an array of gourmet fare. The name suggests limited entry, but there’s no secret entrance here; just walk through a darkened front door and attempt to secure a seat at the bar, which is surrounded by simple yet elegant decor, a throwback to the 1920s. Some of the specialty plates are the hand-cut steak tartare, caviar board and fluke crudo; and on the bar side, one of the popular libations is the Provencal, a lavender-infused gin spiced with herbes de Provence and French vermouth.
“Every night here is different, but there is always that NYC energy within these walls,” says principal bartender Steve Schneider, adding that the nightlife establishment fills up with people from all around the world. “Happiness is universal and we try our best to deliver that experience to our guests, no matter who they are or where they are from. That’s why I love NYC, the people and the energy they create—it’s unlike anything in the world.”
—Written by Linnea Covington