Manhattan is positively filled with surprises... and plenty of secrets, too. In travel, as in life, there are few things more satisfying than getting in on a good secret, especially one that grants you access to a hidden gem, and NYC knows how to bury some of its biggest nightlife and culinary treasures deeper than most. Happily, we've done all of the detective work for you so that all you need to do is show up for an unforgettable night out on the town in these hot spots that come concealed, speakeasy-style, behind secret entrances and unmarked doors.
This longstanding NYC speakeasy certainly has staying power, holed up at its classy East Village location since the mid-'90s. Expect a cozy atmosphere and some expertly crafted cocktails – just don't come with a big group: Access is limited to parties of four or less. It's a perfect date spot, in fact, thanks to the bar's views over Stuyvesant Square and tuxedo-outfitted bartenders.
Tip: Angel's Share opened another secret space, Angel's Share 2, a few doors down (14 Stuyvesant Street) to help handle the overflow.
How to find it: 8 Stuyvesant St., btwn 2nd & 3rd Aves., East Village. Look for the entrance behind an unmarked door inside Japanese restaurant Village Yokcho.
A spin-off from a couple of bartending vets behind the famed (and now-closed) mixologist mecca Milk & Honey, this tiny, industrial-style Lower East Side spot can predictably turn out killer cocktail concoctions. Come with an open mind – there are no set menus here, so you'll be subject to the whims of the suspender-clad bartenders, who will customize your drink du jour based on your boozy preferences.
How to find it: 134 Eldridge St., btwn Eldridge & Allen Sts., Lower East Side. Knock or ring the buzzer to gain access.
The Back Room
While a lot of hidden bars in NYC like to play up their speakeasy vibe, The Back Room is rare in that it actually legitimately served as one during the 1920s Prohibition days (when it was frequented by gangsters like Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, and Meyer Lansky). The charming old-time decor is accordingly '20s inspired, with velvet sofas, golden accents, and a fireplace. True to speakeasy form, cocktails are served in teacups and bottled beers in paper bags.
How to find it: 102 Norfolk St., btwn Delancey & Rivington Sts., Lower East Side. Look for a street-side sign for the Lower East Side Toy Company; then pass the metal gate, go down the stairs, and seek out the speakeasy door on the other side of the alleyway.
Beauty & Essex
In-the-know trendsetters flock to this Lower East Side eatery, tucked away behind a pawn shop facade (which itself comes stocked with an interesting collection of vintage jewelry, art pieces, musical instruments, and more – and, yes, everything is for sale). Once through, patrons encounter a grand restaurant entrance, complete with a two-story chandelier and circular staircase. Beyond that, there are four dining rooms, two bars, and a lounge offering up a vibrant wining-and-dining scene; order up New American small plates from Chef Chris Santos.
How to find it: 146 Essex St., btwn Rivington & Stanton Sts., Lower East Side. While you'll only see the pawn shop storefront, the name of the restaurant is posted on the sign just above it.
Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien
For one of the best burgers in town, look to the lobby of Le Parker Meridien hotel, where hidden behind a curtain is this surprisingly unassuming and purposely kitsch burger counter. Burger Joint is no-frills and cash-only, and not exactly what you'd expect from a posh hotel, but when a burger is as good as this one, anything goes. Tuck into perfectly charred burgers, which pair well with the thick milkshakes on hand, amid the 1970s decor, complete with vinyl booths, Formica tables, and wood paneling.
How to find it: 119 W. 56th St., btwn 6th & 7th Aves., Midtown. Enter the hotel lobby of Le Parker Meridien and look out for the velvet curtains: The line of patrons will be a dead giveaway.
Beyond a doorbell entrance located within the polished watering hole The Garret East, quality Italian-American fare awaits at tiny eatery Dinnertable. Anchored on a communal table amid soft lighting, guests at this intimate venue (note no more than four per party are admitted) can dig in on mains like charred stripe bass and braised short ribs.
How to find it: 206 Avenue A, btwn E. 12th & E. 13th Sts., East Village. Push the doorbell at the entrance found within The Garret East bar.
Discover a delectable menu of pan-Asian small plates at this hidden-away Filipino, Thai, and Southeast Asian eatery on the Lower East Side. You'll have to seek out the cozy upstairs quarters, which are set on the second floor of a building that's marked by little more than a graffiti-tagged door. Once there, you can indulge in the mini-masterworks of lauded chef/owner King Phojanakong, with a menu of meat, seafood, and veggie dishes that changes seasonally.
How to find it: 113 Ludlow St., btwn Rivington & Delancey Sts., Lower East Side. Look for a graffiti-covered door; the restaurant name is noted just beside it.
Set in an inconspicuous location off the lobby of Midtown's historic Iroquois hotel, this small, elegant oasis invites guests into an inviting 1920s Parisian-styled lounge, complete with dark wood paneling, velvet seats, Impressionist paintings, marbled tables, and candelabras. Vintage Prohibition-period cocktails are served up by bow-tied bartenders, while light bites are on offer from the neighboring Triomphe kitchen.
How to find it: 49 W. 44th St., btwn 5th & 6th Aves., Midtown. There's no sign for the bar, but if the lantern affixed to the hotel facade is lit, it means the bar is open.
PDT (Please Don't Tell)
PDT, an acronym for the bar's full name "Please Don't Tell," is no stranger to NYC's "best of" bar picks. Little wonder, given that it was launched by bartending icon Jim Meehan, and that the bar once won the James Beard award for the best bar program. Indeed, quality cocktails are the name of the game in this small, taxidermy-strewn hideaway – that is, if you can find it. The bar entrance is located within a vintage phone both inside hot dog joint Crif Dogs (don't worry – the hot dogs are on the menu inside, too, if you're craving one after the wait).
How to find it: 113 St. Marks Pl., btwn 1st Ave. & Avenue A, East Village. Enter the phone booth at Crif Dogs and dial in to get the estimated wait time, or, if you're very lucky, immediate entrance via the back wall of the booth.
Raines Law Room
Run by cocktail maven Meaghan Dorman, the Raines Law Room in Chelsea offers a sophisticated, old-fashioned 1920s speakeasy vibe that's worth seeking out. Named for a late 19th-century law that was aimed at curbing liquor consumption in New York, rest assured that the classic cocktails are positively free-flowing here today. Expect a Jazz Age vibe in the subterranean space with its tin ceilings and plush velvet seating; each of the curtain-enclosed tables comes with a buzzer to conveniently call in your server for the next round. Note that the bar claims a larger spin-off in the William Hotel in Midtown, too, though most fans claim loyalty to the original Chelsea incarnation.
How to find it: 48 W. 17th St., btwn 5th & 6th Aves., Chelsea. Go down the unmarked stairwell and press the door buzzer for entry.