Descending the steps to a pseudo-secret basement bar can lead to unwelcome surprises: grungy dives with sickly beer-and-shot combos, balmy dance rooms with seizure-inducing strobe lights or, worse yet, subpar speakeasies drowning in 1920s kitsch. This sexy den from Little Branch’s Joseph Schwartz and Cervantes Ramirez welcomes you to the depths below with subtly upscale touches: warm lighting and dark woods, highly attentive hosts at your service and a slew of quaffs to pore over.
ORDER THIS: The delicate Little Devil ($14) is coyly named: Served in a dainty coupe, the lemon-and--orange number finishes on gin’s soft floral notes. With bitters and two thick twists, the first sip of an Island Old Fashioned ($14) feels familiar, but velvety hints of almond and clove remind whiskey lovers of the añejo rum’s reign. And playing off the baking-spiced sweetness of apple pie, the Chin Chin ($14) splashes caramely Elijah Craig bourbon with sharp ginger and crisp, cooling cider.
GOOD FOR: Getting close to your crush. Slink into one of the sail-covered booths and lean in over small plates like the Kalbi sliders ($14), served open-face with gochujang chili sauce on pretzel buns, and crostini covered in smoky trout pâté ($14). Whether you bond over bites or not, the dark corners of your couch, illuminated only by votives, will lure you into snuggling. (Plus, everyone else is doing it.)
THE CLINCHER: Sandwiched between metal-shuttered storefronts, the entrance is marked by a single flag, so those without directions won’t stumble in. The hidden-in-plain-sight tactic not only keeps the crowd at a minimum, it also amplifies the lounge’s mystique. Even with the perks of a speakeasy, this vessel doesn’t need a worn-out flapper theme to keep it afloat.—Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo