New York has no shortage of speakeasies. There are bars hidden beyond phone booths, coffee shops, bodegas and even ice cream parlors. Now, the phantom tollbooth in question is a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine, which guests enter through to find a secret bar at the recently-opened restaurant Loulou. For those of us who always wished we could reach inside a vending machine when our paid-for snack gets stuck, this is sort of the next best option.
Co-owner Mathias Van Leyden named the new French bistro as an homage to his rescue dog (it's the space's mascot with images of the dog wearing a top hat appearing throughout and on its facade). The menu—which includes dishes such as tuna niçoise, a blood orange and kale salad, steak frites, ratatouille, duck leg confit and charcuterie boards—is overseen by Executive Chef Jarett Brodie, who worked at Tom Colicchio's Craft as well as Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Mercer Kitchen. The menu does not seem particularly revelatory with its bistro classics. But regardless of whether you decide to dine here or not, you can still head downstairs to Loulou's speakeasy bar, which is open everyday from 7pm until 2am.
You won't go thirsty with the mix of cocktails—including a large-format drink served in a bird-shaped glass—devised by bartenders Zane Harris and Arpan Duttaroy. There is also a requisite disco ball—a staple at new bars such as Sauced and Mad Tropical—to kick the night into high-gear. The space is intimate and can hold up to 80 guests, while the upstairs hosts 70 people at tables with additional bar seating for 20.
Loulou may well be the first New York bar to use a Coca-Cola vintage vending machine as a doorway, but in Shanghai you can enter through one at The Press, a cocktail lounge hidden behind a sandwich shop. In other Coca-Cola bar news, last year, in collaboration with the Netflix show Stranger Things, Barcade in Chelsea hosted a celebratory event. The new Chelsea hangout joins the Greenwich Village's Existing Conditions bar, where the bar credited custom tokens to be placed inside two 1960s vending machines—a creative way to pay for a drink. And, at Blue Quarter, cocktails are served in vintage Coca-Cola glasses. But as for a Coca-Cola sign—an icon of Americana—in a French bistro? It's a nod to the cola drinks's supposed French origins.