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The Unbrunch
Photograph: Amy Gardner The Unbrunch

Secret NYC: 17 sweet speakeasies, underground gigs and more

Psst: Get the inside scoop on the best secret NYC spots, including hidden drinkeries, hush-hush shindigs and much more

By Heather Corcoran, Dan Q Dao and Jen Michalski
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Sure, New York attractions are known across the globe, but what about the lesser-known, secret NYC spots? Thanks to us, you don’t have to do much digging. This is a classified list of hidden parties in NYC, in-the-know dinners and buzzy speakeasies in NYC. Just one thing: Let’s try to keep this information between us, cool?

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in NYC

Cool secret NYC spots

Gabi Porter

1. Peachy's

Bars Cocktail bars Chinatown

NO PHOTOS, NO FIGHTING, the hot-pink neon sign commands as you descend below Doyers Street to this Chinese Tuxedo–owned cocktail bar. While nothing stirred us to brawl (half the edict is a shout-out to the street’s history of gang violence), it’s much harder to resist snapping pics of the cool-kid cavern, decked out in tiger-print Gucci wallpaper, flickering candles and flower arrangements that look like they were plucked straight from a wedding at the Plaza. Indeed, the bar is all #vibes, right down to the colorful cocktails.

Photograph: Mindy Tucker

2. Live @ the Apt

What started as a simple idea—“stand-up in a walk-up”—has become a veritable comedy phenomenon. In the six years since its three founders started hosting gigs in a fifth-floor East Village apartment, Live @ the Apt has transformed into a hub for next-generation talent, with performances from the likes of Phoebe Robinson, Hasan Minhaj, Hannibal Buress and John Early. Since outgrowing its original venue, the series has expanded all over the city and even beyond—in May, it lands in L.A.

Various locations (liveapt.tv); $10–$20.

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The Unbrunch
Photograph: Amy Gardner

3.  The Unbrunch

Who said a boozy brunch is basic? Cinereal Productions’ Unbrunch tosses attendees into a world of curious delights. Let the White Rabbit guide you into this retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which unfolds across five floors—with buffets of curated nibbles and vivid libations along the way—all in a private members’ club inside a 1920s Chelsea brownstone, the exact location of which is revealed only upon ticket purchase. (The show is currently on hiatus but plans to return
this spring.)

Chelsea (cinerealproductions.com). $45–$95.

Banzarbar
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

4. Banzarbar

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

Finding the explorer-inspired cocktail joint Banzarbar is a bit of an expedition in itself: Stroll down a street-art–covered alley off Rivington Street to foodie mecca Freemans, where the maître d’ will lead you upstairs to the out-of-the-way 20-seat tavern. There, you can grab a seat and choose from the five-course, low-ABV tasting menu or order à la carte offerings, such as the Kraken, a tempura-fried whole octopus that pairs well with the Andromeda, a bubbly elixir of gin, sherry, grapefruit and cardamom.

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Blue Quarter
Photograph: Doron Gild Photography

5. Blue Quarter

Bars Cocktail bars East Village

At Blue Quarter, a cocktail bar hidden behind a bright-blue door in the back of East Village eatery Local 92, the menu is as petite as the 18-seat space, with a nine-drink list that’s rife with moments of inspiration. The libations spring from the minds of two veterans of the bitters-focused bar Amor y Amargo and are steeped in another complex bevvy: tea. Expect alcohol-infused riffs on Earl Grey, mint and matcha strains, as well as the Oolong Island Iced Tea—a take on the high-octane classic—served in a glass Coca-Cola bottle.

Nonna Beppa
Photograph: Courtesy Nonna Beppa

6. Nonna Beppa

Restaurants Italian West Village

For a romantic, carb-heavy date, snag a special reservation at chef Giancarlo “Wendy” Cacciatori’s Hudson Square temple to tortellini, Nonna Beppa. For $300 a couple, you can dine in your very own room for two in the restaurant’s bottle-adorned wine cellar. Being pampered by your own personal server, listening to classic Italian tunes and tasting a multicourse menu that’s inspired by your very own culinary preferences? Now, that’s amore.

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Patent Pending
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

7. Patent Pending

Bars Cocktail bars Flatiron

Enter a four-digit code (it’s 4927) in front of Nomad’s landmark Radio Wave Building to access Patent Pending, a dimly lit, subterranean cocktail den whose theme was sparked by a famous former tenant, inventor Nikola Tesla. Try out the bourbon-and-rum Light Me Up, which amps up mango black tea and citrus with a jolt of amaro and Szechuan peppercorn.

The Secret Speakeasy
Photograph: Denny Daniel

8. The Secret Speakeasy

The Museum of Interesting Things’ Denny Daniel presents the Secret Speakeasy series, a museum benefit that takes place each month in a Soho loft. Dubbed “The History of Quack Medical Devices,” the February 23 edition promises old-timey medical devices and 16mm films centered on the fascinating subject, along with the usual slate of jazz music, antiques, way-back-when delights and a cash bar.

Soho (secretspeakeasy.com). $10.

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Edie's
Photograph: Katelynrose Antonis

9. Edie’s

News City Life

Situated in the back of Warhol-themed restaurant the Factory 380, Edie’s is a speakeasy inspired by the artist’s iconic muse, the star-crossed socialite Edie Sedgwick. While the food focuses on NYC faves (roasted nuts, dumplings), the libations—with cheeky names like the Camera Adds 10 Pounds—pay homage to the man who coined the idea of “15 minutes of fame.” In keeping with the spirit of the Factory Girl herself, gear up for a glam Pop Art setting, which is accessible just past a payphone—painted in Warhol’s signature silver, natch.   

Secret Loft
Photograph: Tak Wind Fotografi

10. Secret Loft

So, illegal warehouse raves aren’t your thing, and the spontaneity of a TBA address isn’t as appealing as the comfort of knowing where you’re going? We hear you—and so does Secret Loft, which still boasts an under-the-radar vibe in its downtown space. You can expect just about anything: Past shindigs have included out-there circus acts, stand-up showcases, poetry slams, political roasts and more.

Greenwich Village (facebook.com/secretloft

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11. Le Boudoir

Bars Cocktail bars Brooklyn Heights

The cellar-speakeasy hidden in the Brooklyn Heights French bistro Chez Moi is a cocktail bar fit for a queen. Modeled after Marie Antoinette’s opulent private chambers, Le Boudoir has its historically accurate design down to a T, with plush red-velvet–tufted banquettes, gilded frames, wooden paneling and a ceiling reproduction of the 17th-century parquet de Versailles flooring pattern. After ducking into the secret passage, sip appropriately named cocktails like the absinthe-based Dauphin, then lounge in a dimly lit grotto while discussing French politics…or something like that.

Karasu
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

12. Karasu

Restaurants Japanese Fort Greene

Tucked behind an unmarked door at the back of Fort Greene’s beloved eatery Walter’s, this Japanese izakaya has a small but buzzed-about menu (spicy sesame duck wings, to start), but what packs ’em in are the drinks: a top-notch variety of sake, shochu and Japanese whiskey.

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Garfunkel's
Photograph: Liz Clayman

13. Garfunkel's

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

Even though you have to enter through a backroom vault with a secret code, we promise it’s all completely legal—quite unlike the embezzling exploits of 1920s bankers Max Garfunkel and Marcus Tauster, whose former office building is the exact location of Garfunkel’s, which sits above burger joint the Burgary. (Peep newspaper clippings from the duo’s felonious heyday amid the framed vintage photos.) The aesthetic here is old-school glam: Purple tones, velvet couches, tufted club chairs and a wall-engulfing bookcase with novels and knickknacks. Book a reservation online, and you’ll receive a code for the vault that’s located at the back of the Burgary. Walk-ins are accepted if space allows.

The 18th Room
Photograph: Courtesy Noah Fecks

14. The 18th Room

Bars Cocktail bars Chelsea

The team behind Bathtub Gin opened another upscale, Prohibition-style speakeasy in Chelsea cheekily named for the amendment that ushered in the booze ban. Sip intricate quaffs like the quail-egg–topped Sensi Crickete (rum, stout, cacao), or slink into a velvet banquette inside the moody, Art Deco lounge. 

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Sublimate
Photograph: Luis Nieto Dickens

15. Sublimate

Clubs

Since its inception in 2012, the loft-hopping after-hours affair Sublimate has gone from a sporadically booked treat to a hot monthly party that brings in DJ heavy hitters hailing from Ibiza to Chicago. Come rested: The nights, held in secret locations throughout town, can stretch to the 12-hour mark (the lack of megaclub douches and cheap-ass drinks should keep you perky and in a swell mood) and boast an awesome sound system courtesy of resident spinner Matt Sagotsky, whose aim is to create a diverse, come-one-come-all atmosphere. Sign up for Sublimate’s mailing list, R.S.V.P. for location details, or purchase tickets on Resident Advisor. sublimate.org

Featherweight
Photograph: Courtesy Featherweight

16. Featherweight

This East Williamsburg cocktail den from the mixology minds of Weather Up is hidden above the restaurant Sweet Science. Drawing inspiration from a former boxing gym that occupied the second-floor space, it’s an ace spot for sipping drinks with fancy-sounding ingredients in an intimate—but not pretentious—rustic Polynesian-like setting. There are two ways to enter: through a door at the back of Sweet Science and on a landing outside. (If you opt for the latter, look for the huge painted mural of a boxer. The door below it with the feather on it is your ticket in.)

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Bohemian
Photograph: Zandy Mangold

17. Bohemian

The bad news: This covert Japanese-influenced restaurant, which sits beyond a butcher shop on Great Jones Street, has no published phone number. And the only surefire way to reserve a spot at this 25-seater is to get its digits from a previous diner. (You can also try your luck by emailing ny-info@playearth.jp with the subject line “Visit Enquiry” for a chance to be selected for a reservation.) The good news: Getting into the super-exclusive space, which was once home to Jean-Michel Basquiat, will give you bragging rights for months. For being so VIP, Bohemian’s decor is quite simple—minimalist, with a Zen garden, lounge chairs and plenty of wall art—and its menu is down-to-earth (but delish!), with wagyu beef sliders and mac and cheese.

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