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Photograph: Gabi Porter

Secret NYC: 26 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

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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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 (the speakeasy is actually booming right now). 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

  • Comedy
  • Comedy

"Underground Overground Comedy" has taken place in a gym, a rooftop, a music studio and a barbershop in a train station among other unique locales. For its creators, it's all about using the great spaces NYC already has to offer a unique way to enjoy a bit of comedy. To add a bit of mystery and New York magic, they don't exactly advertise their shows. They use Instagram to alert followers and take down names via direct messages for their ongoing guest list. Shows have featured Josh Gondelman, Kerry Coddett, Jordan Jensen and Napolean Emil among others.

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

A plant store by day, Cactus Shop in Williamsburg turns into a Mexican speakeasy cantina by night, complete with a lovely outdoor courtyard perfect for the spring-ish nights that have graced New York in the past week. It's clearly not a speakeasy in the most authentic sense of the word, but it certainly boasts that same sort of vibe. Inside, patrons will revel in heartwarming yet vibrant decor that is actually sourced directly from Mexico alongside the just-as-authentic drinkware (think black clay and hand-blown glasses). Pay particular attention to the skeletons and sugar skulls that are placed just so all over the destination and call out to Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations.

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  • Nightlife
  • Nightlife

Daphne, a new subterranean spot under Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown by Hospitality company Gerber Group, is a massive 2,500-square-foot space. Patrons are pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful silk pink flower installation by art studio Floratorium. Dazzling disco balls also permeate the premises, calling back to a time when the dance club you frequented was just as important as where your apartment was located. In addition to the club's signature bottle service, the bartenders at Daphne can serve some remarkable cocktails that range from the classic to modern interpretations of the form. For every dirty martini, old fashioned and margarita there is an Aphrodite (Malfy gin, fortified wine, pomegranate and fresh lemon), Lite My Fire (Patron silver tequila, ginger liqueur, fresh lime and flamed rosemary) and Cider Car (Hennessy, apple cider and apricot liqueur), among other options.

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

One of NYC’s oldest restaurants and bars, Fraunces Tavern has a new Piano Bar UpstairsThe intimate room above The Independence Bar is soaked in a shade of cerulean across its paneled walls, with pops of color on tufted red banquettes and gilded picture frames. Beer, wine, all manner of cocktails and a dedicated list of gin and tonics are all available, in addition to broad-appeal snacks, apps and entrées. Live piano music, of course, is also on the menu.

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Japan Village, which is both a food hall and supermarket full of Japanese groceries, has expanded upward with a 20,000-square-foot second floor it calls The Loft. Here, visitors can basically step into a representation of Japan with cool shops with items straight from the country as well as fun experiences like tea ceremonies and cultural classes. It's not necessarily secret, but new and located above Japan Village.

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Chez Zou follows chef Madeline Sperling’s popular modern eastern Mediterranean restaurant Zou Zou’s, which was one of fall’s most anticipated openings. The stylish spot shares some of the original’s design elements, like verdant greenery arrangements and potted plants, vibrant jewel tones and lush textiles. The cozy alcove bar seats six, and armchairs, ottomans and curved banquettes are mapped across a geometric black and white floor poised a few stories above the restaurant. An outdoor terrace will also come into use this spring. Chez Zou is on the fourth floor of Manhattan West Plaza at 385 Ninth Avenue. To enter, you'll pass through Zou Zou's and take the elevator beyond the host stand, which opens into the lounge. Chez Zou is open for walk-ins only.

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

 

Nothing Really Matters is the latest from Adrien Gallo, whose previous endeavors included Double Happiness and Grand Banks. It’s located between the entrance and the turnstile in the downtown-bound 1 train station at 50th Street and Broadway. The cinematic subway entrance that leads to Nothing Really Matters is next to the Duane Reade on 50th Street near Broadway. The facade is adorned in signs for the newsstand and barbershop that previously operated in the station’s small retail areas. An illustrated haircut legend is still on display. Trash is strewn about. It looks like a subway station from 1984’s Ghostbusters

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Dom (styled as DOM), a subterranean cocktail lounge in Gramercy, is a "retro-future" space, replete with high ceilings and fancy furnishings intended to evoke “the image of a modern age La Dolce Vita lifestyle” seats 50, exclusive of a private tasting room. Art programming across various mediums is planned for a gallery space and exhibition wall.  Dom’s opening cocktail menu is divided into the categories Health and Beauty, Pain Killers, Stress Relievers, Aphrodisiacs, Pharmaceuticals, Stimulants and Euphoric Enhancers. Many drinks incorporate liqueurs like walnut elderberry from owner Albert Trummer’s own eponymous line. The cognac-flavored cigar leaves in the barrel-aged negroni (a Pain Killer), and unspecified herbs from the South of France in the large-format house absinthe (a Euphoric Enhancer) are among other noteworthy ingredients. Trummer’s previous ventures include the ultimately headline making ApothékeDom is located at 287 Park Avenue South. The entrance is on 22nd Street.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Good news for those that love Ramen Misoya—the popular East Village destination dedicated exclusively to miso ramen. The eatery has just opened a second location, and this one boasts a cool, speakeasy-style ambiance. It's not that easy to find the new spot, so let us help you out. The West Village location at 535 Hudson Street has a below-ground entrance on Charles Street. (Look for a small sign on the wall above the stairs.) Once you enter the premise, you'll notice a second set of doors. (They're bright orange!) Walk right in and you'll find yourself in the main dining room. Expect two rooms that can sit 30 people in total, each one a sleek and modern-looking space. Other outstanding decor details include 10-foot-high ceilings, a large window overlooking the kitchen and exposed brick and white walls.

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Virtually every bar in New York is a must-visit destination, but it doesn't get much cooler than a secret bar within a bar. The Lab at Patent Pending, though, goes a step further. The Lab is, in fact, a hidden cavern connected through a natural arch inside of speakeasy Patent Pending, which is itself accessible only through a hidden door in Patent Coffee, a cafe (by day) on West 27th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Think of it as a concealed bar within a secret bar within a public coffee shop. Ryan McKenzie opened Patent Pending back in 2018. Housed inside the Radio Wave Building, the speakeasy references Nikola Tesla, the famous electrical inventor who actually lived on premise when it was still the Gerlach Hotel, in many different ways. From the menu to the decor, the radio theme clearly makes itself known here. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Hot dogs
  • Williamsburg
  • price 1 of 4
New Jersey native Brian Shebairo expands his popular East Village hot-dog mecca to Williamsburg. True to its casual roots, the small Brooklyn outpost will be outfitted with old-school video games, steel floors and a vintage skateboard collection. You'll find the same late-night munchies on offer: Tater-Tots, chili cheese fries, milk shakes and snappy, deep-fried dogs in creative combinations, like the Tsunami (bacon-wrapped with teriyaki sauce, pineapple and green onions) and the John-John Deragon (cream cheese, scallions and a sprinkling of everything-bagel seeds). But this location will also appeal to the early-morning set with a takeout window serving Intelligentsia coffee and breakfast sandwiches a few steps from the Bedford L stop.
  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Serafina, the Italian restaurant group with the familiar yellow awnings and several locations in NYC and beyond, quietly started operating its latest, Serafina in the Sky, earlier this year. On Wednesday, February 16, it will officially open the space’s speakeasy-themed lounge annex, UnPublished. The new spot is a collaboration between Serafina and hospitality professional Karim Amatullah. UnPublished is beyond a velvet curtain inside Serafina in the Sky, which is on the lobby level of the Pod Hotel at 400 West 42nd Street, like nightlife nesting dolls by way of Times Square. It shares its menus with Serafina in the Sky, which serves crostini, charcuterie, and guacamole Italiano to start, plus salads, pizza, pasta and general interest entrées. Beer, wine and cocktails are also available. UnPublished boasts a disco ball, chandeliers and candlelit velvet banquettes inside, and a terrace with a retractable roof outside. It can accommodate 100 guests, provided they know the way in. No, not through the curtain, the nebulous way in. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Now, Instagrammers and foodies alike have yet another reason to stop by the Bleecker Street Saint Theo's: Venice Bar, a new, 20-seat, Venetian-inspired cocktail bar hidden behind plush velvet, burgundy curtains by the restaurant's dining room, is officially open for business.  Inside, patrons will get to order drinks and cicchetti (traditional Venetian small bites) by crimson-colored banquets, vintage Pirelli calendars, a massive Maitland Smith mirror and Murano sconces that come straight from the Italian town.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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Live @ the Apt
Mindy Tucker

15. 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 to L.A.

Various locations (liveapt.tv); $15.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 3 of 4

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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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Village
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Flatiron
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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The Secret Speakeasy
Photograph: Denny Daniel

19. 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. Each edition promises old-timey artifacts and 16mm films centered on fascinating subjects, along with the usual slate of jazz music, antiques, way-back-when delights and a cash bar.

Soho (secretspeakeasy.com). $10.

  • Things to do
  • 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.   

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Secret Loft
Photograph: Tak Wind Fotografi

21. 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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