Speakeasies were real during Prohibition — covert bars where people could score illegal alcohol and have a good time away from prying eyes. When booze became legal again in 1933, speakeasies went the way of the dodo. Recent years have brought back the allure of a clandestine place where customers can feel like they’re in on the secret, whether it’s a swanky cocktail club, a friendly dive bar or an exclusive restaurant. Secret bars and restaurants have become so popular that every state has at least one. These concealed destinations hide in seemingly innocuous establishments (like a gas station or office building), or reside above or below other bars or restaurants, at the end of dark alleys or out in the wilderness (really). And with camouflaged doors that vary from refrigerators to safes to bookcases, it’s easy to walk right past the entrance to these out-of-sight establishments. Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/experience/food-and-wine/2017/04/24/hidden-bars-restaurants-every-state/100647930/
The Marble Ring opened in Birmingham, Ala. at the end of 2016. Reach the roaring '20s-inspired bar by walking through Hot Diggity Dogs and picking up the receiver in the phone booth to see if any tables are available. Inside, patrons are treated to a large crystal chandelier, a marble bar, leather chairs and Jazz Age décor. The cocktails (and the name of the bar) are inspired by stories about Zelda Fitzgerald, a prominent figure from the 1920s.
Alaska’s Chena Hot Springs Resort is home to the Aurora Ice Museum, built entirely from ice. A little-known secret is that there’s an ice bar inside, serving up (very) cold drinks in glasses made of ice. Purchase a ticket to the Fairbanks museum to access the bar and try frosty cocktails like the signature Appletini, served here by Bernie Karl, co-owner of the resort.
Arizona is lucky to have the Tough Luck Club, found below Reilly Craft Pizza, a downtown Tucson restaurant in a former mortuary. To get in, walk through Reilly’s, out the back door and down the stairs. A cavernous space with a long bar and lots of leather-clad booths awaits. Every three months the bar publishes a new cocktail menu that’s presented like a magazine.
Arkansas’ Milford Track is a Little Rock lunch spot hidden behind an office building, overlooking a peaceful pond. Opened 28 years ago by Kim Clark (now owned by her son) and named after the New Zealand hiking trail of the same name, Milford Track features fresh bread and handmade pasta.
California is full of speakeasies, especially in Los Angeles. So uncover a speakeasy within a speakeasy: the Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency inside Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco. Rare and high-end spirits dominate, with culinary-driven cocktails.There’s even a three-course cocktail tasting menu, with an aperitif, main and digestif for $35
Colorado’s Williams & Graham is set up to look like a small bookstore upon entering, but behind one of the bookcases lies a cocktail den. With some of Denver’s best mixologists behind the bar, it’s no surprise the place has won multiple awards, including Best American Cocktail Bar in 2015 by the Spirited Awards.
Connecticut’s Noble & Co. shares owners with McLadden’s next door in West Hartford. To enter, pass through a subway-themed hallway to a nondescript metal door reading “HVAC Mechanical Room.” Inside, sparkling chandeliers, crushed velvet couches, and artisan food and cocktails await, including the Noble Mule (pictured), made with Absolut Elyx vodka, St. Germain, cucumber, lime juice, ginger beer, mint and nutmeg.
Delaware’s Hummingbird to Mars is located atop Catherine Rooney's Irish Pub, in Wilmington’s Trolley Square. To enter, hit the intercom in Catherine Rooney’s and hope that someone lets you in to enjoy craft cocktails. The name of the bar comes from something Senator Morris Sheppard said during Prohibition: “There’s as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”
Florida hides El Carajo, a wine shop and bar that serves Spanish tapas, behind a gas station in Miami. Inside what looks like a convenience store, guests are transported to a dark wood and brick haven housing an international array of fine wines, sakes and craft beers. Long tables are set up amid the bottles where Spanish sharable plates complement the drinks.
Georgia has a number of hidden bars, especially in and around Atlanta. Try Eleanor’s, hiding behind a freezer door at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, for tasty snacks like chicharones and charcuterie paired with handcrafted cocktails, wine and beer.
Hawaii’s islands hold many secrets but one favorite is the incredible bar concealed inside a Honolulu office tower. Bar Leather Apron, on the mezzanine level of the Topa Financial Center, serves meticulously made cocktails, like the signature Japan Old Fashioned. Featuring shiitake mushroom-infused Suntory Hakushu whisky, maple syrup and bitters, the drink is signed here by co-owner Justin Park.
Idaho is home to the historic Idanha Hotel building in downtown Boise. In the basement lies Tenth Street Station, the oldest bar in the city, which operated as a real speakeasy during Prohibition. Relaxed and casual, Tenth Street Station has daily happy hour and drink specials.
Illinois has one of the best cocktail bars in the country: James Beard Award-winning The Violet Hour in Chicago. Those that manage to locate the door handle camouflaged in the constantly changing mural on its facade are treated to a swanky environment behind curtains with pre-Prohibition-themed cocktails like the Briar Patch made with gin, lemon and blackberry cordial.
Indiana’s La Revolucion is a Mexican restaurant in Indianapolis’ quirky Fountain Square neighborhood. Exit the restaurant through the side door to discover a little-known tiki bar on the back patio. You’ll be confronted by potted palms, fire pits, picnic benches, bright tiki cocktails and tasty nachos.
Iowa’s Cellar 626 is hidden in the back of Cyclone Liquors in Ames. Walk through a cooler door in the back of the store or go down an alleyway in the back of the building. Cellar 626 offers 13 craft cocktails, each one selected for its historical relevance in the world of mixology, plus wine and beer flights.
Kansas' historic Ambassador Hotel Wichita recently opened a speakeasy-style bar in its basement called Dockum. The room is decorated with vintage mirrors, pharmacy-type items and ancient doors from a Chinese temple, among the hotel’s original brick walls and terrazzo floors from 1926. Cocktails feature house-made bitters and syrups, as well as fresh-squeezed juices.
Kentucky’s Butchertown Grocery recently opened Lola, an upstairs lounge that’s something of an open secret in Louisville. Serving craft cocktails alongside sandwiches at dinner, Lola features live music most nights. Open on Sundays for brunch, expect a variety of bloody Marys and spritzers paired with biscuits and eggs.
Louisiana is practically the birthplace of the cocktail and there’s no shortage of speakeasy-style bars in New Orleans. But have you heard of N7, a restaurant that opened in 2016 down a potholed street in the Bywater? Hidden behind a tall wooden fence marked with a small, red “N7,” people often drive around in circles before finding the door. A leafy green courtyard and an eclectic restaurant, serving incredible French food out of what used to be a tire shop, awaits.
Maine’s hipster city of Portland saw a big craft cocktail boom over the last five years. In 2015, three bartenders wanted to open a place where industry locals could hang out after work. Lincolns is a hush-hush watering hole that charges $5 for everything and changes its entrance every year. “The looks on people’s faces when they finally get in, and the bar exploding with a round of applause and cheering, is really something special,” says co-owner Angela Drinkwater.
Maryland’s Sugarvale is an intimate bar serving light bites and cocktails in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon area. Sitting a few steps below street level, it’s easy to walk past this unassuming spot. Inside is an eight-seat bar, a few small tables, and a communal table in the middle of the room full of people sipping drinks like the Black Walnut Amaretto Sour (Lazzaroni Amaretto, Old Forestor bourbon, Nux Alpina, lemon and egg white).
Massachusetts' Backbar is a local favorite in Boston suburb, Somerville. Go behind sister restaurant Journeyman, down an alleyway and through a long hallway. Once inside, innovative cocktails and bar snacks abound, like Boon’s Chicken Salad, a play on a pisco sour using chicken-infused apple brandy, and owner Sam Treadway’s spicy caramel popcorn studded with house-cured bacon.
Michigan has dozens of historic mansions like The Whitney, built in 1894 for the wealthiest man in Detroit. Now home to an upscale restaurant, The Whitney hosts Ghostbar, a secret lounge paying homage to the house’s alleged spirits and serving small plates and cocktails, on the third floor.
Minnesota’s Marvel Bar is an unmarked subterranean cocktail bar behind a purple door in downtown Minneapolis. Famous for its creative original cocktails like the Oliveto (olive oil, egg white, lemon, Licor 43 and gin) and the fact that you can get Cheetos straight out of the bag, Marvel bar has been a semifinalist for a James Beard Award three times, including this year.
Mississippi’s Apothecary, tucked behind historic Jackson soda fountain Brent’s Drugs, pays homage to the pharmacies of yore. Yes, there are craft cocktails, but here they’re inspired by elixirs and remedies from the days when pharmacists used alcohol and sweeteners to help conceal the bitter taste of medicine. The Apothecary uses hand-squeezed juices and even makes its own tonic water.
In Missouri, The Rieger Hotel dates back to 1915 in downtown Kansas City. Below it, via a narrow staircase in The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange restaurant, is Manifesto, a low-lit cocktail bar with stone walls and dark wood furniture. Cocktails change seasonally though favorites like the Shatto Blanc (vodka, Shatto root beer milk, yellow chartreuse and Angostura bitters) and the Smokin’ Choke (applewood-smoked Four Roses bourbon, cynar, maple syrup and Peychaud’s bitters) are permanent fixtures on the menu.
Montana is Big Sky Country so it’s only fitting that the secret spot here requires you to hike through Glacier National Park to reach (seriously, you can’t drive). Sperry Chalet was built in 1913 and consists of a two-story hotel and separate dining room that serves three meals a day in an informal environment.
Nebraska's Looking Glass Cigars & Spirits offers a selection of cigars, wine and liquor next to Hotel Deco in Omaha. Behind one of the shop's shelves, a secret entrance leads to the Wicked Rabbit, an Alice in Wonderland-themed drinking den. Specialty cocktails and a large selection of whiskeys are on offer.
Nevada is obviously full of places to get your drink on, but for those who want a little calm, the Laundry Room does the trick. In the very back of Las Vegas' swanky Commonwealth bar, check the red light above a door with a pin on it -- if it’s lit, the Laundry Room has seats available. Sip on vintage-inspired cocktails in a room furnished with images of Hollywood starlets like Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth.
New Hampshire bookstore Codex in Nashua is not what it appears to be. The front door, plastered with signs about Prohibition, is locked. Go down a side alley and find the unmarked door next to a window with a red lamp. Upon entering, there’s a large bookcase. Find the book that’s actually a lever and the speakeasy-style bar -- decorated with antiques, old photographs and books (which are for sale) -- is revealed.
New Jersey doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of a tropical vacation, but Little Buddy Hideaway, a tiki bar discreetly tucked behind sister restaurant Brickwall Tavern in Asbury Park, serves as a good alternative. It offers delicious twists on cocktail classics such as the Crazy Criminal Colada with absinthe, house-made coconut syrup, pineapple and French rhum, and the Pineapple Dark and Stormy with pineapple-infused rum and ginger beer.
New Mexico’s historic El Rey Theater building in downtown Albuquerque has a secret: There’s a clandestine bar underneath the Hangar liquor store on the corner. It’s mostly restricted to members (who use a thumbprint scanner to gain access), but non-members can request a reservation early in the week until 11 p.m. There’s a menu of classic cocktails and seasonal concoctions plus a large selection of American bourbons.
New York is often credited with bringing back the speakeasy-style hidden bar. By now, everyone knows about “secret” places like PDT and Employees Only. La Milagrosa, one of Brooklyn’s newest spots from La Superior owner Felipe Mendez, is still largely undiscovered. Tucked behind the freezer door of a Mexican deli, this cavern-like space serves mezcal margaritas and a mezcal mule to the rhythm of local DJs spinning on one of the best sound systems in New York City.
North Carolina is full of breweries, and Highland Brewing in Asheville recently opened an under-the-radar rooftop bar. Not seen from the ground, the only signage is a sandwich board in front of a staircase that heads to the roof. Once there, customers are treated to 360-degree mountain views while they sip their craft beers.
North Dakota’s best-kept secret is actually two secrets in one. In Bismarck, there’s a multi-level establishment that’s home to restaurant Humpback Sally’s and a rooftop beer garden. Most people don’t know that there are also two hidden bars on the second floor. The speakeasy-inspired 510.2 serves cocktails like the Cheshire Cat (rum, banana liqueur, absinthe, moonshine, lemon and honey) while the newly opened Wanderlust is a smaller, travel-inspired bar that features drinks from rotating cocktail culture destinations like Cuba or Japan.
Ohio’s Metropolitan at the 9, an Autograph Collection hotel, recently turned its underground space, The Vault, into a classy cocktail spot. Hidden in the maze of vaults and corridors that once kept the wealth of the Cleveland Trust Co., handcrafted drinks and a small plates menu with items like charcuterie and oysters are served in the classy lounge with vintage accents.
Oklahoma may have the spot that’s hardest to find if you’re not a local. Hiding in Tulsa is an upscale restaurant and bar that barely has a name (referred to simply as "the lounge") and no address or sign. There’s just a small metal bull hanging discreetly over the plain door in an alley, and a secret website listing a phone number. A martini cart, escargot and lots of high-quality steak await you inside, if you can find it.
Oregon’s Ace Hotel with restaurant Clyde Common, sit above the subterranean watering hole Pepe Le Moko in Portland. Go into a small lobby where someone is usually shucking oysters and head down the dark stairs for the real fun: potent retro cocktails like Grasshoppers and Long Island Iced Teas paired with snacks like deviled eggs and yes, oysters.
Pennsylvania is home to several of chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson’s restaurants; the newest is the stylish Harp & Crown in Philadelphia. Head down the stairs at the front, and down a meandering corridor lined with framed pictures to the wooden door marked “Elbow Lane”, and you’ll be transported to a chic bar complete with a two-lane bowling alley.
Rhode Island is home to Justine’s, a Providence cocktail bar hidden inside a lingerie shop behind velvet curtains manned by an attendant. Once inside the vintage chic space, guests can order affordable classic cocktails, like Manhattans and whiskey sours.
South Carolina got a brand new speakeasy when Vault & Vator opened earlier this month in Greenville. Concealed in a basement-level space, the bar has several house rules including no cell phones, no sweats, no standing and no light beer. The focus is on innovative craft cocktails, with drinks like the Pimm’s Garden (Pimm’s #1, cucumber juice, sherbet, ginger tea and mint) and the Vow of Silence (mezcal, chartreuse, cacao nib-infused Luxardo maraschino liqueur, lime and mole bitters) on the menu.
South Dakota’s Rapid City is home to speakeasy Blind Lion, accessed through an unmarked door, a shabby hallway and a passcode protected door that looks like a vault. After all that, you still need to utter the correct password to the bartender. All of those hoops mean a quiet space to sip expertly made cocktails inside the basement of a rock-walled, wooden-timbered building from 1911 with vintage furniture and retro décor.
Tennessee’s Patterson House has been around for eight years but is still hush-hush, tucked away in a nondescript building with no sign in Nashville. The menu features classics like the Zombie and a Caipirinha as well as seasonal creations like the Trinidad Sling (Plantation rum, pineapple, Amaro di Angostura, Licor 43, grenadine and soda), new for spring.
Texas has its fair share of covert establishments but Austin’s Firehouse Lounge remains popular. Located in the city’s oldest firehouse (built in 1885), which also houses a hostel, the lounge is concealed behind a bookcase in the lobby. Craft cocktails and small bites like carnitas tacos and the Robert Johnson (blanco tequila, cassis, lime juice, hellfire shrub and cayenne pepper) are accompanied by live jazz, blues or rock music.
Utah’s Bodega, a convenience store/tavern on Salt Lake City’s Main Street, is above The Rest, an underground restaurant and bar. Guests go through Bodega and into an unmarked door with a special key, walk down a flight of stairs and enter another door to discover this hidden spot where you can order classics like the Old Fashioned as well as new creations.
Vermont is home to some amazing beer bars and the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington is one of them. A lot of people know about it, but not everyone knows that a Parlor hides downstairs. A secret room with a cozy fireplace and chill vibes, the bar is only open during the winter and on cold days when the patio is closed.
Virginia has several locations of doughnut shop Sugar Shack, and the one in Alexandria has a secret naval-themed bar called Captain Gregory’s. Small plates, creative desserts, and yes, doughnuts are served alongside complex cocktails with unlikely ingredients behind the garage-like door.
Washington’s Tavern Law pub in Seattle hides the Needle & Thread (upstairs and behind a steel safe), a tiny cocktail den with just 25 seats and no menu. All the drinks are custom-made and inspired by the Prohibition era.
Washington, D.C.’s Dram & Grain is tucked beneath Jack Rose. The reservations-only bar open on Saturdays is a cozy spot with an extensive cocktail list inspired by five cities: New Orleans, Tokyo, Havana, San Francisco and London. Each city corresponds to one of five cocktails on the new spring menu.
In West Virginia, The Fifth Floor provides food and drinks with a mountain view thanks to its location in a nondescript building in Clarksburg -- just take the elevator up to the fifth floor. Relaxed and friendly, the Fifth Floor is open for lunch and dinner, serving sandwiches and salads alongside beer, wine and a long list of martinis. It offers weekly drink specials, like this classic B-52.
Wisconsin has a few tricks up its sleeve and Bugsy’s Back Alley Speakeasy in Milwaukee is one of the best. Once inside Gouda’s Italian Deli, customers in the know head down the hallway and up the elevator to be transported to the roaring '20s. Flapper dancers and live music entertain every night as customers sip on classic cocktails and nibble light bites.
Wyoming’s Pitchfork Fondue is hidden in plain sight — it’s a tent with some picnic tables that offer a view of the Wind River Mountains, which most people would never realize is an amazing restaurant. The name is authentic; hand-trimmed meats are literally cooked over an open fire on a pitchfork in a western cookout that’s only open in warm weather.