The nicest bars in New York do not come with red carpets, velvet ropes and bouncers in black suits. Speakeasies is the word and Prohibition-themed drinking spots is taking over the nightlife scene, one brown paper bag at a time.
One of the speakeasies, which actually existed during Prohibition, is The Back Room on Lower East Side, and Tina and I went there one night to kill some time before a dinner reservation at Sushi Ko. If you don’t know where to look for The Back Room, chances are you’ll miss it, as there are absolutely no indications revealing that the anonymous entrance hides one of the most peculiar waterholes in the city.
Luckily, Tina had been there several times before, so she guided us down the stairs, through a sub-street level corridor, then up a couple of stairs again. We made it! We opened the door and slipped inside a cozy, dark room.
We went to sit in the bar and ordered each our drink, which was poured in cute little teacups. Tina is Danish, but she was born in Vietnam and as you know, I was born in Korea. When we started talking, the bartender therefore gave us a funny look, before he picked up the courage to ask us, what language it was. We explained to him that it was indeed Danish, and he looked even more puzzled. Shortly after, two blonde girls sat down next to us, and the first thing the bartender says is “Please don’t tell me you speak Chinese!” The girls looked really confused and didn’t get it at all, but Tina and I were laughing our guts out.
Stepping into The Back Room, is like stepping into a time long gone. The room is dimly lit, and people speak quietly around the tables. The cocktails are served in teacups and beer bottles come in brown paper bags, so nobody can see what you’re drinking.
The Back Room can be a bit tricky to find. Sometimes, there’s a bouncer-type person standing out on the street near the stairs leading down to the tiny alley, but at other times, you’ll have to find your way yourself. I’ve tried to explain how to get there in the images below. They publish a weekly password on their website, but I have never been asked for one.
• There’s a secret VIP room behind a bookcase at The Back Room.
• As far as I’m concerned, there’s no dress code (though real fur is not allowed), but most people tend to dress up a little. Cocktails are $12-14.
• Friday and Saturday you have to be 25 or older to get in.