New York is a city where everything is put under the microscope; to truly fly under the radar, you have to really try. A low-key favorite spot where “you only know if you know” could be, the next day, where everyone is flocking. So New Yorkers love their hidden spaces, even those that aren’t truly hidden or entirely secret. There’s an appeal, too, to places that are semi-secretive, and which you wouldn’t know about by just walking by: the bar in the back of the restaurant, or the space underneath the place you usually go to for breakfast. Here, ten of them to check out this summer.
Looking to shop for a suit while drinking Old Fashioneds? Inside the new Neiman Marcus store in Hudson Yards, there’s a cocktail bar called Bar Stanley toward the back of the second floor. There, you can eat lobster club sandwiches and drink pricy cocktails like a Gibson. This is real Fancy Man territory.
This bar is operated by one of the city’s best cocktail bartenders, Sother Teague, in the East Village’s popular Local 92. It’s reached, first, by navigating the neighborhood crowd inside, then going to the cerulean-blue door that’s tucked away in the back. There are 18 seats, and the space is dimly lit and feels like someone’s semi-private canteen you stumbled into from an alley.
This is a bit of Russian doll of secret spaces, being a hidden bar located in a fifth-floor restaurant and all. Bookbinders is in Thomas Keller’s TAK Room, and with its marble fireplace and green velvet sofas it’s designed to look like the throwback, clubby bar that old New York aristocrats would’ve drunk Manhattans at back in the day. (Reservations can be made by calling 929-450-4050 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
What’s that? A bar that’s not only a secret space but also a resurrected version of a mourned one that was not so long ago a quintessentially downtown cool and exclusive spot with a connection to, of course, the Strokes. That era might be gone — as you’ve no doubt read, rock music is over — but at least you can play late 2000s New York in the windowless, basement space.
Art galleries aren’t usually where you go to eat, but you have to go through one to get to this Greenwich Village restaurant that opened a couple of weeks back. It’s a small room, with an 18-seat counter and 6-seat table, and dinner means a five-course ($124) tasting menu from a chef who has worked for the likes of Alain Ducasse.
You probably think of Gertie as a place to go for your morning bialy and coffee. But it’s advertised as an all-day spot, by which they actually mean all day and night. Owner Nate Adler has quietly opened up an unadvertised, intimate downstairs space, where they’ve been hosting a Thursday night party called Café Bogart. There’s a strong sound system and soundproofing, with a few plants to make it feel less like a basement and a backyard with stadium seating, too. It’ll be used for both for private events (“Dinner parties that turn into dance parties,” owner Nate Adler says), and as a cultural space for showing movies, exhibitions, and sports games.
The Hidden Pearl
Like Blue Quarter, this Greenpoint bar is an excellent destination for cocktails that’s tucked away in a neighborhood restaurant. The door is at the end of the long, narrow dining room and not visible from the street. This isn’t, though, your typical bourbon-washed faux-speakeasy that’s all dark wood and classic cocktails. There’s a skylight, shiplap and navy-blue paint, and an escapist theme, amplified by the seclusion, that takes tropical cues from Okinawa, Japan.
Bars and restaurants hiding in retail stores aren’t new to New York. But the Florida caviar company Marky’s Group takes it to another level, operating an all-caviar tasting menu ($200 for seven courses) restaurant called HŪSO out of their store Marky’s on Madison. Dishes like Alaskan king crab merus with belgua di venezia are served in the 12-seat room, which has a very aquatic feel with its blue walls and chairs. During the day, there’s an à la carte menu and coffee.
If you happened to walk past Hall on the street and hadn’t heard of it, you’d think it was just another one of those all-day cafés that have opened in spades around the city. But there’s a discreet door toward the back that’s a portal to the rarefied, ultraseasonal world of kaiseki as served by Odo. A 14-seat sushi counter that’s flanked by chefs, it’s a windowless space where you could imagine yourself reenacting Anthony Bourdain’s ortolan scene from Medium Raw — just with some expertly made sushi, too.
All the hot new developments have trendy restaurants in the buildings as amenities for the monied residents. But what about a restaurant in one of the actual condos? Resident doesn’t occupy one space, but several in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg, where dinners are hosted in a condo in a still under-construction building. Each supper club means a multicourse dinner, which might feature pasta or caviar, and wine pairings.