"Speakeasy" type bars in Boston?
- Miccygan Jan 10, 2008 09:48 AM
Does anyone know of a "speakeasy" type bar in Boston? Something along the lines of Employees Only or Milk and Honey?
I don't know your examples, but I went to Wally's for my very first time last nite (about time) and I kind of got that feeling there. It was cool.
The basement of The Good Life on Kingston Street used to have a speakeasy feel to it, but I think it may have changed a bit.
If you've had enough beers, the main bar area at Doyle's in JP can have a kind of speakeasy feel to it.
I can't think of anything quite like Chumley's in NYC around here, though...
For bars that have a speakeasy type feel, I think of the Good Life and Lucky's in Southie.
Beehive tries to bill itself as a speakeasy, but I for one am not buying it.
As for the real thing, the closest I've come to in Boston is a number of loft parties in the South End and Chinatown. Non-descript doors which lead to long stair ways, which lead to a big party... seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Perhaps it has changed since I was there a number of years ago, but I would not consider Our House to be on the level of any of the NYC speakeasy type bars/cocktail places that I believe the OP is asking about. When I was there there were some ratty couches and things, ala early dorm room/frat house, and a similar vibe....
I would try Biddy Early's. Weggie's Pub or TC's Lounge all more "divey" than "speakeasy".
Lucky's Lounge is the closest to a speakeasy style with no signs from the outside that it is even there. Though once inside it is definitely more upscale than a speakeasy....
I know the Manhattan bars you're talking about.
If you mean "serious purveyor of high-craft cocktails, notably Golden Age classic", your options include the B-Side Lounge, the bar at No. 9 Park, Eastern Standard, and Green Street. A small step down are the bars at The Alchemist, Deep Ellum, The Biltmore, and Chez Henri (Cuban cocktail specialists); I hear Highland Kitchen might make this list, but I haven't been. The luxury hotel bars can be good on the old-school stuff, especially the Rowes Wharf bar, which definitely feels like a hideaway, the Oak Bar, the Bar at the Taj, and Rialto. Locke-Ober probably belongs on this list, too: great old-time, high-polish atmosphere.
Gaslight has an interesting cocktail menu, though the overall level of craft varies. I've had some excellent and some pretty crap bartending at The Beehive.
If you mean retro-Twenties, Art Deco decor, that's a bit tougher. Maybe someone with better understanding of interior design might comment on this. The bar at Icarus is one that comes to mind; their bartenders are respectable.
As for hidden entrances (no sign, no street number), I think O ya fits that bill. Oishii Boston (South End) can be easy to miss if the valet isn't standing out front.
J.J. Foley's Cafe in the South End was a tavern 100 years ago, then a suspiciously popular shoe store during Prohibition. They restored it a little bit a couple of years ago, preserving but freshening up its 1900-era look, but it's not a place for cocktail lovers. Jacob Wirth and Doyle's are similar in their authentic 19th-century look (and focus on beer and highballs).
Another take of mine on Boston's cocktail scene here: www.chowhound.com/topics/426868
I also recommend the blog www.drinkboston.com ; lots of good info on the scene, its star bartenders, cocktail events, and interesting spirits, bitters, and cocktails.
Not even close to the aforementioned EO or M&H, but the Thirsty Ear on the MIT campus is a hoot. No secret handshake required but has the requisite basement location with no signage. That's about where the comparison to "serious purveyor of high-craft cocktails, notably Golden Age classic" stops and the drunken fun begins!
I ask the same question as boston bob. We really don't have any of those cool places like in NYC such as Death and Co, Waverly Inn, Milk and Honey, Employees Only. That type of venue is yet to be seen in our fair city. However, I do believe that this is a type of watering hole that is much needed in our city, and feel WOULD do very well. The cult of the cocktail is very alive and well in Boston, and I can only hope that some industrious mixologist opts to open one such a place. In lieu of such a place, there are only wonderful mixologists who show off their talent in some great places. I can suggest the following for you (some of which have already been mentioned in previous replies):
John Gertsen and his team at No. 9 Park (Ryan and Ben)
Misty Kalkofen or Dylan Black at Green Street Grill
Jackson Cannon and his team at Eastern Standard (keep in mind that this is one of the hottest joints in town and is often VERY crowded, especially during Sox season)
Cousin Dave and the team at B-Side Lounge
Max Toste and his team at Deep Ellum
Lino and his team at Upstairs on the Square
Stephen Shellenberger at Dante (he is actually the head waiter, but often jumps behind the bar to make highly artisinal and creative mind blowing cocktails for regulars or those who ask for him to make something creative for them)
Todd at Rialto
Alice at Noir
Adam Grushey at Church
Josh Childs or Cedrick at Silvertone Bar and Grill
Vincent Conte at Pho Republique
Daniel at Radius
Bill Codman at Gaslight
James Dorsey at Highland Kitchen
If you want to have the TRUE old school speakeasy vibe thru and thru I would highly suggest The Oak Room in the Copley Fairmont or Locke-Ober. However, keep in mind these things....The Oak Room is a hotel bar...so the creativity isn't always there with the bartenders you get there. They have a good enough cocktail list, but they don't often stray from what you are offered. Locke-Ober doesn't have a cocktail list at all. Know what you want when you go there. I would suspect that most of the customers there ask for the basics....such as gin or vodka martini's, scotch on the rocks, bourbon neat, etc. However, if you LOVE cocktails and you do go to Locke-Ober, ask them for a copy of their souvenier 1938 menu. The entire page of classic Jerry Thomas style cocktails will blow your mind and make you wish they still made them. Oh, and if you love classics, don't ask them to make their famous Ward 8 cocktail...it's made with roses' grenadine and sour mix not fresh squeezed. It would serve you better to have one of the above mixologists make you one ;)
If you ask nicely, Locke Ober will make the Ward 8 with freshly squeezed juice.
Oh, this thread reminds me: I finally had Eastern Standard's Jack Rose..... nice attempt, but mine's better. ;-) I think by having the fresh grenadine, it emboldens them to use more of it, making the drink a little too sweet. Nevertheless, Jackson is da man.
I wouldn't refer to Ryan as simply being part of John's "team"--he's a better bartender than almost everyone else on your list.
The BU pub is kind of "members only" (you need a BU id, or a companion with one) lacks any kind of noticeable sign, is below street level, is slightly grungy, and they'll pour you things like double shots of 16 yr old lagavulin for $5 a pop.
My kinda place. When I'm not at Green St. ;)