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"Speakeasy" type bars in Boston?

Does anyone know of a "speakeasy" type bar in Boston? Something along the lines of Employees Only or Milk and Honey?

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  1. You mean a members' only bar? Or just one that's 1920s-centric? Or both?

    1. 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.

      1. Places like PDT and Death & Co? Well, sure, but why would I ever tell you?

        1. 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...

          1. Oh for The Pioneer and Estelle's that they were still around.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Taralli

              And Woodley's in North Cambridge. Yuengling draft was a buck, there were comfy couches at the entrance to its basement location, and the dartboards were always fun.

            2. 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.

              1. I don't know if "speakeasy" is the right description, but Silvertone is cool. It's on Bromfield Street and you have to go downstairs.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Roons

                  Our House West at 1277 Comm. Ave., Allston has a speakeasy feel although it is prmarily a post-collegiate bar.

                  It is several steps below ground and has built-in couches which makes for a vaguely speakeasy atmosphere.

                  1. re: postemotional1

                    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....

                2. 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....

                  1. 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.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I have the sad news that Jacob Wirth's has replaced it's classic bar top with a shiny new one..beers still good but the renovations are not a change for the better..imo

                      1. re: 9lives

                        My immediate reaction is that this is a shame, but I'll have to go and see/mourn for myself.

                      2. 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!

                        1. 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 ;)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: blackdahlia

                            Thanks for the great suggestions... I may have to extend my stay or skip my trip to ICA to try all these places.

                            1. re: Miccygan

                              For what it's worth, the top three on her list are my faves and where you'll probably be most impressed, at least as far as the booze goes.

                            2. re: blackdahlia

                              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.

                              1. re: blackdahlia

                                Here's a nod to the people at Green Street, Deep Ellum and Stephen at Dante - http://weeklydig.com/department-comme...

                              2. 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. ;)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: litchick

                                  Hmmmmmm..... not to take away from the caché of its speakeasy nature, but where is the BU pub located? My wife has a BU id, and $5 glasses of 16 year old scotch are not a bad thing indeed.....

                                  1. re: heWho

                                    It's in the same building called "the castle" -- just around the side entrance. The castle's address is 225 Bay State Rd; the pub entrance is actually on Granby St.


                                    They've got sandwiches too. But they're not super fantastic. The draw is the drink.