Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Apr 24, 2014 12:34 PM

Fakeeasy Trend

Someone on the Boston board recently posted on the Boston Board asking for one of the new retro Speakeasy joints.

As being the curmudgeon just comes naturally to me...

I didn't even post on the thread, and will confess I've never been to one of the New Old speakeasy style places cause they're just not that big here in Boston.

But the basic premise of the whole thing just seems silly to me. Now I'm not a Disney World type of guy, or a cruise ship kind of guy.

I'd rather take a walk in Savannah Georgia, or take my kids fishing in a Florida swamp than experience the carefully crafted/managed world of Disney.

Likewise, as far as I remember prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, so noone has had to be secretive about serving booze for a long time.

Want to have a casual old timey bar with a few bartenders wearing handle bar mustaches... okay I guess. Have to knock three times and know a password to get in... that's just silly.

Booze is legal, we're all adults, heck give me an authentic dive bar if any of them are left, but fake fun has always reeked of amateur night to me. Hello Epcot.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. So, what do you think of BackBar as an example.

    (For non-Bostonians, walk down an alley, open a nondescript industrial door. Enter a concrete hallway. Open another nondescript door. Enter hidden bar with best-in-class cocktails and service.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: EvergreenDan

      I've only been to BackBar once, but fantastic cocktails. Sam did a great job.

      1. re: EvergreenDan

        I'll confess I haven't been yet... Two little kids limiting my nights out ;-)

      2. Striper- The so called Speakeasy bar trend ended a few years ago, at least in the major cocktail cities. Never heard of any that had a password, special knock, etc. It just meant that they had a small or non-existant sign and weren't advertised.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          I still hear that Please Don't Tell in N.Y.C. requires you to use the payphone in the hotdog shack next door to ask to get in.

          1. re: yarm

            These days it's just a de facto buzzer, that summons the host/hostess to open the door.

            1. re: kathryn

              Basically it was always a phone as a buzzer.

        2. I think passwords and all that are kind of silly, but that said, what I have enjoyed about the "nouveau speakeasies" that I've been to in NYC or SF, is the ability to get a well made drink in a quiet atmosphere and possibly a reservation system.

          I could care less about the rest of the schtick, but I do long for more intimate, mellow places with perfectly executed cocktails. Sadly, most of the bars that aren't crowded aren't necessarily adept at making a solid cocktail (all I'm asking for is the classics). On the plus side, competent drink making is making a come back although it's still a bit of a mine field out there.

          One rarity (and old favorite) in Cambridge is Green Street. No attitude, doesn't get too crowded, they make perfect drinks, and you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a cocktail. I just wish we had more places like them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Klunco

            Totally agree that the intimate atmosphere more than makes up for the charm of the speakeasy premise wearing thin over time.

            Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco is a good example. You can walk into the bar without a reservation, but it's a much better experience to reserve a spot at Wilson & Wilson, the speakeasy half of the establishment. The first time, it's a fun experience. The second time, you realize you're quite uncomfortable waiting in a dicey neighborhood for someone to answer the buzzer. Still, I'll go back for the great drinks and service.

          2. I like the ones that are called that after the fact - like Backbar and Brick & Mortar in Somerville and Cambridge, MA. They "advertise" by word of mouth, have very little signage, etc. Perhaps they are trying to be more selective in who walks in the door (although I do remember the story of a party bus stopping at Brick & Mortar expecting to find the Enormous Room...)

            There will always be the bars that put Speakeasy in the title and then promote themselves vigorously with that. I do remember one by the Symphony that tried to do that; I was curious until I saw photos inside with Buckhunter video games and uninspired beer tap handles. I won't call out still existent establishments though.


            2 Replies
            1. re: yarm

              Frank Lloyd Wright often made the entrance to a home fairly inconspicuous. Many times the foyer had a low ceiling height. The effect is that once you enter the living room (or main room), you have a feeling of welcome and having arrived.

              I get the same feeling when I enter Backbar or Brick and Mortar. You feel like you've found this hidden gem. You are excited and anticipate the great experience before you. And you feel welcome because you found it, are past the threshold, and are "in the room."

              1. re: yarm

                I might have been there that night at B&M. At least, I was here one night earlier on when a party bus rolled up. It was mayhem, was taking upwards of 45 mins to get drinks

              2. I like the ones that were ALWAYS speakeasies and just never bothered to remodel, no secret knock or password anymore.

                there was one in Chicago on the North side, a friend said it was a place you had to go. period. walked in, quiet coffee house/bar, dull, couldn't figure out the appeal. people kept walking in and going to the back, got curious, found a huge coatroom, walked further and by the bathroom doors was an identical unmarked one, led to a heavily padded corridor and another heavier door and found our selves in an ENORMOUS night club the size of 3 tennis courts blasting thumpa-thumpa music. somewhere in St. Louis there's a house once you're in the front door there's another that opens on stairs leading to a 2-story basement room, small but very obscure, word has it they stayed that way after repeal for tax purposes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: hill food

                  Those two are entirely different, it's the faux I object to.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    there is (was?) one in NYC I liked in the Village, PR spin said it was once been and then remodeled in the 90's - no sign, one ducked down some stairs under a blue coffee cup sign followed an alley and re-entered into a space that was too luxe to be original, although you could exit through the chinese restaurant upstairs. had the layout of a (il)legit, but I'm pretty darn sure it was new (1997)

                    otherwise yeah, they're too cute to (what verb meaning regurgitation rhymes with 'cute'?