Time to party like it’s 1929!
Ah, the era of seedy glamour — alcohol-filled bars, dimly-lit rooms, and girls showing a little more knee than was previously acceptable. The Prohibition is well-known to all Americans, mostly as the prime example that you can take the people out of the party, but you can’t take the party out of the people. While these days it’s completely fine to wear a miniskirt and drink to your hearts content, there’s something strangely fascinating and sexy about bars that reflect the old Prohibition speakeasy culture. These 10 bars reflect the iconic 1920s speakeasy scene and are just a secretive, hidden, and alluring as the lounges that existed almost a century ago.
1. The Lock & Key in Los Angeles, California
Tucked away in an unassuming building on Vermont and 3rd, the Lock & Key is a dim, rectangular room painted black. There are dozens of door handles that force you to grope around in the dark in an effort to find just the right handle—all while the doorman says “you’re getting warmer.” That’s kind of annoying. Anyways, once inside, you can order fancy craft cocktails like the “Razzle Dazzle,” the “Naked Piña,” and the “Secret Coalition.” They even offer punch bowl sizes!
2. The Noble Experiment in San Diego, California
Things are not always as they appear: The Noble Experiment is tucked away inside a popular downtown San Diego restaurant. What may look like a stack of kegs at the end of the hall near the restrooms is actually a secret door that leads to a bar so elite and exclusive that reservations are required several days in advance. The gothic-style speakeasy—complete with brass skulls and Rembrandt-style paintings—add to the dark allure of this intimate watering hole.
3. The Safe House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Down an unassuming alley in Milwaukee and tucked away behind a false lobby for “international exports” lies one of the coolest speakeasies in America. The Safe House has truly stuck to its “spy theme” since 1966, providing “crafty concoctions and incredible edibles to hungry agents.” Sworn not to reveal the location of the safe house, secret agents can only find this spy-haven by word of mouth—or, I guess, right here. There is a password to enter the bar, but it is ever-changing and based on the hour in which you arrive. Good luck!
4. Williams & Graham in Denver, Colorado
You know those hidden doors behind bookshelves in 1920s films? Well, Williams & Graham took that to a whole new level by hiding the entire bar behind a bookshop. What may look like an old-timey book shop is anything but—that is, if you can find the secret door. Williams & Graham features a serious list of whiskeys, gins, cordials, and wines, making this speakeasy a drinker’s delight. Make sure to ask for the “Blackberry Sage Smash,” the bar’s signature drink, and enjoy the cocktail’s fresh blackberries, sarge, and Williams & Graham Select Single Barrel Knob Creek bourbon.
5. The Violet Hour in Chicago, Illinois
The Violet Hour may be one of Chicago’s longest-running and best-known speakeasies, but one of maybe the hardest ones to get in to. The bar is completely camouflaged behind an ever-changing mural. Once you’ve found the handle and navigate through the drapes, you’ll find a glamorous bar and lounge with fancy hors d’oeuvres and even fancier specialty cocktails like the “Five Times Fast.”
6. The Midnight Cowboy in Austin, Texas
Got a friend named Harry? For access to the Midnight Cowboy, you’ll have to make reservations, find the signs that say “Modeling” and “Oriental Massage” on Austin’s 6th street, and, well, pretend to know Harry. Once you’ve found the unassuming door, you have to buzz the name “Harry Craddock.” After all of these steps, you’ll finally find your way into one of Austin’s coolest drinking establishments. In keeping with the speakeasy-vibe (and incredibly awesome given how addicted we are to our phones) there’s a staunch no-photo policy. You definitely need a reservation and the place is so popular, you can only stay for two hours max. Now you know Harry!
7. PDT in New York City, New York
Trust NYC to have the coolest way to enter a speakeasy! The entrance to PDT (short for “Please Don’t Tell,” naturally) is through a phone booth inside of “Crif Dogs,” a hot dog joint that serves as its front. This intimate East Village watering hole is arguably the city’s most popular speakeasy—and given the NYC is essentially the capital of secret bars, that’s really saying something!
8. PX in Alexandria, Virginia
In the words of Paul Revere, “One if by land, and two if by sea, look for the blue light to find this secret speakeasy!” PX, a popular—and incredibly inconspicuous—speakeasy in Alexandria, Virginia, can only be found if the blue lantern is lit above an unmarked door. Dress to impress—PX is a classy, quiet establishment with drinks concocted with house-made bitters and fresh juices (each with hilarious names like “The Arsonist Has Oddly Shaped Feet” and “Granny is Drunk and Flirting with the Frenchman.”) The speakeasy transports you way back to the roaring 20s with its crystal stiffing glasses, dim lighting, and antique chandeliers. The owner oversees even the finest of details: He orders a monthly shipment of quinine so he can make homemade tonic! Talk about dedication!
9. Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency in San Francisco, CA
This speakeasy isn’t exactly the hardest to find because of its popularity, a line quickly forms at the corner of Jones and O’Farrell in San Francisco. Once you get to the front, you better know the password to get through the doors. A woman will then escort you through a winding dark hallway to another door. She will press a doorbell and whisper another password. The last door opens and you will finally find yourself in the Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency. The velvet wallpaper and antique glassware, coupled with the menu and drinks list hidden inside a file case, give this 1930s-style speakeasy a undercover detective feel.
10. Backbar in Somerville, MA
Toted as Union Square’s hippest bar, Backbar is tucked away behind its sister restaurant, Journeyman. Down the alleyway off of Sanborn Court in Somerville, Massachusetts, a discrete metal placard marks the entrance to this popular Prohibition-style speakeasy. The cozy lounge has an extensive menu that includes cool extras like mocktails and smoked ice cubes. With its free wi-fi, spicy caramel popcorn with bacon, and specialty olive oil cocktails (AKA “Genius Hour”), Backbar has become incredibly popular with post-work patrons and their laptops.