With over 18,000 alcohol-serving establishments spread throughout the five boroughs, New York City is regularly in a state of good ol’ drunken merrymaking. Still, many of these locales may be just a bit too banal for the average bar hopper. Why sip at the ordinary surface-planted saloon, when you can go to a discreet subterranean spot?! For those who just imagined themselves bragging about their experience with the latter, here are 10 subterranean bars and lounges to satisfy the underground explorer within you!
Many of these locations are featured in the book New York Hidden Bars and Restaurants. Pick up a copy in our online store and check out a preview below:
8. The Ship, 158 Lafayette Street
The Ship is the creation of Cervantes Ramirez, who used to run Cervantes Oyster Shack, the hidden restaurant behind Cafe Select and Steve Choo, a graphic designer. On the outside, the stretch of Chinatown block looks nearly abandoned. But step inside and the scale of the space is impressive for the basement bar–with 19 foot ceilings. Reclaimed decor come from parts of the building itself–floorboards and watertanks–as well as from maritime origins–like in installation of recycled ship parts from Belgium and booths covered with old sails from a yacht club. Even Saarinen chairs are upholstered in U.S. Navy blankets. Known for its craft cocktails, it’s also a place where you can hear yourself over the music. A place that has become known through word of mouth only, the sign on the door was added later–because the bar was simply too impossible to find even if you were looking for it.
7. The Mulberry Project, 149 Mulberry St
The Mulberry Project may be like many underground spots of its species when judging by its somber lighting, limited space, and low-set ceilings, but it is its unmarked appearance and swanky style that set it apart. This sly locale in the streets of Little Italy presents a quality atmosphere evident in its gaudy decor. Though The Mulberry Project may offer little room to breathe, particularly on weekends, it does claim a fun outdoor space. Menu items like the Truffle Fries and distinct drink menu, make The Mulberry Project a favorite even with their costly prices. Unless you’ve mastered the skill of traversing land while crouching, do not wear heels or be too tall when visiting this bar.
6. Pulqueria, 11 Doyers St
In the midsts of Chinatown‘s infinite Chinese restaurants, bars and just everything really, Pulqueria operates in foreign territory. This Mexican style restaurant and bar can be very easily missed when judging by its discreet and admittedly unattractive curb appeal. Then again, what cool, trendy spot doesn’t look like it’s been ravaged by urban dilapidation? Once you’ve discovered the entrance, Pulqueria transports you to a surprisingly spacious and admirably decorated scene below grade. Its ultra fresh Guacamole Clasico and selection of delicious tacos will delight any palate, and though at $14 its famous flavored Pulque drinks may be pricey, they are truly refreshing.
5. Shalel Lounge, 65 W 70th St
Can you smell the roses yet? Even when underground, Shalel Lounge arouses visitors with its intoxicating aroma, stemming from the abundance of rose petals combined with the other floral furnishings. This chic Moroccan-style lounge in the Upper West Side presents the perfect ambience whether it be for romance or congregation among friends, or even more ideally, romantic congregations among friends! With its pervasive exposed brick walls, charming furniture, and awesome water features, Shalel Lounge does much to keep your eyes wandering. Though the drink menu does much to satisfy variety, Shahel’s Lamb Meatballs and Bacon Wrapped specialties are just two of the many delicious options available here.
4. 124 Old Rabbit Club, 124 MacDougal St
Like many bars throughout the city, 124 Old Rabbit Club plummets you into a dark and seemingly disheartening place. Unlike many bars throughout the city, 124 Old Rabbit Club creates this atmosphere with…wait for it…rabbits! This underground club in the Greenwich Village features multiple graphics of bunnies and though they may not be exactly cute (maybe they’re just too urban), they are a thing to look at. The little speakeasy style hideaway offers a great number of German, English and Belgian beers among other drinks. Despite it being dark,—too dark to make out the drink menu at times— 124 Old Rabbit Club is definitely cushy and entertaining with its busy, but never crowded space.
3. Nitecap, 120 Rivington Street
Run by Death & Company owners David Kaplan and Alex Day, Nitecap is located in the old wine cellar of Schapiro’s, a bar named after the Lower East Side wine company that once made 120 Rivington Street its home. Come here for a hidden bar with a menu that offers $4 beers and $14 cocktails, all original though rooted in the classics.
2. Sake Bar Decibel, 240 E 9th St
For those who love sake, Sake Bar Decibel is the place for you. This underground hole in the wall calls the East Village home. Like many underground spots of its kin, Sake Bar Decibel is an amiably condensed space ideal for parties of two. The sake can be a bit more costly, but there’s an extensive selection for the connoisseur, from the Rihaku, to the Kikusui. Just as popular is the yummy lineup of appetizers; one can’t go wrong with the Shrimp Dumplings or Japanese Pancakes.
1. Little Branch, 22 7th Ave South
You might have passed by the entrance to this meek venue during one of your many buzzed excursions through the West Village and easily dismissed it for the grimy, dubious entry it appears to be. But lurking behind this shrouded doorway is one of the city’s most frequented lounges. Upon descending to the space, you’ll be submerged in its cozy and chic ambience.
Though compact, Little Branch serves a great choice for a party of two, three at the most due to its dim-lighted atmosphere. The spot’s speakeasy impression and live jazz are easily nostalgic. Though a bit more pricey than others, Little Branch’s full bar concocts a tasty array of drinks, and perks include complimentary homemade pretzels. Be sure to arrive early or you’ll be met with a lengthy line before plunging past the door.
Get in touch with the author: @Brennan_NYC. Check out more hard-to-find (but not necessarily underground) bars in our article on Covert Cocktails: 11 Hidden Bars in NYC and our list of Top 10 Hidden Restaurants in NYC.