Down below: A guide to NYC basement bars
I have a few fears in my life: darkness, spiders, Ryan Seacrest and basements. I’m not sure what haunts me the most about those spaces, perhaps it’s the lack of windows or the fact that when I was a child, I used to believe that monsters lived in the basement of my house. Thank goodness that with time and maturity, I’ve grown out of that silly phase or else I would be missing out on numerous amazing bars and restaurants hidden at the sub terrain level.
With space always being an issue here in NYC, many bars and restaurants opt to take advantage of the lower levels of buildings to set up shop. Just a few steps downstairs can lead you to a cellar of delicious libations and an evening away from the chaos on the streets. Need a suggestion or two? No worries. I’ve visited a few of these spots and have the insiders scoops on the goods.
The Cellar at Beecher’s
900 Broadway New York, NY 10003
A few of my favorite things in life include alcohol, cheese and exposed brick. This bar has them all. Tucked underneath Beecher’s, known for their homemade cheese, is The Cellar which boasts a lively cocktail menu, wonderful wine selection and food made with their in house cheeses. Sit by the bar or opt for one of their large, comfortable leather chairs. But get here on the early side because this spot only stays open until 11pm Sunday-Wednesday and midnight the rest of the week.
20 7th Avenue South NY 10011
One of the earlier “speakeasy” spots in NYC, Little branch has been serving up some Gothamites favorite drinks in the city. This spot is known for its “Bartenders Choice” cocktails that never fail. The entrance is located at the corner of Leroy and South 7th avenue and you will often times see a few thirsty patrons lingering outside. The bar itself is small, so try your luck on a weekday evening on the early or later ends.
W Hotel 201 Park Ave South, New York, NY 10003
Underbar got a well deserved face-lift with this new bar that opened a few months ago in the basement of the W Hotel in Union Square. Guests of the hotel can access a private elevator to take them to this underground oasis, otherwise walk through the revolving door on 17th street and head downstairs. This bar is complete with a breathtaking metal ceiling design, video art installations from the Moma, and live DJs spinning tunes Wednesdays through Saturday. And unlike other hip lounges in NYC, customers can bypass the bottle service and grab table reservations by sipping some of Lilium’s fresh and scrumptious cocktails instead. Try the Black Lilly (vodka, fresh blackberry juice & champagne) or the Grassy Kroll (bison grass vodka, fresh muddled ginger and lemongrass) that are both winners in my book. Come or a drink, stay for a dance and get lost in a good time here.
25 Ave B New York, NY 10009
Beer, bourbon and burgers? The best alliteration I’ve heard in a while. Located underneath Billy Hurricane’s in the East Village, this bar keeps its customers satisfied and constantly coming back for more. With prices that are wallet friendly and a knowledgeable staff of bartenders, Idle Hands is known not only as a great spot to grab a drink but also a venue which opens its door to many charity events/fundraisers and classes about beer for the public. It’s a personal favorite of mine and after a visit, I have no doubt it will be one of yours.
124 Old Rabbit Club
124 MacDougal St New York, NY 10012
If beer is more your speed, then be sure to visit this bar located in the heart of Greenwich Village. With minimal signage denoting this spot, it remains tucked away from the crazy street of MacDougal. Get adventurous and try one of their various beer offerings from an extensive listing they put together. Don’t worry, the bartenders are there to walk you through the different tastes and types of brews and they won’t lead you astray.
11 Doyers Street New York, NY 10013
Sometimes finding the basement to a building can be difficult, but try also finding a tucked away street in Chinatown with a hidden basement bar. Game on. Named for pulque, a milk-colored, alcoholic beverage deriving from the fermented sap of the maguey plant, this point boasts a cocktail menu incorporating pulque into the drinks such as the Jicama (fresh jicama, pulque, tequila, agave, lime) and outstanding Mexican food. If you can’t get south of the boarder anytime soon, at least you can go south of the street level for a Mexican escape.
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