Want to know a secret? PDT stands for “Please Don’t Tell,” and it’s one of NYC’s most notorious speakeasies: a swank cocktail den hidden inside an East Village hot dog shop, noted for its very unusual entrance. When you step inside the vintage telephone booth at Crif Dogs, it’s not to make a phone call. Lift the receiver and a hidden door opens to reveal a dimly lit room with a long bar, leather booths and taxidermy accents. Make sure to follow PDT’s rules of etiquette (No. 1: “Treat others how you would like to be treated.”) as you sip craft cocktails and snack on chef-inspired specialty hot dogs. Reservations are recommended, taken same-day when the bar’s phone lines open at 3pm.
PDT isn’t the only clandestine spot in town. The next time you’re looking for a romantic adventure, make a date of seeking out the city’s other secret spaces. Unmarked doors and disguised entryways give way to lush speakeasies and underground restaurants. Part of the thrill is finding your way inside. Here’s the lowdown on accessing NYC’s romantic hidden hot spots:
The Campbell Apartment
Did you know there’s a secret bar in Grand Central Terminal? You’ll find the door to The Campbell Apartment near the train station’s Vanderbilt entrance. Step back in time as you enter the ornate, wood-paneled room with soaring ceilings and stained glass windows. The breathtaking space was once an office for 1920s mogul John W. Campbell. Today, invoke the glamour days of Gatsby and toast your date with the bar’s signature cocktail, Prohibition punch.
On Midtown’s Theater Row, Joe Allen’s is a well-known Broadway establishment, attracting theater-goers and stars alike, but next door you’ll find the unmarked Bar Centrale, a VIP-style speakeasy reserved for those in the know. Walk up the steps to the left of Joe Allen and discover a laid-back space with a jazzy, 1940s vibe. A small plates menu offers a variety of upscale snacks, from a caviar platter to lobster quesadillas. Here, witness theater A-listers drinking classic cocktails in their usual booths. Make a reservation; seating is mandatory.
Sometimes, you’ll discover a secret bar inside a bar. Brooklyn’s latest hidden spot, Featherweight, is accessed through Sweet Science, a hip, boxing-themed restaurant and bar in East Williamsburg serving up Southern-inspired eats like fried pickles and chicken and biscuits. To find your way inside, look for the boxer mural. Featherweight’s mixologists turn out serious cocktails like the scabbard: a spicy, tropical, Pimm’s-based affair.
Follow the Lower East Side Toy Company sign through a narrow alleyway to gain entry to the Back Room, a plush speakeasy where cocktails come in tea cups and a revolving bookcase leads to the bar’s eponymous, invite-only back room. The space’s history dates back to the Prohibition era, when gangsters like Bugsy Siegel made the list of the bar’s most infamous clientele.