Friday, September 4, 2009

Underground or Overexposed?

There is a "trend" in New York where the coolest stuff is unmarked, underground, uncallable. I'm pretty much into it so long as it's not super pretentious - i.e., not letting me in (I'm a girl, for Pete's sake!). My list of the favorite/must see "Secret Spots" in NY:

LA ESQUINA - The original underground. I don't think a restaurant could have more parts to it, and couldn't be nearly as loved by everyone.

SOUTHSIDE - Yeah, yeah, yeah....I gripe about it, but it's so fun to dance when all you want to do is dance with somebody. Right, Whitney?

LITTLE BRANCH - The most "fair" of the undergrounds - you wait, no matter what. And they have rules of etiquette, which I'm a huge fan of. The drinks are well worth the wait - ask for something with grapefruit!!

MACAO TRADING COMPANY - The real fun at this themed-but-ok-we'll-buy-it Tribeca outpost is the tiny room downstairs where private parties can be held and the bartender will fix you up absinthe concoctions - if you can grab one of the three stools in front of him. (Does anyone remember when this was the downstairs room at Sugar and we'd go there just because it was close and empty? No? Just me?)

HOTEL GRIFFOU - Unmarked, and not a hotel, but definitely well worth the search. Inside the rooms are divided up into rooms of a house, teaming with artwork, fabulous people, and celebrities (when I was there, Eric Bana, Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow - all at the table next to us!). The menu's from the people behind Freeman's and the front of house is worked by the people from The Waverly Inn ("fritz" is lurking around down there somewhere, I saw him!), so it can't be half bad. The real star is the bar, where Victorian French Wench types serve you up lovely libations.

BOWERY ELECTRIC - The downstairs isn't hidden or secret, but my goodness, you better have your best persuading face on when you go to challenge the doorwoman. FYI - you can only use "I had my birthday party here and it was SO fun please let me innnn" so many times on her.

PDT - Through a phone booth in a hotdog joint - the ultimate in frivolous hiding spots. When you get to the other side, there's a sliver of a bar serving up what I think are good cocktails - the last time I was here, things got completely out of hand and I ended up spilling my drink everywhere but my mouth.

KINGSWOOD - I've actually never ventured down here, but it's the same stuff as upstairs - Australian, West Village-y types grooving away.

THE BACK ROOM - Find it by looking for a Toy Factory sign, or that big bouncer dude standing outside of seemingly nothing. Once you're down through the medieval tunnel, keep walking and go up the stairs to enter a true speakeasy, where they serve beers in paper bags, drinks in tea cups, and Britney and the like pound from the speakers so the hipster set can let loose.

BURGER JOINT - In, of all places, the Parker-Meridien in midtown. Once you're in the lobby, follow the lines or the smell to a tiny little room off the entrance where they're serving up some of the best burgers and fries in town.

VOL DU NUIT - There is no way I would have ever known this was off Sixth Ave in the Village had my artsy NYU friend not brought me there. The entire place is awash in red, moody light, making it more suitable for Beatniks than heavy boozers, but they serve up a mighty list of Belgian beers...and Belgian fries (with mayonnaise!!!).

CHLOE81 - I probably won't be able to go back to this place because it's that cool. So cool that they insist you must have a reservation, be the bartender's roommate, or know the bouncer. I've never been turned away from here (knock on wood) but they certainly don't make it easy. And once inside it's practically empty - but ridiculously fun. Under Casani's (which is now something else) there lies a subway-tiled, dimly-lit party palace.

So, these really aren't "secret" so I'm not spoiling it for anyone - but they'll definitely take some work on finding them and getting in. Good luck!

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