You'd Never Find This New York Speakeasy, Flickr: pravin8

Inside The Raines Law Room


You’re walking back and forth on 17th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in New York. You see plenty of bars and restaurants … except The Raines Law Room. Why can’t you find it?

Well, there aren’t any signs. You won’t find people milling around out front in outdoor seating. This is one of New York’s speakeasies, a nod to the era of Prohibition, an unfortunate chapter in American history that, fortunately, has been relegated to the past. Named for a law in New York intended to slash liquor consumption with taxes and the banning of sales on Sundays, The Raines Law Room offers a surprise at every turn.

When you finally find 48 W. 17th Street, you have to ring the doorbell. The host will greet you and invite you inside if there’s room. Should you face a full house, he’ll take your phone number and call you – be ready for a blocked number when your cell rings. Of course, if the weather’s nice, you can tell the host you’d like to hang out in the garden out back (which I highly recommend).

Inside, the dark atmosphere will make you feel like you’re on the brink of illicit behavior. The tables have doorbells, of sorts, that you can press to summon a waiter. Why? Think like you would have in the days of Prohibition: privacy is paramount. There are also small rooms for larger parties.

In the back the building, you’ll find the bar – and you’d be nuts not to go back and take a peek. This is where the bar’s incredible cocktails are created, with fresh fruits cut by hand when the cocktails are being prepared. These silent professionals work carefully and diligently to craft perfection and they don’t feel any pressure under your prying eyes.

Go back to your table, and poke through the menu. Be prepared to read for a while, as there are plenty of options, from “tall and fizzy” to “stirred and potent” and beyond. Since I enjoy dark rum, my favorite is the Old Cuban, which starts with a dark liquor aged seven years from Flor de Cana. The drinks are a bit pricey, starting at $13, but you’re paying for the experience as well as the cocktail.

What goes with rum? For me, it’s a cigar. So, when I hit The Raines Law Room, I sit out back, where I can light up a My Father or Guillermo Leon Signature and puff while I sip. There are both tables and love seats in the garden, with lots of seating available. Even when there’s no room inside, you can generally find something out back.

If you’re looking for the sort of New York memory that nobody else can claim, spend an evening at The Raines Law Room. It’s the type of place that makes Manhattan the envy of the outside world, and you can take it with you forever.

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photo: pravin8

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