In a city filled with immeasurable options of where to go, the vogue of clandestine bars and restaurants has taken off with great success. The question of “Why?” has increasingly reverberated with me. This trend focuses less on who you know and more about what you know. The importance and status of being a ‘true’ New Yorker is deeply seeded in this trend. The exclusivity of these places is based on the premise that the patrons of these ’secret’ places have an intimate knowledge of the city that social status alone doesn’t afford.
Reservations must be made the day of, if allowed at all, and once inside these back rooms there are inevitably one or two more back rooms that one must penetrate. Are the foods and drinks really that much better? Is the company that much more exclusive? Probably not, but the mystery of what lays beyond that winding alley, unmarked door, narrow staircase, ‘employees only’ sign, or telephone booth ultimately draws high-paying clientele to try to unveil the mystery.
These places play into our inner James Bonds, a secretive, escapist hyper-reality, where one can delight in one’s own superior knowledge. The reality however is that the internet has made all of these places readily available. And, when the bar closes and the lights come on the magic of the theme dissolves and the clandestine restaurant is just like any other. So when you choose where to go for an evening, or bring your visiting friends out for a night, perhaps it is the wiser New Yorker who chooses the open family-run Italian restaurant with delicious Alfredo, rather than the poorly made margarita in a basement with no view.