Let’s face it, meeting friends for drinks at a bar can feel pretty basic. You pick a place, meet up and spend a couple of hours shouting over the din, fighting the distraction of huge, sports-broadcasting TVs. But what if you could elevate the whole experience to something, well, a bit more classy and memorable? Enter the modern speakeasy.
Modeled after the illicit watering holes that sprang up in the 1920s when alcohol was banned during prohibition, the modern speakeasy retains the clandestine nature of the original versions, minus the threat of a police raid. Win-win! Although you don’t need to wear a flapper’s dress or formal attire to enter these types of bars anymore, you can certainly imbibe some classic drinks in a place that seems unaffected by time. And best of all, the modern speakeasy can be found in cities across Canada – that is, if you know where to look.
Since these hidden spots use minimal advertising — and are mostly known by word of mouth — they’re all the more exciting to visit.
So what are you waiting for? Bring your best dime and make like it’s prohibition at these classic, speakeasy-inspired spots.
On the stealth scale, Halifax’s Noble scores pretty high: the bar is hidden beneath a popular Barrington Street dessert spot, The Middle Spoon, and you’ll need to tell the upstairs staff the secret password to gain access. Once you’re in, though, Noble charms with its quirky collection of antique knick-knacks and out-of-this-world drinks. (Psst – want to access this week’s password? Sign up for the Noble’s not-so-secret email list here.)
Narrow Lounge, Vancouver
Yes, it’s definitely narrow, but the real appeal of Vancouver’s Narrow Lounge is that it’s extremely hard to find. Located behind a furniture store and an unmarked, graffiti-covered door off Main Street, the Narrow Lounge boasts a menu of well-executed cocktails, tacos and truffle-Parmesan popcorn.
Cold Tea, Toronto
At the end of a dreary hallway in a nondescript Kensington Market shopping plaza at 60 Kensington Avenue, you’ll find a lively bar (with a summer patio in the back) frequented by a crowd throwing back drinks and snacking on dim sum. And with weekly DJ events and no one else in the building at night, Cold Tea really feels like a place where anything can happen.
The Staff Room, Ottawa
If you’re looking for a seriously under-the-radar spot in our nation’s capital, this is the place. The Staff Room can only be accessed from inside the Union 613 restaurant, with the entrance hidden behind a false front bookcase. One push on the right spot takes you down to a tiny, wood-panelled room with a creative cocktail menu, craft brews and an impressive selection of whiskeys.
Big In Japan, Montreal
Montreal’s Big in Japan hits all the right notes: no sign from the street; a mysterious grey door, and, once you’re inside, a super-gorgeous, candlelit space that’s intimate and romantic. Bonus: the bar stocks an unbelievable selection of Japanese-made whiskeys, and if you buy a bottle, they’ll even store yours there for your next visit. (Trust us, you’ll be back.)