|Photo by Tim Lucas|
The speakeasy trend in New York has been a somewhat trite and elitist one, but we were pleasantly surprised by our experience at Raines Law Room. Typical of speakeasies, this place is not easy to find. It's down a flight of stairs and marked only by a building number and small brass plaque. A knock and the door opens just wide enough for the maitre d' to eye you with suspicion, and for a moment you're afriad you might be in the wrong place.
The difficulty of entry is well worth the effort, as the space itself is sexy, dark, and classically handsome. The music is low enough to actually have a conversation, and the entire bar and lounge have the distinct feeling of being at a house party you were never cool or rich enough to be invited to. Don't be offended if you're ushered to the back to stand at the bar before being offered a seat. This is where the real show is, as expert bartenders masterfully mix a variety of cocktails. Continuing with the house party analogy, the bar feels more like hanging out in someone's kitchen as groups of people cluster around the center island to watch the show unfold. Interestingly, this creates a culture where the people around you don't feel like strangers so much as friends-of-friends you haven't been introduced to yet, and conversation flows freely. This helps Raines Law Room break through the pretentious culture most speakeasies fall victim to.
In situations like these, where the person behind the counter takes pride in their craft, I find it interesting to leave the drink selection to the bartender's discretion. After giving a few pointers (I like whiskey, dislike fruity or sweet drinks), Meaghan Dorman, head bartender, mixed up an Old Fashioned that wasn't on the menu. It was strong, well-made, and delicious.
Be aware that if they're busy you may not gain admittance immediately, and will instead be instructed to provide a cell phone number to which they will send a text when space becomes available. It's definitely the kind of place that makes you want to relax, unwind, and spend some quality time with a few close friends or a date. Oh, and don't forget to take a closer look at the wallpaper...