PLEASE DON'T TELL4/27/2008
113 St. Marks Place,
New York, NY 10009
New York, NY 10009
Hidden behind a secret door lies one of New York's most highly regarded bars. Please Don't Tell, or PDT, exists as an homage to Prohibition-era speakeasies. If no one told you it was there, you'd never know. There's barely a webpage. To get in, you call the number above and hope there's room. There's no sign, no plaque, no bouncer. The front door sits inside of an adjacent store (Crif Dogs hot dogs) and is camouflaged as a phone booth. Once inside the booth, you lift the receiver, hit the call button, and wait for the person on the other side to let you in. While the dress code at PDT is casual, the long copper bar, bare brick walls, and stuffed jackalopes evoke flashbacks to a time when even a homeless guy wore a suit.
PDT has all of about thirty seats, including the bar, and this means that it fills up fast. You have to make reservations and can only make them the day of, starting at 3:00 PM. This particular Saturday, by the time I got through the busy signals, it wasn't yet 3:20 and they were booked solid past midnight. And by the way, even though Bro and I got a reservation for a table, we still found ourselves sitting at the bar. Actually, we were glad to sit where we did. There was more light and we could watch the bartender, a tall, thin British bloke do his thing. It was like being in an episode of Poirot without the guy next to you getting mysteriously killed.
Although PDT is small, it's still relatively loud. Besides the Pink Floyd playing from the stereo, sound carries here. Don't think it's like a club where you have to yell for the person you're with to hear you, but you won't feel obligated to whisper.
PDT makes drinks the old fashioned way. They're a fan of bitters and don't do much in the way of fruit juices or new-fangled liqueurs. When I asked for something coffee-ish, but without Kahlua, I got the response "We don't do Kahlua." They do, however, do St. Germain elderflower liqueur. I know. I never heard of it either. Many of PDT's drinks are egg-themed, something that the vast majority of bars out there have no concept of. Virtually everything is top shelf. The generic stuff doesn't exist. I think the cheapest whiskey they had was Maker's Mark, and that ain't cheap.
That PDT was crowded even at 2am hardly surprises me. I mean, it's New York on a Saturday. But beyond that, once you're here you don't want to leave. It's comfortable, it's not prohibitively expensive, you can sit and talk with friends or your date without trying to impress anyone and you feel totally cool being just little ol' you. Given how tight it is, you might think that you'd become claustrophobic. I am willing to say that such a feeling probably won't happen. It almost feels like a big comfy blanket you drink in.
The drinks we had while we were there were but some of a long list of possibilities available to those who can read a menu or have an imagination. I'll list them briefly , but I won't get deep into any deep descriptions or give you much of my opinion.
The Coffee Cocktail, which has no coffee, but does have egg, was creamy and frothy and actually does taste like a coffee with too much milk in it. The No. 8, a tangy, bitter whiskey drink. Falling Leaves was a bitter spiced pink cocktail topped off with a star anise garnish. Finally, the Parkside Fizz was the best of the bunch, if only because it was the most playful, was like a twist on my old favorite, the mojito.
PDT does have a beer selection and we ended the night with two modest glasses of Captain Lawrence IPA before heading to the West Village, thusly giving our seats at the bar to another two souls in need of libation.
Since PDT is technically an offshoot of Crif Dog, and you enter not-so-clandestinely through the Crif Dog phone booth, Crif Dog hot dogs are the available solid sustenance. A little stainless steel hot dog door behind the bar opens and through it the Crif Dog cooks pass the dogs to the bartender.
Cocktails are $12 each, unless they're the premium ones. Then they cost $22. Beer is $5 per (small) glass.