|Clockwise from left: Osteria Morini, Limelight, Bridge Cafe, Beaumarchais|
Apotheke: There is something that makes sense about an old-school cocktail lounge opening up inside what used to be a notorious opium den in Chinatown. Even more appropriate is the bar’s location on Doyers, the curvy street named after a distiller from the 1800s that was also referred to as the "bloody angle” due to mass amounts of gang violence and murders in the early 1900s. Luckily, the only "Devious Path" you'll find in this quaint bar is an option on the drink menu.
Beaumarchais: Before this spot started hosting champagne brunches, it was known for something else - leather and sex. From 1994-2003 the space housed The L.U.R.E., a gay leather bar whose acronym stood for "leather, uniform, rubber, etc."
Bridge Café: Though Bridge Café has only been around since 1979, the Downtown space it resides in is often touted as one of the oldest drinking establishments in New York. The original building on Water Street was built in 1794 as a grocery, and in 1826 it became a saloon and boarding house for rent. Well, you can imagine the kind of crowd that flocked to the venue at that point - prostitutes, “river pirates,” gamblers, alcoholics and other forms of unsavory peoples. During Prohibition it became a place to purchase beer until, finally, it became the charming, clean-cut eatery it is today. So nice, in fact, Ed Koch used to be a regular.
The Limelight Marketplace: Once a church, then a notorious club, and now a mall full of eateries, including Todd English’s Crossbar and branch of Grimaldi's pizza, it was also the place of a freak accident that left a woman dead over two decades ago. A runaway cab drove onto the steps of the club and crushed Ruth Polsky, a popular music promoter in the 1980s. Talk about occupational hazards!
Lenny’s Pizza: Not every restaurant secret involves gruesome murders, hidden rooms or torrid affairs. Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn got its claim to fame in the movie Saturday Night Fever when John Travolta’s character Tony Manero saddles up to the window and orders two slices to go in the opening credits. Sure, plenty of restaurants have been used in films before, but how often does the place actually appear as itself? Not only that - the joint has remained there for over three decades.
Osteria Morini: For his Italian hot spot, Michael White snatched up the SoHo space that formerly housed the Falls, a bar that got a bad rap in 2006 when Imette Carmella St. Guillen was found dead in a ditch after a night there. Even worse, the killer turned out to be the bar’s bouncer, Darryl Littlejohn. Presumably, there are no ex-cons working the kitchen at Osteria Morini.
U2 Karaoke Lounge: Once upon a time, bathhouses were the place for men to congregate and bond. In 1913, The Saint Marks Russian and Turkish Baths opened at 6 St. Marks Place in the East Village and catered to many male immigrants. In the 1950s, the spot developed more of a gay clientele, and in 1979, the baths were refurbished and dubbed the New St. Marks Baths. In 1985, the space became the iconic Kim’s Video and Music, which closed in 2008. Now, the space is home to U2 Karaoke, where many a drunk college student belts out Katy Perry tunes while downing sake, soju and Korean nibbles.
Umberto’s Clam House/Crudo Vineria con Cucina: Though this 40-year-old Italian moved about a year ago to Mulberry Street, the old location at 386 Broome Street had a past to make the Sopranos proud. Mobsters, politicians and celebrities - all types came through that door. One left in a body bag. It was April 7, 1972, and Joey Gallo, a gangster for the Profaci crime family, was gunned down after a night out with actor Jerry Orbach and his wife. Now the space houses Crudo Vineria con Cucina.
The Vault at Pfaff’s: This swank, literally underground cocktail lounge used to host a bevy of literary types in 1855 when it was Pfaff’s Beer Cellar. Walt Whitman regularly supped there and even wrote a poem about it in 1861. The current tenant gets its name from the two vaults situated in the space. No, these aren’t like bank vaults, but rather special rooms under the street that are fortified to withstand the traffic above.