Raines Law Room
48 W 17th St btw 5th and 6th Aves, Flatiron
The Place: A speakeasy hidden in plain sight on a side street of the Flatiron district, and as speakeasies typically are, it’s notoriously popular.
The Time: Saturday March 3, 6:30pm. My friend who lives in Chelsea had a birthday brunch potluck, so I asked her where I could get a good happy hour drink in her neighborhood after the party. Because I used to work in Chelsea, it turns out I’ve been to nearly every bar in Chelsea. Then she suggested Raines Law Room, saying “You’re just one person and it’s early? You’ll probably get in.” I’m always up for a challenge.
The Vibe: I go down a small flight of stairs and ring a doorbell. I’m greeted by the host, and after I tell him it’s just me, the hostess takes my coat and I follow her down this narrow pathway, draped in curtains discreetly hiding tables and banquettes. I feel weird. Eventually we land at the bar, a small room with a handful of people standing around holding cocktails. There are no bar stools, and you know how I feel about bars with no stools. Quickly I figure out that all these people are just waiting for tables. This is not a place where you purposely hang out at the bar, so it’s not really suited for people like me. The bar itself is beautiful and quaint; there’s a big ceiling lamp that fills almost the whole ceiling, which is really low cuz we’re in a basement. And this is clearly a place that knows what it’s doing. They’ve got all the good craft bartending stuff: nice equipment, cheater bottles, chrome garnish containers, overflowing bowls of fruit for twists. The nice thing is that, even though this is a popular place and people are waiting around, it doesn’t FEEL crowded. I have room to breathe. My friend told me it’s always a long wait, so even though I feel kind of awkward and I’m on my phone the whole time because no way am I standing at this chic bar with dim lighting while reading a book, I’m glad I’m here alone because I don’t have to wait an hour for my drink!
The Bartender: One man (Chip) and one woman (Eileen). They both wear aprons and are very nice. They are the only two bartenders for this entire place which is pretty awesome especially since they’re fielding questions from inquiring people in addition to making drinks for tables. They don’t really have time to speak to me much, even though I’d love to talk shop. It’s fun to watch them work though; they work smart (work smart, not hard, thank you Queer Eye*). I ask Eileen about the switchboard of sorts that’s behind them. She tells me they correspond to table numbers, so they know which tables need assistance. “Like an airplane, and we’re the flight attendants.” Damn.
The Drank: Chip is very attentive and asks me so many questions before I can even look at the menu, though they’re proper questions, like what are you feeling, what spirits do you like, what kind of tastes are you interested in tonight, and my head spins until I see the Huntington Street. It’s made of rye, genever, rose liqueur and cardamom, stirred and served in a rocks glass over one big cube. Chip says it’s a riff on an old fashioned and wow it’s delicious. Definitely boozier than what I was intending to drink at this time of night but I can’t turn down an old fashioned riff, or a big cube.
Was I Hit On? No, everyone here is in a group or a couple so I’m able to relax a little. The demographic skews a little older too, but then a couple who looks like they’re fresh outta their high school graduation walks in. Though I shouldn’t judge - people always ask if I’m 17. (I’m not.)
Should You Drink Here Alone? Okay here’s the thing. Raines Law Room isn’t really conducive for solo drinkers, but this is a great bar. After I got through the initial awkwardness of not doing anything except stand there and drink, it became really peaceful. I was allowed to be with my thoughts and watch the bartenders work their magic. It’s nice to take a vacation from the world once in a while, but if I come here again, I'm bringing a drinking buddy.
*I know Queer Eye did not invent this phrase, but I’m currently obsessed with this show. Contact me if you want to hear all about how I think this is the show America needs.