Tooker Alley, named for the street that once housed turn-of-the-century bohemian outpost the Dil Pickle Club, is a new speakeasy-style cocktail bar hidden on Washington Avenue.
Helmed by longtime NYC bartender Del Pedro, you don’t have to do any squeezing or stooping to enter, but you might walk by it several times before finding the entrance.
If you’re a fan of a good minimalist ambiance, you will be thrilled with the set-up at Tooker Alley. The décor is spare, but Edison bulbs provide a warm glow perfect for perusing the menu, which, among other things, includes a history of the martini and a handy guide to hobo symbols. Learn how to write essential phrases like “bad water,” “good water” and “worth robbing” while you wait for your drink.
Lucky for us, Pedro was manning the bar himself that night. A congenial man with a splendid beard that prongs at the ends like a wispy snake’s tongue, his years of experience behind the bar at Manhattan's Grange Hall and Pegu Club were immediately apparent.
I ordered a dirty gin martini, and watched in rapt fascination as Pedro procured a series of beakers and glasses, pouring, mixing and shaking like an old-timey chemist. I was sure something was going to explode, but it didn't.
The result was a prim cocktail festooned with three olives, but the best part was certainly the tiny decanter that accompanied it, containing almost another whole drink. It’s like ordering a milkshake and getting the mixing cup with it—but better. Because it’s alcohol.
Lest the potent cocktails get to your head, Tooker Alley also offers a snack menu, filled with dainty comfort foods like Manchego stuffed dried dates with olive oil and balsamic. Everything is under $10.
Like any dimly lit cocktail bar, drinks are pricey. A vodka gimlet and a gin martini totaled $25. A Budweiser will cost you $5, though most other beers hover in the $6 and $7 range.
Though it was almost completely empty around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, odds are that Tooker Alley won’t stay that way for long. If similar Prospect Heights establishments like Weather Up are any indication, the bar won't have any problem filling its seats as word of its supremely-crafted cocktails trickles out.
Assuming anyone can find the dang entrance.
Tooker Alley is located at 793 Washington Ave., between Lincoln Place and St. Johns Place.