It’s no secret. Cincinnati has one of the finest restaurant and bar scenes in the country. But you may not realize that the city is home to a multitude of lesser-known hotspots, many of which are completely hidden from view.
Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the mysterious speakeasies and hidden bars in the Cincinnati area, from one concealed behind a secret door in a video shop to a classy, rooftop terrace with hidden elevator access.
24 West 3rd Street
Photo courtesy of The Blind Pig
If you’ve been in Cincinnati for a while, chances are that you’ve already visited O’Malleys in the Alley, the area’s second oldest bar. But recently it hasn’t been the bar’s old-world charm and friendly bartenders that have been attracting new patrons—it’s the new “hidden” speakeasy in the back. While The Blind Pig isn’t the most subtle secret bar, with a rooftop patio visible from 3rd Street, there are no signs directing you to the entrance. The trick is to locate the door in a back hallway of O’Malleys. Through it, you’ll find a sleek bar that mixes the roaring ‘20s with a classic sports bar vibe serving delicious cocktails and traditional American bar fare.
Plum Court Wine Room
241 West Court Street
If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a few bites—you’re in luck. Head to the southeast corner of Plum and Court Streets, where you’ll find nothing but a door hand-painted with a bunch of grapes. While the door may look plain, on the other side lies a cozy wine bar full of leather couches and antique shelves bursting with bottles. The bar is owned by Tom and Dollie Moore, who quietly opened the shop in 2010, and offers paired wine tastings on Friday nights.
1211 Main Street
Photo courtesy of Victor Sizemore via Wiseguy Lounge
Wiseguy Lounge is located above one of our favorite spots for New York-style pizza in Cincinnati, GoodFellas, and features the classic speakeasy low lighting, dark reclaimed wood, rich leather sofas and carefully crafted cocktails. While you don’t have to give a password to get into this classy bar, you do have to pass by cheesy, handmade pizza—and doesn’t that seem harder?
18 West 13th Street
Opened in 2015 and located in Over-the-Rhine, Sundry and Vice has quickly established itself as a neighborhood favorite. This striking cocktail spot is nestled in an old building that is decorated to look like an old-timey apothecary. Enter through the super-secret back door entrance and take in the walls covered in old doctor’s notes, phosphate cocktails being poured from the vintage soda fountain, and all the period furniture. Every part of Sundry and Vice, from the drinks to the ambiance, is meant to transport you to another time and place—which it does beautifully and extremely effectively.
609 Walnut Street
The cocktail terrace at the 21c Museum Hotel is definitely a hidden gem. The rooftop bar provides one of the best views in the city along with comfortable seating and a speakeasy-esque ambiance. You can find the entrance by taking a slightly obscured elevator located down the alley from the 21c Museum Hotel. The terrace is open seasonally and usually has a wait, but we promise it’s worth it.
1429 Walnut Street
Photo courtesy of Louis Rideout via Mecca
Mecca is one of our favorite bars that has set up shop in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in recent years. Full of Instagram-worthy decor—including backlit murals, neon lights, hanging plants and tables covered in doodles—Mecca is a great place to spend an evening with friends and a few drinks. The entrance can be found through a small breach in a brick wall on 15th Street, which you’ll probably pass by a few times the first time you visit.
936 Hatch Street
While The Blind Lemon isn’t exactly a secret—in fact, it’s one of Cincinnati’s most famous bars—it is pretty hard to find if you don’t know where to go. Hidden right next to the historic Mt. Adams Bar and Grill (which actually was a speakeasy during Prohibition), you’ll find a fairly small and simple sign followed up by a long, narrow passageway that will lead you to a lush garden and then finally, the bar. Inside, you can order a delicious drink and listen to some of the best live music around while surrounded by antique memorabilia.
530 Washington Avenue, Newport, KY
During Prohibition, it was normal to wander into the back of a local bakery or grocery store and find a hidden meeting space where people ignored the 18th amendment completely. That’s exactly the kind of atmosphere Peter and Kim Newberry were going for when they decided to open up a bar in the back of their Newport coffee shop. Visit the shop, grab a cup of Joe and relax with a friend or follow the glow of hundreds of Kentucky’s finest bourbon around the corner to the bar. They offer an exquisite bourbon selection, including a few extremely rare bottles, along with fantastic Scotch, Irish and Japanese whiskeys.
965 East McMillan Street
Photo courtesy of Heatherlyn Stickle via Gorilla Cinemas Present
The Video Archive has everything 21st Century bar-goers usually expect from a modern speakeasy: a secret entrance, a catchy theme and to-die-for cocktails. Created by the same masterminds behind the Overlook Lodge, the Gorilla Cinema, Lonely Pine and Tokyo Kitty, the Video Archive masquerades as a video rental store. While stumbling upon a Blockbuster-like shop nowadays is super exciting, it isn’t the best part about the Video Archive. That would be the secret door that leads to a hidden bar in the back. Inside, you’ll find a unique, intimate speakeasy full of Quintin Tarantino references and delicious drinks.
What hidden Cincinnati spots do you know about?