It’s been some time since the speakeasy trend swept the New York bar scene, thus inaugurating the new era of cocktail culture in which we currently live. And, sure, there’s nothing wrong with a Prohibition-esque vibe (hey, I like men in suspenders and close-fitting vests as much as the next person), but nobody wants to feel as if their neighborhood bar has become more of a theme park and less of a hangout. But if you still want a perfectly prepared cocktail, in a spot with a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, then where should you go?
Well, you should head over to Tooker Alley in Prospect Heights. Founded and run by Pegu Club alum Del Pedro, Tooker Alley is named for the street in Chicago that housed, Pedro tells me, “an early 20th century free thinker’s forum called the Dil Pickle Club.” Pedro was inspired to open a bar evocative of the Dil Pickle because, he continues, “It was a radical place, in many ways ground zero for 20th-century American counter-culture. The first thing that really drew me to it was its inclusiveness. People from literally every walk of life filled the place, people who would normally never congregate under one roof. That seemed to me to be what a good bar should do.” And that’s exactly what Tooker Alley does do: it works as both a neighborhood bar and a destination spot, offering up not only innovative cocktails, but also a bit of history and culture and a sense of political consciousness, all without seeming like it's anywhere but firmly in the present. And besides, as Pedro reminds me, this isn’t a speakeasy throwback: “Tooker Alley is often referred to as a neo-speakeasy, but that's a misnomer. The Dil Pickle Club was founded in 1914, the early industrial era of America. It began life as a pre-prohibition place.” So, there you have it. Whatever you do, don’t call it a speakeasy—it’s really so much more.
Tooker Alley; 793 Washington Avenue