High Spirits: Central
YOU CAN call Central a lot of things, but please don’t call it a speakeasy. While the sexy new sipping spot is snuggled between Dan & Louis Oyster Bar and Valentine’s with only a sign in the window reading “crêpes” to denote its existence, there’s no password here. No surly doorman. And certainly no bathtub gin.
“This is a place for a lady and gentleman to have a great cocktail without being harassed,” says owner Dustin Knox, who also owns the Hawthorne food cart Perierra Crêperie.
Newly arrived New York mixologist Lydia Reissmueller mixes up a deliciously curated collection of drinks, from pre-Prohibition favorites such as the sazerac to the more adventurous Mezcalito (Don Julio Reposado tequila, grapefruit, mole bitters, and mezcal). And a set of tongue-in-cheek house rules posted in the candlelit entry area ensures a thoroughly vexation-free environment. Our favorite: “No name-dropping, star-f*cking, or excessive whining.”
Some, like the no-standing rule, are more practical. Behind the heavy purple curtain concealing the bar from the street, tables made from lacquered slabs of redwood can accommodate only about 60 tipplers. It’s a raw, sensual space, with exposed brick, dangling Edison light bulbs, flickering oil lamps, and a wall bench backed by a black flocked cushion. In the kitchen, two griddles churn out sweet and savory crêpes stuffed with a rotation of seasonal ingredients. Jay Gatsby would love this place. Especially if he were French.
Like Gatsby, this lusty little bar also has its eccentricities: the Roosevelt elk head, sticking out a bit inexplicably beneath a slowly spinning windmill-cum-ceiling fan, for one. But the oddity also seems somehow appropriate in a bar where you’re encouraged to speak softly, drink boldly, and revel in the romance of the night.