I first wrote about Backbar for Spotted in 2014, and I called it a beautiful secret, and it was. Now it’s not so much of a secret, because nothing this good stays a secret for very long. It’s tempting to say it hasn’t changed, but that isn’t correct. Five+ years is enough for anything to change. Union Square has changed. Money is rolling in. Diversity is moving out. And Backbar still survives with the times. It’s better to say that everything that has made Backbar good is still there: the nerdiness and the playfulness, the fact that the staff have dragons and Star Wars figures and tiki toys and are not afraid to use them, the sheer creativity of the cocktails. That’s all there and that’s why people keep coming back and telling their friends. There’s still this small thrill that comes from finding that simple entrance and walking down that industrial corridor and having it all feel like a secret portal to another world.
Then you open it and see that it’s crowded, and yes, that’s different, but they deserve the crowds, and it’s hard to feel bad about that.
Go on a weekday, or go in the daytime on a weekend. Sit at the bar. Talk to the bartenders. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time. They’ll still treat you like a friend.