There is no shortage of bars in Manhattan, yet savvy drinkers line up for hours to enter Employees Only (EO).
The bar, located in NYC's West Village, opened in 2004 and made a reputation for its crafted cocktails and Balkan-inspired dishes served by bartenders in white jackets.
Named one of the World's Best Bars and winning a Spirited Award at the annual Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the bar exists beyond the realm of trendy, serving lyrical takes on classic cocktails without pretension.
The Employees Only brand is undergoing an expansion, with the original partners each opening a outpost in Singapore, Austin, and Miami Beach.
The SoBe speakeasy opened last month, just in time for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Though housed in the most Miami of locations — a vintage coral-rock house on the grounds of the Washington Park Hotel — the intimate bar maintains its New York vibe and sensibilities.
Inside, find the masculine industrial art deco accents reminiscent of the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center. Though there are cozy booths and tables, grab a seat at the bar for the most immersive experience.
Cocktails are divided into three categories: "EO Classics," "Fancy Cocktails," and "Cocktails" (most cost $16). Take a spin with any of them, or allow your jacketed bartender to choose for you based on your preferences. A Fraise Sauvage — containing Fords gin, wild strawberries, and Tahitian vanilla and topped with prosecco — is frothy, fruity, and lively. It's a perfect start to the evening. Other must-haves are the Billionaire, made with Bakers' bourbon, lemon juice, EO grenadine, and absinthe bitters; and the Mata Hari, with Rémy Martin 1738, chai-infused Martini Rosso, and pomegranate.
The house specialty is the hand-cut steak tartare ($18), prepared tableside. Your bartender will create a bespoke dish to your taste.
The tartare proves to be an ideal bar snack for two or a great appetizer, served with toasted bread and greens. Employees Only also offers a cheese plate ($23) and caviar board (MP) for your shared noshing pleasure.
A cucumber and radish salad, served with caraway flatbread, is tossed with yogurt and garnished with fresh dill, giving this plate brightness and color ($13).
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Cavatelli with spicy pork sausage, tomato, and arugula ($19) is one of two pastas offered. A tagliatelle with zucchini, lemon, and Parmesan is also available ($17). For larger appetites, there's a seared bone-in rib eye with horseradish potato gratin ($68), as well as whole roasted trout ($31) and roasted half chicken ($31).
Whatever you do, save room for the butterscotch and mascarpone cheesecake, served with a brittle of sea salt and nuts ($10). Pair it with a cocktail such as the Provençal, with lavender-infused gin, herb-infused vermouth, and Cointreau, for a sweet ending to an elegant evening.
Employees Only is open daily from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to midnight; a late-night menu is available from midnight to 3:30 a.m.