Tales of the ill-kept secret Milk and Honey bar, where at one time you could only enter if you had been given the ever changing phone number by an already trusted regular seemed the stuff of legend and had I not known people who had actually went through the hassle of obtaining the number, I probably would have let the famously exclusive Sasha Petraske hot spot remain off my radar and to do list forever.
See, I am not one for hassle and when I heard that they had changed their policy once again to make it where only members with a special key would be able to enjoy the hallowed dim cocktail walls, I knew that Milk and Honey was just a place I'd never see the inside of.
Fortunately for me, though, good friends are among the few who nabbed a key and they were kind enough to invite us there on Jim's Birthday. In a time when “speak easy” is the trend for drinking, this place trumps them all, as it should since it started the whole thing. The entrance is truly nondescript, even a bit sketchy: an unmarked beaten up thick gray steel door in a quiet apartment building, as you walk in you half expect that there's been some mistake and you'll end up in a stranger's living room past the thick curtains.
In fact, the space is not much larger than a living room and the ambiance is minimal: the lights are very dark, the booths are a bit battered and cozy, the music soft. I can't imagine the place would make any sort of real impression on those expecting a level of fanciness for all the secrecy, particularly if those lights were turned all the way up.
But superfluous decoration is beside the point of Milk and Honey, a bar truly and utterly devoted to the notion of substance over style. The experience here is about a civilized environment in which to enjoy perfect cocktails. Plus these expertly cocktails all cost $9; a price which is a steal compared to the $11-13 that absolutely everyone seems to think they can charge these days.
There are no crowds here and to our surprise, no menus either. You simply tell your kind and knowledgeable waiter what sort of drink you fancy and they come back with a custom made concoction. I opted for bourbon, starting with a frothy ginger spiced highball and moving on to a simplified take on the old fashioned. Jim found happiness in his beloved Chicago fizz.
It's a strange place in theory. In some ways it's a stand against the celebrity obsessed, over hyped bar scene. No name dropping or obnoxious behavior is tolerated, but at the same time, it's become an almost uncomfortably elitist corner of the city (in theory). After such a wonderfully pleasant evening there, however, I stepped outside and decided I may just enjoy being an elitist sometimes, so long as it means secret keys that open doors to places like Milk and Honey.