More Than Just a Little Shop

Hidden behind this Seaport bodega, a vintage speakeasy with vibrant drinks.

The interior of The Little Shop is characteristic of a typical New York bodega. However, an unsuspecting door leads to a secret speakeasy with drinks and a food menu. (Photo by Ria Mittal)

Imagine craving Doritos on a night out and not having to leave the building to get them. I know that sounds like a dream, but thanks to The Little Shop in the Manhattan Seaport District, it can now be a reality. The Little Shop may seem like just an extra clean New York City bodega on the outside, but, once you enter, there’s a secret speakeasy in the back waiting to surprise you.

Since The Little Shop has been praised for its signature cocktails and speakeasy menu, I decided to bring along two friends of age to order and get a better idea of the full menu. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. on a Friday, not expecting a crowd. True to what we anticipated, the bodega seemed empty with only the cashier in sight. But once we crossed the aisles of slightly upscale convenience products, we were caught off guard by the hustle and bustle of the speakeasy, separated from the shop by a sliding door.

As we slid open the door, an extremely drunk older man stumbled out and asked if we knew there was “alcohol back there” and not just “a pizza place.” At the speakeasy, I was immediately struck by how authentic the decor looked — from the intricate floral wallpaper to the period light pieces and mirrors — it radiated an air of nostalgia. The size of the establishment was surprising, too. It seemed no bigger than a living room with a few couches here and there, and a bar along the wall

Considering the amount of space, the speakeasy was extremely crowded. We sat by the bar, where the bartender promptly greeted us with an explanation of the menu.

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The drinks we ordered were named the Turmeric, the Celery and the Strawberry, three of their bestsellers, and they all came out looking vibrant. My friend found the flavor of the Turmeric to be different than anything they’d every tried while I had to settle for being impressed by the presentation. The dark red garnish and the antique cup it was served in supported the vintage vibe of the place.

Satisfied with the drinks, we moved onto the speakeasy’s “Bites” menu, which turned out to be not very vegetarian-friendly. There were only “try” dishes that a vegetarian or a vegan could eat. In the meantime, my friends felt confused by the variety of cuisines offered; it felt like the speakeasy was trying to do too much and, yet, wasn’t doing enough at the same time. We settled on the Pepa Goat for me, which was literally just tiny peppers stuffed with goat cheese, and the Duck Dumplings for them. Though served on beautiful plates, both dishes fell flat. The Pepa Goat was pretty underwhelming, and my friends found the texture of the meat in the duck dumplings unusual but enjoyed the curry it was served in, not to mention they weren’t pleased with getting only three dumplings for $13.

Disregarding the disappointing culinary experience, the drinks and the overall feel of the place sufficed for a good time. My friends and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the vintage design to the modern, upbeat music. The age of the customers varied widely, from college kids like us to an older crowd of middle-aged New Yorkers. I would definitely recommend The Little Shop for a casual night out or even for a first Tinder date you don’t want to invite over, but make sure to pick up some Doritos on your way out instead of navigating the expensive dining menu.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 print edition. Email Ria Mittal at [email protected]

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