Monday, October 13, 2014

If your shoes have lost their Spirit, stop by Hanson's Shoe Repair

If you've been around the Orlando bar scene, you may have heard about the local speakeasy. Hanson's Shoe Repair in Downtown Orlando is a small craft cocktail bar that boasts a quiet, intimate and exclusive vibe very different from the various clubs and bars just outside its door. And you need a password to get in.

A few girlfriends and I had been wanting to check out this so-called speakeasy for some time, so we made plans for this past Friday night to go bar hopping and check out a few craft cocktail bars we had never been to before: Hanson's, The Woods and The Courtesy. In order to gain entrance to Hanson's, you have to call a designated phone number to get the password for that day (it changes). Upon calling the number, I was greeted by an answering machine telling me if my shoes had "lost their spirit, and were in need of repair" to leave a message with my phone number, the number of people in my party, and the time we expected to stop by to drop off our shoes. I did so, and about an hour later I received a text message with the password. Cool beans!

Hanson's has a dress code a little classier than your typical bar, so we made sure to dress for the occasion. After getting all dolled up, the girls and I grabbed our men for a nice triple date night. As we walked through the streets of Downtown, we looked for any sign of the secret bar. Finally we stumbled upon a gentleman standing in front of NV Art Bar, which is supposedly directly below Hanson's, although there was no signage anywhere indicating we had found the right place. After he confirmed that this was the entrance to the speakeasy, and after I gave him the secret password, we were allowed to enter.

Hanson's is upstairs, so we had to walk through NV Art Bar, up a flight of stair in the back, and through another dimly-lit room. At the end of the room was an old time-y looking door, and another gatekeeper. After providing the password for a second time, we were granted access through the door and up to that bar.

 

When we arrived, there were only a few other people there. Contrary to your typical bar, it was very quiet, with soft music playing in the background. The room is small. In fact, they only allow up to 35 people in at a time. The bartenders greeted us upon entrance, and all were very friendly and personable, engaging in conversation with anyone sitting at the bar. Chill vibes. Even the guys enjoyed themselves (they typically hate the bar/club scene). We ordered our drinks and made our way to the outdoor back patio. The ambience was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. We sat beneath the strands of small white lights and talked for quite a while.


I lost track of how long we were there. And these drinks were delicious. I had the "J.P.C." and it was sooooo good! Not one of us disliked what we ordered. The drinks aren't cheap, at about $12 a pop, but they are completely worth it.


Finally we decided it was time to move on to the next bar, so we paid our tab and headed out onto the streets of Downtown Orlando, chaotic with the club crowd on a Friday night. It was an entertaining walk to The Woods - we almost witnessed a fight between two girls over a guy. Oh the drama.

Upon entering The Woods, the difference in atmosphere was jarring. Although we frequent loud bars, after being in Hanson's, it was a shock. Particularly since this bar fancies itself another nice craft cocktail bar. There was loud music blaring and a lot of people. We were shortly greeted by a nice waitress who escorted us to a table and distributed menus.


They were featuring a Halloween-inspired menu tonight, which had me excited. I'm so corny obsessed with holidays. Several of us ordered concoctions from that list, myself included (I tried "The Ripper"). But when we received our drinks we were not impressed. The drinks were pretty bad. We ended up returning them and asking for simple bar drinks. I got a rum and coke. And even that was not particularly good. Needless to say, we left there after only one round of drinks.

Next stop: The Courtesy. Yet another craft cocktail bar. Even before we got inside we could tell it was seriously overcrowded. The bar is about the size of Hanson's, but with no restriction on how many people can enter. Getting the attention of the bartender to ask for a drink was a challenge. But eventually we all managed to grab our beverages and find a table in the back. The drinks were not bad - definitely not as bad as The Woods. But they weren't good either. I "A Likely Pear" and it was thoroughly decent. We did end up staying at The Courtesy for some time, deep in conversation, but only went through one round of drinks.

The night ended with some delicious noms at the Jimmy Johns down the street. Things got even more interesting when we returned to the parking lot and found our car (actually a massive truck) had been towed.

All-in-all, it was a fun night out with good friends. My verdict on the bars we tried:

Hanson's Shoe Repair is a hidden gem. It is absolutely 100% worth trying, particularly if you want to break from the typical club/bar scene. And once you go there, you will want to keep going back again and again. We will return, for sure. If you're in the Orlando area, I recommend it highly.

We will probably not return to either The Courtesy or The Woods. The drinks were decent, at best, and downright bad, at worst, at a $12 price tag. The bars are crowded and loud. If I'm going to a typical bar (I would call these typical bars), I'd rather go to one with good drinks that cost less. If you're looking for a good bar like that in the Downtown Orlando area, I recommend Ember.

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