Mobsters hold a revered place in the American imagination, from John Gotti to Henry Hill. They were both ruthless killers and self-made hustlers living the American Dream. Though the heyday of the mafia is long gone, people are still obsessed with mobster swagger and the drunk-on-power confidence they exhibited.
Speaking of drunk, it’s no secret that the wise guys were heavy drinkers (or at least profited off people who were). In the Roaring ‘20s, Al Capone and his cronies smuggled booze through secret underground tunnels in Chicago, and 25 years later Bugsy Seigel tried to open The Flamingo casino in Las Vegas as a boozy gambling paradise (it didn’t exactly work out). Bars were more than money-making operations, though. These establishments were places where mobsters could meet, scheme, and hold court with their admirers. And you can still go to some of the most famous.
Most of the bars formerly favored by mobsters that are still open were once speakeasies — illegal drinking establishments that flourished during Prohibition. The timing is linked to organized crime’s involvement in smuggling booze, laundering money, and intimidating anyone who resisted a hostile takeover of bars, restaurants, casinos, and hotels.
Though mob methods often devolved into violence, the legacy still lives on in American pop culture as a lifestyle that was glamorous, adventurous, and thrilling all at once. These are some of the many bars across the country where you can get a drink just like the notorious mobsters of the past.
1. Green Door — Chicago, Illinois
The Green Door is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Chicago, first erected in 1871 after the Great Chicago Fire. When it eventually became a bar, its name took on a special significance: During Prohibition, a green door often signified that the building housed a speakeasy. Supposedly, one of Al Capone’s great rivals in the bootlegging business, the Irish mobster Dean O’Banion (an avid florist who, according to legend, was a shot while cutting his chrysanthemums), frequented the Green Door.
Where: 678 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654
2. Anchor Bar — Detroit, Michigan
Though it’s now rebranded as a shiny sports bar, Anchor Bar was once the go-to hang out for journalists, judges, and police officers. More disreputable types frequented the joint as well; Charles “Chickie” Sherman, a notorious Detroit bookie, used the Anchor Bar as his headquarters. He and fellow wannabe-mobster “Good Looking Solly” Shindel ran a sports gambling business under the watchful eye of the Giacalone brothers, who were the real deal (both men were suspects in the infamous disappearence and murder of union leader Jimmy Hoffa). In 1971, the Feds broke up Sherman’s gambling ring, and Shindel was murdered soon after.
Where: 450 W Fort St, Detroit, MI 48226
3. Dino’s Bar — Las Vegas, Nevada
This classic dive is the self-proclaimed “last neighborhood bar in Las Vegas.” Fifty years ago, Rinaldo “Dino” Bartolomucci bought the club from infamous mobster Eddie Trascher back when it was known as Ringside Liquors. According to legend, Trascher ran illegal gambling out of the bar and installed spikes behind the wall where an especially troublesome customer tried to punch a hole. Trascher relocated to Florida, where he made a living as a bookie until he eventually became an FBI informant against organized crime bosses.
Where: 1516 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104
4. William Barnacle Tavern — Manhattan, New York
In 1922, a bootlegger named Frank Hoffman bought the building that the William Barnacle Tavern, and adjoining theater, now occupies. Hoffman turned it into a speakeasy called Scheib’s Place. His associate, Walter Scheib, a mafia foot soldier, ran the nightclub. Police officers who were willing to look the other way enjoyed the jazz band alongside gangsters like Al Capone. Hoffman, eager to avoid being arrested for tax evasion, supposedly kept $12 million dollars (the equivalent of more than $175 million today) in a safe upstairs. He disappeared when Prohibition ended and Scheib kept running the now-legal club, but in 1964, he sold the building to Howard Otway. Otway found two safes in the cellar of his new building — one empty, and one filled with a headshot of a showgirl and $2 million (around $16 million today). What happened to the other $10 million? Rumor has it that Hoffman snuck back in unbeknownst to anyone and took back some of his cash. We’ll never know the truth, because Hoffman was never heard from again. Otway’s son now owns the building.
Where: 80 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003
5. Club Lucky — Chicago, Illinois
This historic Chicago Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge has a rich mobster history. The building was once the site of a speakeasy, and there are still bullet holes behind the bar. In the late ‘20s, a hardware store and a Polish social club occupied the Club Lucky building. The hardware store housed illicitly purchased liquor in the basement, which it then passed through a hole in the wall to the social club. One more piece of mob adjacent history: Police discovered the getaway car used by Al Capone and his cronies after the Valentine’s Day Massacre in a garage just a couple of doors down from Club Lucky.
Where: 1824 W Wabansia Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
6. KGB Bar/Red Room — Manhattan, New York
Today, KGB Bar on New York City’s Lower East Side is a well-known gathering place for writers and literary figures. The bar regularly hosts readings and publishes a literary magazine. However the Red Room, a semi-secret event space and speakeasy above KGB, takes inspiration from the building’s mafia-related history. Before it became the Red Room, Lucky Luciano ran a speakeasy, casino, and brothel called Palm Court in the space.
Where: 85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003
7. The Flamingo — Las Vegas, Nevada
Before his grisly demise, Bugsy Siegel was one of the most revered and feared mobsters in America — he also had a direct hand in the development of the Las Vegas Strip. In 1945, he bought The Flamingo casino and hotel, hoping to build a gambling empire. The casino (but not the hotel) opened with great fanfare in December 1946, and even Clark Gable showed up to the party. Nevertheless, it was a flop and closed two weeks later. In 1947, it opened again, this time under the moniker the Famous Flamingo, but business still struggled and Siegel’s mob bosses took this as a sign that he was skimming a cut of the profits for himself. Even worse, Siegel had borrowed money from a fellow mobster, Lucky Luciano, who wanted his money back. He had wronged one too many dangerous people, and was shot to death in his home on June 20, 1947. The Flamingo is still very much open to anyone who wants to sip a drink and play the slot machines. Just look for the dazzling pink marquee shaped like a fan of flamingo feathers.
Where: 3555 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
8. The Back Room — Manhattan, New York
A hidden door in an alleyway (look for the sign that reads Lower East Side Toy Company), low lighting, and red velvet furniture: If you’re looking for a true New York City speakeasy experience, you’ll find it at The Back Room. It’s not a complete act, either. Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky were both regulars at The Back Room, back when it was known as Ratner’s Back Room. The pair held meetings behind a secret bookcase. Mobsters apparently loved to meet there because there were so many exits onto the street.
Where: 102 Norfolk St, New York, NY 10002
9. Cafe Martorano — Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Technically, Cafe Martorano is an Italian restaurant. Yet it boasts a vibrant nightlife scene, and has strong present-day connections to the last remaining elements of the mafia. The owner and chef is Steve Martorano, nephew of alleged mobster and Philadelphia native Raymond “Long John” Martorano. Long John supposedly worked with Nicky Scarfo, a boss in the Philadelphia crime family. Unfortunately, Martorano was killed outside of his doctor’s office in 2002, but his nephew Steve is making a better name for his family with his restaurants. Palm Beach papers still circulate rumors that maybe-mobsters frequent his establishments, though.
Where: 3343 E Oakland Park Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
10. Champagnes Cafe — Las Vegas, Nevada
Champagnes Cafe (or is it Champagne’s? Its apostrophe use is inconsistent), is a run-down dive these days (the situation became so dire that Bar Rescue featured Champagnes on one episode). At its height, though, Tony “The Ant” Spilotro was sent to Vegas to oversee the business of the Chicago mob on the Strip and held court there. These days the bar is a legendary Vegas karaoke spot, and still a favorite haunt of seasoned locals.
Where: 3557 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89169
11. Stonewall Inn — Manhattan, New York
The Stonewall Inn in New York City is best known as the site of the Stonewall Riots, a demonstration by LGBTQ people against police violence which had, for too long, terrorized their communities. However, the bar has another, lesser-known history: It was once controlled by the Genovese crime family, which operated out of Greenwich Village. Matty “the Horse” Ianniello ran the operation that kept the Stonewall Inn open by bribing police officers with thousands of dollars during a time when even kissing another man in public was considered “disorderly conduct.” The mob turned out to be bad landlords. The bar had no liquor license, no fire exits, and the glasses were cleaned with dirty water. Following the Stonewall Riots, the mob closed down the bar and it wouldn’t reopen in its original incarnation again until 2007.
Where: 53 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014
12. Via Veneto — Chicago, Illinois
Before it became an Italian restaurant and event space, Via Veneto was known as Room 21, the largest of Al Capone’s speakeasies in Chicago. In his battle to enforce Prohibition, Eliot Ness seized around 200,000 gallons of alcohol at Room 21. Tunnels found underneath the building by a former owner seem to suggest that the mobster frequently smuggled booze through the speakeasy.
Where: 6340 Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
13. Green Mill Lounge — Chicago, Illinois
Not to be confused with the Green Door, Tom Chamale purchased this bar in 1910 and named it the Green Mill Gardens. But when Prohibition hit, he quickly turned the lease over to the mob. The speakeasy and jazz club became a favorite hangout of Al Capone. He even had his own booth in the bar with a clear view of the front and back doors. One legend says that the volatile mobster ordered one of his underlings to murder the club’s singer when he tried to perform at a competing bar. Another legend is that Capone would sometimes escape the bar using a trapdoor and underground tunnels. While both exist, they were probably only used to smuggle booze.
Where: 4802 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
14. Exchequer Restaurant and Pub — Chicago, Illinois
Al Capone ran this speakeasy, then known as 226 Club, in the 1920s. There were no secret passageways, hidden doorways, or revolving books cases. 226 Club brazenly served alcohol by pouring drinks in tea and coffee cups for customers. A brothel operated upstairs, where a picture of Capone hung on the wall. The club went through a few more owners until it became the Exchequer restaurant in 1982.
Where: 226 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60604
15. Bánh Mì & Bottles — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The building that is now home to Bánh Mì & Bottles, a bar and Vietnamese restaurant, has a complicated history. It was once the site of the Mars Restaurant, a discreet meeting place for a crew of mobsters including Nicky Scarfo. Arthur Pelullo, an associate of Scarfo’s who eventually landed in jail for extortion, owned the restaurant. Scarfo ate there so regularly that he likely enjoyed his last meal at the Mars before heading to prison in 1987, where he died in 2017. Since the late ’80s, the building has changed hands many times, existing as a cantina and seafood restaurant before Bánh Mì & Bottles opened.
Where: 712-14 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
16. Bomb Bomb Restaurant — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This barbecue restaurant takes its new name from a slice of disturbing mob-related history: A man named Vincent Margarite opened the taphouse as a space friendly to the local Italian community in Philadelphia. The brazen move angered local thugs, who thought they had a monopoly on the bar business, and in February 1936, they set off a bomb on the bar’s front doorstep. Margarite opened back up a day later, but the mob kept coming for him: They bombed his bar again in April. Worried for the safety of families in the area, Margarite sold the bar and it became a tavern nicknamed the “bomb bomb.” The name became official in 1951.
Where: 1026 Wolf St, Philadelphia, PA 19148
17. Shaker’s Cigar Bar — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Al Capone once owned Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee, considered the most haunted bar in the state. In 1924, the mafia took control of the building, and called it a “soda bottling operation” to appease the authorities. Of course, Capone had really transformed the building into a brothel and a speakeasy, which operated until 1946.
Where: 422 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204