Delray's Original Speakeasy Returns as the Old Arcade in a Hidden Spot on Atlantic Avenue

The Prospect Park, bar manager James Serra's take on the Manhattan cocktail, at the Old Arcade in Delray Beach.
The Prospect Park, bar manager James Serra's take on the Manhattan cocktail, at the Old Arcade in Delray Beach.
Photo by Nicole Danna

There's a 110-year-old speakeasy in downtown Delray Beach, and like a time traveler from the distant past, it has returned to its 1908 home in a hidden spot on Atlantic Avenue.

In January, Caffe Martier expanded into the space formerly occupied by the Brazilian restaurant Gol!, upping its size by more than 6,000 square feet and launching a dinner menu, live music program, and grab-and-go lunch service featuring an organic juice bar.

As part of its expansion, Caffe Martier has opened the Old Arcade, an homage to the original establishment the Arcade Tap Room. The Old Arcade is accessible only by walking through Caffe Martier, in an older part of the historic building. As such, that space remains relatively untouched from its early days, a bar that operated through Prohibition, when thirsty patrons bellied up for drinks via secret entries and passageways.

"Back in the day, this was a meeting place for many of the country's rumrunners," says Caffe Martier co-owner Eli Kamholtz, whose family also manages Martier Boutique next door. "Today you can still see the secret entrance they used, and they say there's a passage that runs under the Colony Hotel [next door] out to the beach."

The new Old Arcade is, of course, a modern interpretation of the original establishment, a place where you can order a cocktail in a distinctly private and intimate setting. The original wood-carved bar still stands. To keep the authentic vibe strong, Kamholtz says patronage will be capped at 65 people, and reservations will be required on busy nights. Entry might even require a secret password, and Kamholtz is considering a members-only club for early access to special events and other privileges.

Though the official grand opening is December 5 (National Prohibition Repeal Day), like a true speakeasy, the Old Arcade is already quietly open and ready to serve you.

Bar manager and beverage program director James Serra — a Cornell graduate who previously worked with Tom Colicchio at Craft NY in New York City — has created a menu that will feature modern riffs on classic cocktails as well as a seasonal rotating list of drinks that feature the flavors of spring, fall, winter, and summer. Selections begin with "Arcade Games," a dozen classic cocktails presented with a "twist." Try the Prospect Park, Serra's take on the Manhattan made with High West double rye whiskey, Punt e Mes Italian vermouth, and Luxardo maraschino cherry juice.

Serra's current seasonal lineup includes house-made cider, shrubs, and old-world-style infusions like citrus nectar. A short list features five drinks like the Pecant Be Serious, a pecan-infused Monkey Shoulder Batch 27 blended Scotch blended with butternut squash, nutmeg, and Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur made from Mediterranean citrus fruits, herbs, and spices).

"We want this place to be the new speakeasyesque meeting spot for downtown Delray Beach," says Serra. "Think of it as the official return of the city's original cocktail club."

The Old Arcade is locatedat 411 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. The bar is open Thursday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The official grand opening will take place December 5. Call 561-450-6169, or visit the Facebook page for updates.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.

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