Pepe Le Moko is not just the name of a 1937 French film about a criminal hiding out in the Casbah:
Mais non! It's also the new, and rather tiny "speakeasy" style bar just opened as of Thursday under the Ace Hotel Cleaners. It's another Nate Tilden joint (Clyde Common, Olympic Provisions, Spirit of 77), and it's been discussed in quasi secrecy for years now, but its opening kind of snuck up. I ducked in on Saturday night, and though it was prime time on the west side, the room, which is only about 1,000 sf, was at a still-comfortable level of crowding... which may not last. However, the entrance (on SW 10th, which is actually pretty clearly marked) is guarded by a host to deal with crowd control, so it'll be up to the establishment how packed they'll allow it to get. Once admitted, you swing past a pile of raw oysters on ice and down the narrow staircase to a dim bar with a Tube-like rounded ceiling and candlelight, lots of cozy booths, vintage photos, and elegant but unpretentious furnishings. It could give the Driftwood Room a run for its long-held "best bar to carry on an affair" title.
Like upstairs, the cocktails are a main draw here (the small menu features a tasty take on the Long Island Iced Tea, an Amaretto Sour, an Espresso Martini... beware that if you start freestyling with your server over types of wine and whiskey you could wind up in more-expensive territory than planned—common sense, I guess), but with less emphasis on food. You'd have to essentially order one of everything on the menu at Pepe to try to achieve something like dinner. You've got small handfuls of snacks (fancy corn nuts, yes!), oysters by the half-dozen or dozen, and a small selection of $5 Spanish bocadillos—charcuterie and cheese pairings, sardines and fennel... It would only take one or two outings to get the full experience, but you may want to do so before the crowds get clued in.