The first rule of Hanson's is ...
Having spent the majority of my life in Orlando — including 99% of my drinking years — it’s rare to find a bar or restaurant that I haven’t been to or, at the very least, heard of. When it comes to drinking or eating in Orlando, things to do in Orlando, places to visit in Orlando, I have an awkwardly large database of knowledge. So imagine my shock when someone asked me about Hanson’s Shoe Repair in downtown Orlando, and I had zero idea what they were talking about! Sure, I have a pair of I-paid-way-too-much-for-them heels that could use some touch-ups, but what do you mean it’s a bar?! Mind = Blown.
Internet research. I’m really really good at Internet research. Google will explain to me how I missed this “repair shop” that opened nine months ago.
I learned that Hanson’s Shoe Repair is a uniquely awesome speakeasy that is unheard-of dedicated to the true definition of the word. (Minus the whole being illegal thing.) Just like during prohibition, you need a password to gain admittance. Luckily, with the invention of modern technology, the password can be obtained through a phone call and subsequent text message, or private Facebook message. A word of advice — only about 30 people can have their “shoes repaired” at once, and reservations are not accepted. So if you don’t want to spend your evening waiting outside of the super cool speakeasy, it’s probably best to keep “open sesame” a secret.
Hanson's Shoe Repair is undeniably the friggin' best shoe repair shop ever.
Arming ourselves with the evening’s password and a healthy dose of “How the hell does this work?!” the TO team ventured to the address listed on Facebook, where we were greeted by a locked door and no mention of shoes or repairs or “Speakeasy This Way! [insert arrow].” We felt not smart. I’ve been drinking downtown for more years than I care to admit — mostly because if you do the math I may or may not have started somewhere in the “I swear that’s me, I just dyed my hair and lost some weight” age range — and I couldn’t believe I was totally stumped by a shoe repair shop! Honestly, Hanson’s gets super high marks for being committed to the cause. Speakeasy – 1, Diana – 0.
After grabbing a drink at Bullitt Bar and regrouping, we tried again. Success! We found the door with the super authentic eyehole slidey open thing where you whisper the password to the doorman. Just inside the door is a list of the house rules, which includes no photography, no cellphones, no ungentlemanly behavior, no crowding the bar, no smoking, and no inappropriate orders. So remember, if you order an appletini or cosmo, you might just get a face full of water and escort to the door, a la Coyote Ugly. OK that would never happen, but the slightly evil side of me would really like it to. Hee hee.
Since I’m abnormally addicted to following rules, my phone stayed in my purse, and I didn’t take a single picture, hence the lack of documentation regarding our visit.* But I swear, under penalty of law, that the information provided is accurate to the best of my knowledge.
Alex was our bartender for the evening, and he was so stinkin’ friendly. He also makes a killer drink. The handcrafted cocktails are unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else, and are custom-designed by Hanson’s. Sure, they’re labor intensive and take longer than your typical vodka and cranberry, but I swear they’re worth the wait! Even if you’re not a gin, whiskey or bourbon fan (which I’m usually not), the drinks are designed such that all you taste is amazingness. Some are stronger than others (but wow, yeah, they’re all strong), so ask your bartender for a recommendation.
The shotgun-style interior is rustic, smells cool (weird, but true), and 100% makes you forget you’re in downtown Orlando. Hanson’s also has a great outdoor patio (take note, smoking still not allowed), with a balcony that often features live musicians and entertainment.
In conclusion, yes, there are other speakeasy-type bars and restaurants in Orlando, but no one is as dedicated to the cause as Hanson’s Shoe Repair, and I absolutely freaking love it. Selfishly I don’t want it to become everyone’s new favorite, because then I’m going to be the one pouting outside while I wait for people to leave; but the majority of me is hoping and praying for its tremendous success, so I can enjoy the impeccable Juliet & Romeo in its adorable old-school-looking champagne glass for years to come.
*Cover photo courtesy of Hanson's Shoe Repair. As previously stated, I did not break the rules, and no photos were taken with my phone or camera.
So cool! And there's another speakeasy?
Yep! If you're digging the secretive vibe, check out Pharmacy in Dr. Phillips at the Dellagio. No password is needed, but good luck finding the entrance. :)