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Hop Sing Laundromat is notoriously difficult to get into, as many snubbed would-be patrons of the Chinatown cocktail destination can attest.
For a limited time, there’s a way to ensure a seat in the speakeasy-style bar tucked behind the gate at 1029 Race St., which has been named one of the best in the nation, and even the world.
The catch? It’ll cost you $75 per person, before tip.
That sum nets you two hours at the nickel-tiled bar that glints inside the darkened room where single-named proprietor Lê rules supreme.
It also includes what could be called a bar “omakase,” or tasting menu of drinks. It might be best described as a trip to cocktail nirvana, because the two-hour experience is guided by bartender-in-residence Toby Maloney, who takes your stated tastes and desires and crafts them into an arc of boozy beatitude.
If you nab a reservation, which must be made via Instagram DM (to Lê or the bar), you’ll even get to skip the line outside.
You’ll still have to follow all the regular rules to step past the ante-room — be willing to hand over your government ID for a scan, remove any hats, swear you won’t take ANY photos, not even in the bathroom, or risk ending up on the banned list.
Once you’re inside, things ease up considerably.
Maloney, who won a James Beard Award for a bar program in Chicago and penned the well-regarded book “The Bartender’s Manifesto,” offers a much friendlier veneer than his buddy Lê. (The two worked together in NYC, as well as in Philly a decade ago when Hop Sing was preparing to open.) He’ll ask what you like and don’t when it comes to putting liquid in your mouth, then come up with a custom cascade of cocktails to keep you happy throughout the night.
“I’ve always enjoyed finding ways to take the guest on a journey,” Maloney said on a recent evening at the bar, explaining his thinking behind what drinks he serves during the two-hour omakase session.
The goal, he said, is to keep the customer lilting along on the edge of pleasantly tipsy for as long as possible — think of it like surfing the crest of a wave — while not allowing their palate to get bored.
After the initial interview, you can have as much or as little interaction with Maloney as you want.
Hop Sing’s bar stools are arranged with plenty of space between them, but they’re still close enough to spark up a chat with similarly inclined neighbors, perhaps discussing whatever’s in the glass that appears in front of you every so often (usually when your previous drink still has a few sips left). You might become fully engrossed in your date for the evening, and not even notice when Maloney’s hand slides another set of cocktails between your conversation.
Or you could spend the time watching the flash of his shaker and flourish of his garnish, and come to the realization he’s basically what the hipster mixologist stereotype was molded after.
About the price: $75 is roughly equivalent to five cocktails at any non-dive Center City bar, or maybe four at a steakhouse, and you’ll probably end up with at least four or five during your two-hour stay. Considering Hop Sing only uses top shelf booze, even for its “well” drinks, along with extracted-to-order fruit juice — everything from orange to red grape to pineapple — it’s probably a better deal than many.
Seats are very limited. Each evening, there are only six barstools and three seatings you can DM to reserve: starting at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., or 9 p.m. on Friday or Saturdays.
Updated to correct the street address and note the deal is not available on Thursdays.