815 (Manchester, NH)


Since I enjoyed my little speakeasy excursion in Nashua, on another recent trip down to the area, I decided to go with my coworker Jed to another of the area’s speakeasies, 815. Not as well disguised as CodeX, 815 (named after the address, 815 Elm) hides primarily just by having nothing apparent by the “entrance” other than a phone booth. Calling on the phone, you need a password to get in (I’ll leave to my readers to figure out that detail), although rumor is that really good knock-knock jokes or hula dances may work as well, your mileage may vary.

But once inside, much like CodeX, 815 is rather nicely appointed in a 1920s-style “Speakeasy” vibe: couches, low tables, dark lighting, a lot of ornate woodwork, and a very elaborate bar. They’ve got the basic ambiance down pat, actually, and have a very impressive multi-page trifold cocktail list of both classics and house cocktails, an impressive beer list, and a menu of lighter bar food.

But the cocktails were our primary reason for coming, and I was happy with both my Old Ironside (Rum, Rye, Cardamaro, Nocino, Angostura, Chocolate Bitters) and my later Gangster’s Fairytale (Pomegranate-infused vodka, apple brandy, grenadine, lemon, and a torched sprig of rosemary). Indeed, I’d say they’ve got rather a good cocktail program: a well-stocked bar, a nice variety of standard cocktails, and a handful of house specialty cocktails with interesting flavor components. I’m sold on that.

Foodwise, Jed and I were only lightly hungry (having had some mac and cheese earlier at the new Ancient Fire meadery that brought us down to Manchester), and the menu really is what I’d call “bar snacks plus”, a list of standard cocktail snacks (peanuts, pickles), light seafood (oysters, shrimp cocktails), flatbread pizzas, and tacos. I ended up opting for straight-forward pollo tacos, and while they weren’t much to look at (tacos and burritos can be surprisingly hard to photograph well), this was a tasty pair of tacos with some nice lime-marinated shredded chicken, a light pasilla cream, some pico, and cilantro. Simple, but good.

Add in a surprisingly large dulce-de-leche chocolate chip cookie for dessert, and this was an enjoyable light meal while having some cocktails with friends. Would I recommend 815 as a dining destination? Probably not, but it’s a damn fine cocktail bar with some pleasant nibbles, and a very friendly staff.

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