After a long day at work we found ourselves wandering up and down East Pine Street in Orlando, trying desperately to locate Hanson’s shoe repair.
It was a speakeasy night, my favorite, and I couldn’t wait to get inside.
From outside I couldn’t see a single sign, or give away, of where the place actually was.
I was confused as I followed my husband back and forth searching. It wasn’t until we asked our friend (who had already visited Hanson’s before) that we figured it out.
‘Follow me’ my husband announced as he entered a bar on the right.
It was a dull bar, nothing fancy, and I questioned his choice.
At the back of the bar we reached a set of red stairs, and I followed as my husband began to ascend.
At the top the floor opened up.
In front of us there was a hallway and a set of stairs going down; we tried that first and came to a locked door and the conclusion that the entrance was definitely not that way. Back to the top of the stairs it was.
We tried the opposite way, passing a bland couch area and a cluttered counter that almost looked like an old hotel reception desk that had long since been abandoned.
Definitely not there.
Next to the desk was a door, which looked very fake but also promising in the dark space.
I knocked twice. A small metal grate scraped at the top of the door and a voice said ‘password’.
Bingo! We found it!
We spoke the password and the door slowly opened up to a set of stairs.
Already I was in love. On our climb up the steep narrow staircase I noticed a handgun that had been fixed into the wall, with the added effect of red wax oozing down the bricks. I was literally bouncing with excitement as we continued.
The top of the stairs opened up into a coffin shaped room, lit only by candlelight, which made it extremely hard to get a picture that wasn’t grainy or bad quality. (Sorry in advance for the pictures.)
The brick wall on the left housed old black and white photos, and the bar looked like something straight out of the late 80s with every single alcohol you could think of.
It was perfect.
Immediately we took a stool and read over the menu. We had so many fun options to choose from, and in the end I settled for a Barnum (was right) – a cocktail made out of Ford’s gin, apricot liquor, lemon, and multiple bitters; I will forever be a gin girl.
My husband chose a whiskey based cocktail.
We watched as my drink was shook up right in front of us, and poured beautifully into a cocktail glass.
It was delicious, and deadly; after a few i’d most definitely be on another planet, so I savored every sip and tried to take in every single detail of Hanson’s incredible shoe repair.
My husbands whiskey drink was stirred beautifully, with an added hint of spice, which he said was beyond good.
And as we were discussing our drink choices and thoughts, I heard the bartender telling another customer a little bit of history.
Both my husband and I fell silent so we could listen.
Hanson’s shoe repair was a real shoe repair shop that came about in 1894, and it was the first ever establishment in Orlando to have an electric sign.
It is also believed to be the oldest standing building in Orlando to date, after being built in 1883-1884.
I loved every second of the history and wished there was more; I would have happily listened all night.
There’s something about speakeasies that make them different to any other place.
They’re mysterious, they feel almost exclusive, and they don’t get the heavy foot traffic of popular establishments, which means a better time for you in a less crowded, cooler, bar.
They’re always quirky, the hunt to find them is half the fun, each interior is different, and you never know just what to expect.
It’s like a surprise gift as a child, but in adult form. Or a game of hide and seek in your older years; the prize being alcohol.
Although Hanson’s was small it still packed a lot of character, and a little outside area for customers to hang out.
They do say good things come in small packages, and that is very true for this little speakeasy.
Our time here was short and we only had a single cocktail each, but it definitely won’t be the last time we visit this quirky little spot.
If you can find it then I urge you to go and check it out.
You won’t be disappointed.
I’m sorry I don’t have many pictures, but the room was so dark I couldn’t get good ones without a flash, and flashes are forbidden at this speakeasy.
Until next time,