25 of the Most Exclusive Bars and Restaurants in America

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Private clubs are the last line of bar and restaurant exclusivity. Speakeasies just aren't the same without the threat of prohibition, and anybody with internet access can figure out there's a hidden door in the phone booth of that hot dog joint that leads to a really pricey cocktail lounge. Word-of-mouth passwords aren't what they used to be either, not when you can post them from your phone. Fortunately, there are still plenty of places that exist solely to keep folks in exclusive communities away from the rabble. You may have to pay your way in or get someone to vouch for you, but a bar or table of one's own is worth the hassle.
Rao's in New York
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RAO'S | NEW YORK

It has exactly 10 tables and serves Southern Italian cuisine not unlike that commonly found within, oh, a 100-mile radius of the city. But this institution that jars its own sauce has saved its tables for regulars ever since Mimi Sheraton gave it three stars in the New York Times back in 1977. Those regulars, in turn, hold them for kids, grandkids, or friends. As owner Frank Pellegrino points out, those friends tend to include Keith Richards, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Gloria Estefan, Jay Z (who shot a video here), Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Martin Scorsese ... who cast Pellegrino as a prison cook in "Goodfellas." If you want a table, you have to either wait for an entire family to die, get on the list years in advance (it's been booked for close to 40 years straight) or be nice to the regulars and owners.
Club 33 in Anaheim, California
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CLUB 33 | VARIOUS DISNEY PROPERTIES

For an estimated $50,000 initiation fee and $15,000 annual dues members get behind-the-scenes access to Disneyland in California and exclusive entry to a private restaurant with some of the only booze available in the parks themselves. With Club 33 coming to other Disney properties, the original spot in the New Orleans Square portion of Disneyland may finally see a reduction of its reported 14-year waiting list. How do you get in? The old-fashioned way: Mailing in a request and waiting.
Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library in Portland, Oregon
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MULTNOMAH WHISK(E)Y LIBRARY | PORTLAND, OREGON

It doesn't look like a whole lot at street level, where its modest Green Room is located, but go upstairs to the Library Room and you're suddenly surrounded by 1,700 bottles of bourbon, Japanese and Scotch whisky, and whiskeys made in the Pacific Northwest. There's also brandy, gin, and cognac, along with light food offerings — but good luck securing a membership and keys to the coveted Multnomah liquor lockers. There's currently a waiting list for memberships that start at $600 a year.
Petit Ermitage Rooftop in Los Angeles
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PETIT ERMITAGE ROOFTOP | LOS ANGELES

Oh, you can stay at this West Hollywood hotel, but if you want to get up to the private rooftop and its pool, Butterfly Bar, Master's Lounge, hummingbird and butterfly garden (an official National Wildlife Federation sanctuary), poolside cabanas, and sunken fireplace deck with movie screenings and morning yoga, you have to be a member. It's invitation only, so unless you're Victoria Beckham and hold a baby shower with pals including Eva Longoria and Nicole Richie (she did in 2011) it could be a long wait.
The Cocktail Club in Charleston, South Carolina
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THE COCKTAIL CLUB | CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

Located above the Macintosh restaurant in downtown Charleston, this den of craft cocktails, infused spirits, and liquor made with ingredients from the rooftop garden puts a premium on its vintage 1881 surroundings. The interior recalls the building's late 19th century details with salvaged wood doors and beams. VIP members ($250 a year) and VIP Gold ($500) can skips lines, reserve couches, and attend private tastings. VIP Gold members also get a $100 bar tab during their birthday month.
The Club At Chops Lobster Bar in Atlanta
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THE CLUB AT CHOPS LOBSTER BAR | ATLANTA

Why pay $1,500 a year for membership to a restaurant that just about anyone has access to? Well, The Club is the restaurant's members-only bar that can be accessed through a special door. If you don't want to be seen, you can access The Club from outside by using a keycard on an unmarked door. That said, it takes more than money to get in: An existing member has to vouch for you, and the bar's founder gets the final say. Once you're in, though, the bar offers members a private barrel of Four Roses, a humidor with 20 cigar options, and seating at seven other Atlanta restaurants without a reservation.
The Supper Club Inc in Los Angeles
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THE SUPPER CLUB INC | NEW YORK, MIAMI, LOS ANGELES, SAN FRANCISCO

Want Tom Colicchio to serve you dinner at a waterfront estate in East Hampton? Go to a Halloween party in a private L.A. home? You'd best hope someone like Sandra Bullock or Elijah Wood approves — this members-only dining club requires an invitation before you spend a dime. Membership fees range from $1,500 to $10,000 a year, with the top tier getting access to events in all cities, 40 dinner parties, 20 cocktail soirées, and themed parties, invitations to exotic holiday locations around the globe and VIP invitations to secret Supper Club and social events including film and music festivals, and sporting events. VIP members also get a dedicated concierge for hotel, restaurant, and travel recommendations and bookings.
Wingtip in San Francisco
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WINGTIP | SAN FRANCISCO

Yes, Wingtip is a store, but that's just one of the benefits of the club. It wants $3,000 at signup and $200 a month, but 10 percent becomes store credit. On the top floors of San Francisco's Bank of Italy building, there's a golf simulator; wine cave, whiskey corner, and a craft cocktail bar overlooking the city; cigar room, in-house barber, and a custom tailor. While there are lower-priced memberships for infrequent visitors, you'll want to go big to get the best perks at the club's annual parties, the Sinatra Party in December and Ian Fleming's birthday in spring.
Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana
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YELLOWSTONE CLUB | BIG SKY, MONTANA

Founded in 1997, this 15,200-acre residential community has 100-plus ski runs that make up the world's only private ski and golf community: It has a 2,700-foot slope, seven restaurants, a golf course, multiple fitness facilities, spas, 75-foot heated pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, yoga instructors, personal trainers, and various lodges, warming huts, and comfort stations. Each of the club's restaurants features its own unique cocktail program and the menus feature locally grown ingredients — notably pasta made with Montana-grown wheat. There's also a weekly outdoor barbecue that spares no expense in offering guests meals that highlight regional styles from around country. How to you get in? Easy: Just buy some property at the club. Prices start at $2 million, starting fees are in the six figures, and the annual fee is close to $40,000. Among your neighbors: Bill and Melinda Gates and Justin Timberlake.
The Wing in New York
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THE WING | NEW YORK AND WASHINGTON, D.C.

Fanny Fern started work on Sorosis, the first professional women's club, in 1868 when the all-male New York Press Club kept her out of an event honoring Charles Dickens. The Wing advances the ideal by not only providing a concierge, a library from The Strand Bookstore, workspace, Wi-Fi, conference rooms, charging stations, showers, a lactation room, and other perks for working members, but by bringing in high-profile professionals such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Tammy Duckworth and playwright Eve Ensler to speak.The oversized leather chairs, drink menu, breakfast and lunch options — including plenty of healthy and Instagram-worthy meals — and private house car are just some of the perks of a $2,350 to $2,700 annual membership.
Core Club in New York
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CORE CLUB | NEW YORK

Sir Richard Branson and Google's Eric Schmidt are members of this innovation-minded club, largely because they can afford to be. It costs $50,000 just to register and at least $15,000 yearly to keep your membership. You'll get modern art, stem cell injections, and a fingerprint scan that gives you the run of the place. Core's exclusive bar and restaurant, which has been helmed by some of the world's top chefs, is a prime destination for power lunches among the elite members. You'll have luminaries of the art, sports, leisure, and political worlds at your disposal as well as access to jets, yachts, hotels, and other items you likely already own.
Bohemian Club in San Francisco
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BOHEMIAN CLUB | SAN FRANCISCO

There are a ton of old-line clubs that could make this list, but to camp with the masters of the universe, this is the one. You won't strike deals here: The club motto is "Weaving spiders come not here." But whether in the clubhouse in downtown San Francisco, or at Bohemian Grove in Sonoma County for the annual two-week retreat, you'll get an experience. You'll wear pointy red hats, spend summers doing sing-alongs and skits, and hear about legacy members including Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Clint Eastwood. Food is not the point, but unsurprisingly, a lucky visitor has called it "some of the best food and absolutely impeccable service and class ever found in the Bay Area." Also unsurprisingly, it's costly: $25,000 or more upfront and $600 monthly.
Magic Castle in Los Angeles
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MAGIC CASTLE | LOS ANGELES

Notorious among illusionists and featured in shows such as "Love" and (lightly disguised) "Arrested Development" the Magic Castle has served Los Angeles' magic community since 1963. Until recently, you had to know magic to join, and the non-magical "associate" member hopefuls are stuck on a waitlist. Members pay $1,500 upfront and $750 annually. Guests can come only if invited or accompanied by a member, and they have to adhere to a strict dress code. If you decided to make the splurge, you get access to nightly magic shows, drink and food discounts, unlimited guest invites, and an astonishingly good weekend brunch, where an omelet bar, waffles, and seemingly endless shrimp are just the start.
The Battery in San Francisco
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THE BATTERY | SAN FRANCISCO

The most tech-heavy club in San Francisco, The Battery wants you to put the device away and stop talking about work for a bit. Much of the chatter surrounding it has dealt with who owns it and who it brings in as its more than 4,600 members. The 58,000-square-foot former marble factory was built for techies, though its bars, wine cellar, library, outdoor garden, wellness center (with gym and spa), restaurant (run by executive chef Nicolai Lipscomb, specializing in traditional methods of cooking from charcuterie to paella), 14 guest rooms, and penthouse with panoramic views of the Bay Bridge all seem fairly old-money for a group this innovative — as does the $2,400-a-year membership that requires nomination by a member.
The Norwood in New York
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THE NORWOOD | NEW YORK

Welcome to the era of the hipster social club. This five-story Victorian-era brownstone club and its three bars, seasonal American restaurant where everything from the burgers to the octopus salad draws praise, private concerts, events, networking sessions, and reciprocal membership at other clubs is a bit more accessible than some other clubs of the modern gilded age: It has a reported $800 initiation fee and $2,000 annual membership, is parked right near the galleries in Chelsea, and surrounds members with 13 fireplaces and design befitting its target audience. While it isn't exactly for starving artists, it's still aimed more at the art and design community than their patrons.
The Thermal Club in Palm Springs, California
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THE THERMAL CLUB | PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA

It's tough to imagine Palm Springs with a NASCAR track, but put 30 miles of road courses and 1.4 miles of speedway in among some luxury villas and dining and offer members some sexy supercars for rent and you have a winning proposition. There are plush amenities such as exclusive bars and restaurants in the Thermal Club's village, and it's not just that chefs are cooking signature dishes throughout the day — it's that they "can prepare any delicacy" members seek. Still, it's the full-service garage and race instructors that are the real draw for speed enthusiasts. You have to apply for membership, and if you have to ask what the unadvertised cost is, you likely shouldn't fill out that application.
Lombard Swim Club in Philadelphia
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LOMBARD SWIM CLUB | PHILADELPHIA

For a $100 application fee and $1,295 per year, you can wave to everyone beyond the gates or on the Lombard Club's lengthy wait list and know that you have the envy of every one of them. At one point, the list alone was eight years long, and the club's membership is so secretive that you'd think it was a fight club. By all accounts, it's a simple swim club, restaurant, and bar that thrives on New York-style exclusivity in a city that is further removed from New York than the roughly two-hour drive between the cities suggests. It's a place where poolside food includes salads and steak.
The Hermitage Club in West Dover, Vermont
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THE HERMITAGE CLUB | WEST DOVER, VERMONT

This isn't the Yellowstone Club: You still have to share the rest of Haystack Mountain with the rabble. But along with access to private ski runs and an 18-hole golf course, there's an 80,000-square-foot clubhouse, a variety of bar and restaurant options, including the Great Room where "friendly service teams will take your order and go through the line for you," bowling, fly fishing, and child care without having to buy real estate. That said, it costs roughly $70,000 per family to sign up for a full membership.
Vidocq Society in Philadelphia
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VIDOCQ SOCIETY | PHILADELPHIA

The Union League is exclusive in its own right, along with its three dining rooms with distinct styles and cuisines (if you can get in, look for the scallops), but this narrowly focused club meets once a month within its halls is far more judicious about membership. Named after French criminal and detective Eugene Francois Vidocq, the Vidocq Society is made up of law enforcement, legal, and forensic specialists who come together to work on cold cases. Applicants pay an initial $150 fee and must be sponsored by two full members who know them and their crime-solving skills personally. The annual cost of membership is a guarded secret, but the society provides training, seminars, and books for those who can't crack the membership ranks.
The Gathering Spot in Washington, D.C.
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THE GATHERING SPOT | ATLANTA AND WASHINGTON, D.C.

Less than a decade old, The Gathering Spot has already garnered so much credibility among the city's elite that rapper/actor/producer T.I. basically uses it as his private office. Founded in Atlanta and expanding to Washington, D.C., The Gathering Spot offers members access to concierge service, a 24-hour co-working space, thousands of square feet of wired event space, members-only events, and conference rooms, private offices, and a private dining room in addition to a bar and restaurant with breakfast and chef Tony Scorza's fresh, seasonal dishes — some as simple as a cheesesteak or burger. Membership requires a $300 initiation fee and $200 monthly, or $2,000 for the year. Under-30 memberships are available for a $100 initiation fee and $100 monthly. Access to both locations is $250 per month or $150 per month if under 30.
Neuehouse in New York and Los Angeles
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NEUEHOUSE | NEW YORK AND LOS ANGELES

Yes, there's a happy hour and cocktail program, but you have to work for it. Focused on creatives and entrepreneurs, Neuehouse offers a receptionist, office amenities, mail services, conference rooms, private phone booths, a screening room, events, in-house production services, and perks such as Aesop bathroom products, custom noise-canceling headphones, device chargers, roasted coffee, and Linus bikes. Membership starts at $150 to $200 a month, but can jump to $4,000 to $4,500 a month for complete access and walled offices. Along with that, expect special meals such as an Impossible Burger barbecue or "Pastry In Progress" series of "one-of-a-kind pastry assortments that promise to splice emotions, sensations, and pleasures like scenes of a non-linear film."

Classic Car Club Manhattan in New York
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CLASSIC CAR CLUB MANHATTAN | NEW YORK

You'd never know that's what's there if you walked by Classic Car Club, but this building is a hangar filled with some of the most exciting toys to ever hit the street. Want to drive a 1966 Ford GT40 through the Lincoln Tunnel? Maybe take a 1956 Porsche 550 up FDR Drive? Pull up to a Broadway show in a Lamborghini Huracan? If your application is accepted, for $180 a month, the cars plus a bar and restaurant with lunch and dinner every day, heavy on the meat and served in sizes meant for sharing – and access to a facility in London – are yours.
Manhattan Cricket Club in New York
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MANHATTAN CRICKET CLUB | NEW YORK

Up on West 79th Street is an Australian-themed bistro serving up Kangaroo burgers. For those looking for something slightly more refined, an upstairs bar opened in 2013 as a nod to the British gentlemen's clubs of the colonial era. Book-lined walls, leather seating, dim lighting, private liquor lockers, and events including Kentucky Derby screenings and whiskey seminars are included in the $750 annual membership fee to the Manhattan Cricket Club. For food, expect a spare menu with some unexpectedly creative dishes, such as a $16 arctic char with parsnip and white chocolate.
Caribou Club in Aspen, Colorado
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CARIBOU CLUB | ASPEN, COLORADO

It's Aspen, so there isn't going to be much that's subtle about this club. Opened in 1990 as Aspen's first members-only club, the Caribou Club has its own wine list, bar, and nightclub, and allows its members access to gaming rooms and event spaces throughout the club. Executive Chef Miles Angelo has everything done from scratch, and his menu has plenty of sashimi alongside classics such as steak. The club is $1,500 for a weeklong membership that gets you into the New Year's Eve party, but $3,000 for the first year and $2,000 each year thereafter for membership. If you'd rather secure a lifetime membership, it's $25,000 for two people.
Soho House in 20 Around the World
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SOHO HOUSE | 20 AROUND THE WORLD

For homes all over the globe without being anchored by real estate investments and tax obligations, Soho House — originally one location in London in 1995, but expanded to New York, Toronto, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Berlin, Istanbul, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Mumbai, among other locations — has several spots to call home should the need arise. Its restaurants are just as varied, specializing in seafood and handmade pasta or the "Dirty Burger" (England) or "Chicken Shop" (England and Chicago). You have to be in a creative industry (film, fashion, advertising, music, art, or media), be recommended by two current members, and pay fees from $2,500 a year for cities without a Soho House to $3,200 for cities with houses of their own.

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