If you could travel back in time -- say, all the way back to America’s Prohibition -- would you?
Or would you miss all of the finer, spirited things that 2017 has to offer?
At Grandstaff & Stein, a regional chain of 1920s-style speakeasies dotted along the East Coast, you can have your drink and sip it, too — without fear of the cops barging in during dinner. Modeled after the covert bars and dancehalls that sprang up during the American Prohibition, each of Grandstaff & Stein’s locations hides an eclectic bar behind the facade of a humble bookstore.
You walk in, and a lone shopkeeper stands waiting, tending the store. You make small talk, or maybe they stay quiet while fiddling with the bookshelves around them, ignoring you. The point is: You’re not getting any farther — and you’re certainly not getting dinner — unless you know the password.
Now, to be honest, these faux bookshops would never be enough to actually fool anyone. No one would ever stumble in and think that they could pick up a copy of “Harry Potter” or “The Great Gatsby.” There aren’t enough books for that, and the “shops” are too small — and since when do bookstores have hostess stations? — but you’re willing to excuse the flimsy illusion as soon as you get to the good stuff.
Locations in Richmond, Virginia, and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, differ in layout (for example, Richmond has a larger bar) but remain the same in spirit — steadfastly celebrating the romance and adventure of an era long passed.
As the hinges on a false wall swing open and you’re welcomed in, you’re met with the dimly-lit sight of an intimate setting awash in red. Tables are small and scattered, formed out of worn antique barrels, as ornate chandelier’s swing slowly overhead and sconces dot the walls. Part of you is inspired to rob a bank or star in a silent film, while another part of you just wants dinner.
Despite staying true to traditional American and mixing pot flavors, each meal at Grandstaff & Stein is elevated to appeal to a wider, present-day audience.
The speakeasy offers updated takes on classic dishes like roasted chicken, fried catfish, strip steak, and seared scallops, while also incorporating modern creativity through flavorful appetizers (pork belly with blueberry barbeque sauce and popcorn with lime tequila and butter — yum!) and boasting an extensive spirits and cocktail list. (Check out more of the menu here!)
Thirty classic Prohibition-era drinks like the Sazerac, Negroni, and Bee’s Knees (all $10) make an appearance at the top of the page, before giving way to a whole host of $12 signature craft cocktails $11 mules that live a little closer to 2017. The lemon and herb-based Bean Picker and American 45 are especially good, but if crisp or refreshing cocktails aren’t really your thing, the sheer variety of what the speakeasy offers means that even the pickiest drinker can find something to enjoy.
The hours at each location differ, but whether you stay out all night drinking or head home for a nap and a nightcap, we’ve got good news: It’s 2017, so it’s all perfectly legal.