Though Prohibition ended nearly 85 years ago, there’s still something enticing about speakeasy-style bars—those furtive, candlelit spaces adorned with vintage touches and punctuated by boozy cocktails.
Enter The Elk Room (1010 Fleet St., 410-244-5830), Atlas Restaurant Group’s new concept in the former Ten Ten space in Harbor East. While this speakeasy is a more Hollywood version—with its peephole entrance, crystal chandeliers, servers costumed in flapper dresses, jazzy covers of Top 40 tunes, and period bric-a-brac, including a massive elk head and grandfather clock—it succeeds where it matters. Namely, in the drinks department.
Back in the 1920s, barkeeps had to get creative to cover up illegal swill, and that spirit of invention plays out here. Bartenders Shaun Stewart, formerly of Gunther and Co., and Rob Vogel from Ten Ten crafted a seasonal menu that excels at classics with a twist. Our visit included a mojito made with liquid-nitrogen frozen mint and a Manhattan with coffee-infused bourbon. Another inspired elixir was the elegant Honeysuckle Rose with rhum agricole, lavender honey, and lemon juice.
As you’d expect, The Elk Room’s selection of whiskey is quite impressive. To further the underground feel, there’s a passageway leading to a members-only cigar bar in the old Oliver Speck’s location. There’s a private poker room, as well as paid lockers for guests to store bottles and cigars.
The bar is also adjacent to Atlas’ new Italian chophouse concept, Tagliata, which means executive chef Julian Marucci runs the kitchen for both spaces. There are options like meat and cheese plates, but our favorite snacks were the boar nachos with Oaxaca cheese and jalapeños or the Brussels sprouts (a welcome holdover from Ten Ten) with peanuts, Fresno peppers, and sweet chili sauce.
The menu spells out eight house rules including “no standing at the bar,” “no flash photography,” and “speak easy.” And you should pay heed because if you quiet down all the noise of the splashy décor and campy soundtrack, you can focus on what’s really important—the stellar cocktails and cuisine.