The Ranstead Room lies behind a dark door marked “RR”. Since this was my first time at a speakeasy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t quite the elusive entryway I had imagined, but the atmosphere still maintained an air of exclusivity and intrigue.
The décor strives to be romantic with everything from flickering candle light to secluded booths. Paintings of naked women in various poses line the walls—tasteful, not pornographic. The bar’s attempt to recreate the libidinal aspects associated with speakeasies is not overwrought; it’s sophisticated and mysterious.
The cocktail list seemed a little daunting considering we weren’t the most sophisticated drinkers (#smokes). But John, our bartender, was more than helpful. The menu is updated seasonally, but the bartenders know many more drinks and are happy to make something creative if you select “Bartender’s Choice” (all cocktails are $13). He quizzed us on what tastes we usually enjoy: I said sweet, and my date went for fruity. For me, he made what he called a Bulldog Cooler; it was tall and gingery but was tempered by pineapple juice and simple sugar. For my date, he made a Strumble, which he described as “an adult snow cone.” The Strumble was the clear winner of our first round, filled to the brim with pellet ice cubes, tequila and fresh strawberries—strong but delicious, reminding us of summer.
To keep ourselves from getting too tipsy, we ordered a Dessert Plate ($8) and Chocolate Mezcal popcorn ($3). The Ranstead Room shares a kitchen with El Rey, the Steven Starr restaurant it neighbors. There was a small menu of snack foods, but very few people were eating. For the next drink I stayed on menu and chose the Siesta, which consisted of blanco tequila, Campari, and grapefruit. My date asked John to make his favorite drink, which he warned us would be “particularly boozy,” but we went for it anyway. John was clearly an old pro and seamlessly made the two drinks at once. His favorite was what he called the American Trilogy, his interpretation of an Old Fashioned. It was definitely strong, but it gave us a glimpse into why some people have such an appreciation for dark liquors.
All in all, The Ranstead Room was an enjoyable experience. The bartenders were friendly and skilled, the atmosphere was understated and romantic, and the drinks were delicious. It was pricey, but for the cocktail–lovers out there, it’s worth it.