Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cleveland Speakeasy: The Velvet Tango Room

Kim Hammond here again as your guest blogger. After to my visit to Speakeasy, I have become a woman on a mission and Ive found another speakeasy in my backyard that I must share with you.  

The fabulous Velvet Tango Room(VTR) is a must see.

As many of you know, Mystery Playground visits speakeasies all over the country. What you may not know is that 2013 is the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

Rumor has it that the owner of VTR escaped from an unnamed country in Eastern Europe, traveling to South America. He made a name for himself in the tango bars of Buenos Aires, but when a price was put on his head by a jealous husband, he stowed away in the hold of a freighter he believed was headed to Marseilles. Wasnt he surprised when it set port in Cleveland. He decided he liked the area and the VTR was born.

The small venue was originally a barber shop in the front and a blacksmith shop in the back. It then housed many bars and a speakeasy, with varying levels of ill-repute. Ive been told the bullet holes in the ceiling are real. It has seating for small, intimate parties and has a dark, mysterious atmosphere.

Upon arrival we sat front and center at the bar where we could observe the many concoctions being made. We soon learned of the reservation-only, semi-secret back room. Although we did not have reservations, the hostess promised to take us back for a look before we departed.

There is a sign on the door when you enter this establishment: If it requires a blender, we dont make it. This sets the scene for fantastically unique drinks. They are made circa prohibition era and there is such an attention to detail. Everything is fresh from the fruit they hand-muddle to making their own soda mixers. Apparently many drinks made back in the day contained egg whites and VTR goes through many, many dozens of eggs in an evening.

I ordered a French 75. This is named after a cannon used in WWI and consists of gin or brandy (I chose brandy), champagne and fresh-squeezed lemon juice with a lemon twist. Tradition holds that it was the cocktail of choice for Allied officers on leave, with the British preferring the dryer notes of the gin and the French having a taste for the sweetness of the brandy.

We had already eaten dinner, so we decided on a decadent dessert of dark chocolate gelato for three. It was just what we needed.

After we had been there about an hour, a jazz trio entered and set up in the adjoining room. Soon we were hearing the sweet notes of a saxophone.

Then, as promised, the hostess took us for a tour. You cannot access the first door without an employee escort with a key card. Then you enter a small hall with coats hanging on both sides. Your eyes are immediately drawn to a beautifully framed floor to ceiling mirror and you cannot help but check out your image. However, you may refrain from doing so if you knew this was actually a door to a private room and also a two-way mirror, so that the patrons inside can see your every move.

Inside is a room of dark wood and elegance. A full bar caters to your every whim and a fireplace sends flames dancing across the room. French doors at the back of the room lead to a very private patio surrounded by 10 foot stone walls.

VTR is located at 2095 Columbus Road, Cleveland, Ohio. Its not the easiest place to find, but worth the search. We got there early so seating right at the bar was a breeze. However, at about 9pm it was three people deep at the bar and standing room only, so Id recommend arriving early if you want to get a seat and relax for a while.

We will definitely be going back and making our reservations for the special room beforehand.

What Are Speakeasies?
Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. 
Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here. 

You can always find Mystery Playground on Twitter @mysteryplaygrnd and on Facebook. You can also follow the blog by clicking the link on the upper right-hand corner of this webpage. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great post Kim! This speakeasy sounds like a lot of fun.