Traces of the speakeasy can be found as early back as the 1800’s but the business thrived in the 1920’s and 30’s during Prohibition. Temperance societies had lobbied for nearly a hundred years to have the sale of alcohol prohibited and in 1919 they succeeded when the 18th amendment of the Constitution was ratified. Speakeasy’s were often operated by members of organized crime and operated under the front of a legitimate business where they would sell alcohol to patrons illegally. To be admitted into one of these establishments you would have to give them the name of the person who sent you and “speak easy”. In many areas someone attending one of these exclusive places was considered socially elite. The days of Prohibition ended in the 1930’s and the era of the speakeasy came to an end. However the legend of the speakeasy and the story of its glory days did not.
On Union Street in downtown Concord, in the home of what once was Concord’s own Paramount Theater, a place where you could spot Tex Ritter “the singing cowboy” and other Western movie stars of the 1940’s now sits The Speakeasy Alehouse.
With its lazy ceiling fans, original tin ceiling, benches restored by hand from the original theater and nostalgic posters and quotes donning the walls you may, upon entering, feel transported to another place in time where the afternoons were long, the nights were swingin’ and the liquor & beer was flowing. The nostalgia in the room is palatable. The entire space was the owner’s concept and meticulously handcrafted by him and his team until it was exactly as he’d envisioned.
Chef and Owner Adam Lewis, who attended culinary school at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York is doing something special in this newly opened restaurant/bar and word is getting around quickly that this is the place to be.
“We want to be known primarily for our handcrafted, well made food and then for the bar.” He states matter-of-factly. The menu, with dishes named after famous actors of the past such as Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant is a revelation in southern dining. The unpretentious yet appetizing menu descriptions give the promise of a unique spin on southern classic dishes.
One dish in particular, Roosevelt’s Revenge, (a molasses and coffee marinated double cut grilled pork chop served over sweet potato hash with French style green beans) was so impressive that I insisted on getting a to-go box for the leftovers. Another, the Cary Grant, (a 14 oz. flat iron steak with bourbon braised onion confit, cabernet jus, horseradish mashed potatoes and candied baby carrots) was equally delicious and so tender it could be cut with a butter knife. Lewis and his staff are truly cooking to impress.
During my last visit I had the opportunity to dine with Chef Lewis and discuss the creation of the menu and the concept of The Speakeasy Alehouse. “It took me almost six months to create the menu. I kept changing my mind and going over it again and again.” Lewis recalls, “Then one day I was sitting there and it hit me. I wrote the whole menu in six hours. It all just worked.” And he’s right, it does work.
Food aside, the “E” (as coined by regular patrons) offers a great selection of Import & Domestic, Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters and more as well as a full liquor selection. They host Open Mic Night on Thursdays, live music Friday & Saturday and host the Concord Blues Club the 1st Tuesday of the month making this the go-to spot in Concord for entertainment.
The Speakeasy Alehouse goes beyond being the “neighborhood bar” by providing an eclectic taste of the past, great food, good beer, friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere that is bound to keep you coming back for more.