Baltimore's Victorian Speakeasy Plays Games With Your Mind

CORRECTION 5/2/23: A previous version of this article shared out-of-date menu options. Food served at The Elk Room is now provided by sister restaurant Monarque.

During Prohibition, thirsty drinkers had to find secret watering holes to get their boozy beverages poured, and speakeasies have continued to embrace the allure of the underground by offering atmospheric bars, lounges tucked behind storefronts, and cocktail service hidden away in city side streets. Such is the case when it comes to visiting The Elk Room, an establishment in Baltimore that has preserved the mystique of drinking behind closed doors. 

You'll need to look for an Italian eatery to find The Elk Room's entryway. Chandeliers and candles cast light around the room as servers in flapper costumes carry drinks to tables. Cocktails are based on unique and seasonal themes, and ingredients are frozen in liquid nitrogen or infused with coffee and herbs. Whether designing menus based on riddles and board games or decorating the bar with taxidermied animals, the team at The Elk Room invites guests to welcome the whimsical.

When games and drinks come together

Inside The Elk Room, a separate members-only section offers cigars and libations, and a poker room provides a private space for friendly competition. Playful drink categories like "Comfortable and Fun," "Light and Easy," and "Heavy and Adventurous" guide those looking to invite specific energy into their evenings, while riddles and games leave visitors deciphering menus and searching for items in photographs as cocktail orders are made. "Every Drink has been Broken Apart; Their Ingredients Scattered among Objects and Art," a colorful menu teases. 

If riddles and mind games in a speakeasy seem a bit much while trying to enjoy a cocktail made with whiskey, aquavit, peach, genmaicha tea, and brown butter, slink into the cozy interior and order another drink instead. The Elk Room was named one of Esquire's best bars in 2018, and creative cocktails have consistently been poured ever since. Fool's Gold is a favorite, made with bourbon, and featuring flavors of cherry, almond, honey, and eucalyptus. Other drinks feature unique ingredients like tonka bean, elote mezcal, bee pollen, persimmon, and cold brew, to name a few (not all in the same cocktail, of course).

The Elk Room also serves food from sister restaurant Monarque to help keep patrons from becoming too peckish while figuring out how to place another round of drinks from the maze of a menu. Highlights include seafood options like Alaskan king crab and raw oysters on the half-shell, duck confit crepes, a green salad with fresh herbs, and multiple menu items featuring black truffle.