There appears to be no definitive reason for the term “speakeasy”, though it referred to places which illegally sold alcoholic beverages during Prohibition. Perhaps patrons might “speak easy”, as in a whisper, for their participation in buying and consuming unlawful liquor. The entire Prohibition Era, 1920-1933, was implemented with the lofty goals of solving social issues, improving health and reducing corruption. It turned out to deliver a study in contrasts.
The dark side involved bootlegging, moonshine, illegal liquor transported across state lines and rampant crime and bribery. A hopelessness permeated the nation following the brutality of World War I. Speakeasies sprung up all over the country when the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect Jan. 17, 1920, banning “the manufacture, transportation or sales of intoxicating liquors.”
On the bright side, women got the vote, liberation exploded in public and private circles, and prosperity was at hand. Americans were treated to movie theaters, baseball games, dance halls and amusement parks. They had money for radios, new home appliances, phonographs, cars, travel and entertainment. Inventions in medicine and excitement in fashion captivated the population.
Notable names from the 1920s include Babe Ruth, Coco Chanel, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Duke Ellingson, Jack Dempsey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many more. The Harlem Renaissance redefined arts and culture, and glamour and glitz commingled in society with copious corruption and a dose of despair. It all ended when the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933. It is this fascinating slice of time that three New River Valley restaurants have embraced as a theme.
Clay Corner Inn & Restaurant
Josh and Jenna Roseberry, both natives of the New River Valley, chose the bright side for their new restaurant. The speakeasy, aka Roaring ‘20s Lounge, is in a charming, long, rectangular space with windows on three sides. The stunning, handcrafted bar top was made by Todd Chrisley, a self-described jack of all trades. A special slab of thick walnut found in Giles County was shaped, sanded and shellacked into one beautiful, 22-foot long piece.
Three casual dining rooms sport large windows with natural daylight flooding the spaces and mostly jazz and 1920s music in the background. Dinner plates include Gatsby’s Stuffed Chicken and Louis Armstrong Glazed Salmon, while you can choose starters and small plates like Babe Ruth Sliders or Hoover Deviled Eggs. Not to bypass the New River Valley, however, the brunch menu offers entrées like Huckleberry Bowl, Cassell Burger and Smithfield Shrimp & Grits.
Josh Roseberry is the general manager over all the lodging, restaurant and catering businesses, and his wife has just left her day job at the Corporate Research Center to work by his side. He holds a business degree from Virginia Tech and dreamed for years of having his own business. He employs a friendly staff with the skills, talent and experience to tend to every detail of comfort and satisfaction. He and chef Charlie Jones are pals from way back and have enjoyed planning, plotting and collaborating on the new restaurant. “Charlie creates the dishes, makes the sauces and directs the food service,” Josh says. The casual atmosphere beckons everyone who loves being in a happy place with great food, friendly folks and a giant serving of amiable hospitality – in dining and lodging.
401 Clay St., SW, Blacksburg
Brunch – Sat. and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner – Wed., Thurs., Sunday, 5 – 9 p.m.
Fri. and Sat. 5 – 10 p.m.
Bad Apple Restaurant at Doe Creek Farm
From a spectacular hilltop setting in Giles County, dining guests step though a weighted door (look for the weight) into the smartly renovated barn. The structure was built in the 1940s and served to house sheep and hay for decades. As priorities changed on this fully operating farm, the barn stood as a high-point sentry without a purpose for several years.
When the idea of renovating the barn was embraced, Georgia Haverty, owner of Doe Creek Farm, found the awesome stained glass window at Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke. “It’s from a Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania, and quickly became the centerpiece of the renovation,” states Allison Hollopter, Georgia’s daughter and owner of the Bad Apple. The chandeliers were ordered online and came in pieces, every glass pendalogue or crystal was individually wrapped. “It took us 14 hours and six bottles of wine to assemble them, one piece of glass at a time!”
Once inside, take the stairway up and step into a luxurious, spacious dining room. A calm elegance infuses the restaurant. Should you need to wait, walk up the set of stairs near the bar and cozy up to a cocktail table, sink into the leather couch or simply stand at the railing and look over the dining area. Restrooms are back on the lower level and provide individual cloth hand towels. Nice touch.
Dinner begins with warm cornbread and ends with dessert. But, dining guests may be here mostly for the cocktails, wine and middle of the evening meal, and they will not be disappointed. All spirits and wines come from Virginia distilleries and wineries, and the entire Bad Apple team is responsible for the creative cocktails. For the non-carnivores in the crowd, ratatouille and pasta primavera grace the menu. For the genuine beef lover, this writer highly recommends the filet mignon. Tropical white fish, apricot curry pork chop, shrimp scampi and other options are offered as well.
[directions on website, do not trust GPS] 363 Doe Creek Farm Road, Pembroke
540-626-2232 (Reservations recommended)
Thursday, 5 – 9 p.m. (last seating 7:30)
Friday and Sat., 5 – 10:30 p.m. (last seating at 8:30)
Sunday, 4 – 8 p.m. (last seating at 6:30)
Lush Lounge in Floyd raises the bar on the speakeasy experience where you get a buffalo nickel for a vintage Coke machine and can slip through a secret door for your cocktails, replicating the Prohibition Era. They have elevated the art of the craft cocktails popular a century ago with names like Puttin’ on the Spritz, It All Went Sour and Cheap Perfume.
The blind pig logo comes from it being a secret code for a speakeasy. “They first opened in butcher shops,” explains owner Lindsey Parks. “One would step in and say something about a blind pig and gain access to the illegal bar.” The Lush Gastro Lounge focuses on fine dining, and there’s an interesting Prohibition Era gift shop you won’t want to miss. There are four dining spaces – The Peacock Lounge, The Prohibition Bar, The Traveling Carnival Tent, and The Silent Movie Theatre.
Lush Lounge opened on the 100th anniversary of Prohibition, Jan. 17, 2020. Glenn and Lindsey Parks have a background in contracting and renovated the house built in 1919 themselves. Their passion for craft cocktails and food trends brought Lush Lounge to fruition, and they are opening a second establishment named Twisted Liquid in Blacksburg.
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317 E. Main St., Floyd
Tues., Wed., Thurs., Sunday, 5 – 10 p.m.
Fri. and Sat., 5 – 11 p.m.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson