And you thought the “speakeasy” trend was on its way out? Not quite. This week, chef Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery and Bearnaise and Vinoda Basnayake of Kabin opened The Sheppard, the latest glamorized interpretation of a Prohibition-era drinking den. The Dupont spot gets its name from Senator Morris Sheppard, who authored The Sheppard Bone-Dry Act of 1917 that banned booze in D.C.
Fortunately, there’s no secret phone number or password to get in the door. But like many a modern day watering hole appropriating the word “speakeasy,” this one has rules. Well, really just one rule: no photos.
“It’s a very small place, and I know some of the guests who are coming would like to have some privacy,” Mendelsohn says. “And we just figured having no photography would be great. It’s a really dark-lit place. We don’t want a bunch of flashes going off.”
Plus, Mendelsohn says, the selfies are getting out of hand. “We really want you to enjoy your cocktail, enjoy your time. Don’t be on your phone. You have the rest of your life to be on your phone,” he says. “That selfie’s really not going to turn out anyway because it’s too dark.”
While you won’t necessarily get kicked out for ignoring the rules, Mendelsohn says you may get a friendly warning from the staff. People who need to make phone calls are asked to do so in the downstairs lobby. Texting and “Googling,” Mendelsohn says, are OK.
The Sheppard doesn’t take reservations, but you can call ahead if you have a party of five or more. A green light indicates where the location is. Walk into the lobby and an “elevator host” will lead you upstairs. The 35-seat spot is decorated with banquettes, chandeliers, and photos from D.C.’s Prohibition era.
Mixologist Jack Caminos is behind a list of about 14 rotating cocktails ($12 to $18), including some “modernist” concoctions and punches. Mini bottle service is offered after 11 p.m. Mendelsohn has created a menu of three or four snacks, like Sriracha deviled eggs with caviar “confetti” (“It’s like I just made it rain caviar on deviled eggs”), ibérico ham, and a cheese plate. There’s no real kitchen, but Mendelsohn wants to add a few more things like an uni ceviche. Key lime pie in a jar is offered for dessert.
The Sheppard is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to close. “Close is whenever the last person decides they don’t want a cocktail anymore,” Mendelsohn says.
The Sheppard, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW, 2nd floor; (202) 744-4253; dcsheppard.com
Photo courtesy The Sheppard