For better or for worse, speakeasies have been a bit of a thing in Boston, New York, and other cities of late, as people tend to love “hidden” bars—especially those that give a nod to the real-deal illicit speakeasies of the past while also actually being hidden and not just claiming to be even though they are out there in plain sight. A new watering hole that recently opened in Brookline seems to fit the bill as an authentic-feeling speakeasy, and while the Ellis Room is perhaps more of a neighborhood bar than anything else, the fact that it is completely unknown and completely hidden away while getting its name from someone who owned a punch bowl tavern long ago tends to point it just a bit toward the category of underground bars—both literally and figuratively.
The Ellis Room is located in the heart of Brookline Village, but those who are driving through will probably not have a clue that the bar is even here. To find it, you have to walk into the Magnolia Smokehouse (which is run by the same people and used to be known as the Village Smokehouse) and look for a staircase in the middle of the place that leads down. At the bottom of the staircase is a doorway to the right that leads to a drinking spot, which, as is typical for a basement bar, has a cozy, intimate feel to it, thanks in part to its lack of windows, low ceiling, and small but comfortable room that consists of a bar on one side and a handful of tables, booths, and couches on the other. An eclectic variety of music is piped into the space and the spot also has some occasional live entertainment, including jazz.
Because the Ellis Room resides within a barbecue restaurant, the menu here is not the type that you might find in your typical pub, as it includes an array of Southern-style BBQ options such as smokehouse potato chips, chili, wings, BBQ brisket nachos, crispy steak bites, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausage, ribs, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese. The beer selection includes a mix of mass-market brews, local and national microbrew faves, and tough-to-find beers (Bud and Narragansett share the menu with Founders, Von Trapp, and SingleCut), while lovers of cocktails will find both old-school and more modern options, with the drink menu including old fashioneds, sidecars, manhattans, sangria, and an iced tea with sweet tea vodka. Prices for both food and drink are pretty reasonable, with most appetizers and meals being between $10 and $15, while cocktails tend to cost around $10.
The Ellis Room may be completely under the radar in part because of its hidden location (and also because it has only been around for a few months), but the word does seem to be getting out about the place—at least based on a recent visit there, as it seemed to be attracting quite a bit of a local crowd. Whether it ultimately becomes a household name for bar lovers remains to be seen, but for now, the spot appears to be solid for food and drink, and could get some notice once the BBQ, beer, and cocktail crowd get word of it.
The Ellis Room, 6 Harvard Square, Brookline.
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.