The Libation Room

Step (err, drink) your way back in time

Speakeasy-style eateries you’ll want to find

On New Year’s Eve 2019, celebrations across the country sported a Roaring ’20s theme, complete with flapper dresses and gin cocktails. However, the revival of the speakeasy era did not end in 2020—especially in the hospitality industry. For proof, consider two new area restaurants inspired by the 1920s: The Cured Plate in Milford and 302 The Local in the Rehoboth Beach area. And, while the décor in The Libation Room is more 1950s than 1920s, it’s still a secretive restaurant within The Summer House.

These three establishments are happily aboveboard—Prohibition ended in 1933—and each sports a distinct menu.

The Cured Plate: Cocktails and Charcuterie 

The restaurant’s name is inspired by meat-and-cheese boards, collectively known as charcuterie. However, charcuterie is technically a branch of French cooking devoted to preserved meats, such as smoked sausages. Before Liz and Kenny Klingensmith opened the downtown Milford eatery this past February, they had a business focused on charcuterie, cheese and fruit plates, which became all the rage during the pandemic. When they decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop, the craze had quieted but remained strong. So, they added cocktails to their concept.

The menu has a page devoted to board selections: artisanal cheeses, cured meats, jams and honey. Small plates, sandwiches and kebabs are also available. The comfortable loungey atmosphere is conducive to conversation. Klingsmith says speakeasies were old-time gathering places where people hung out with a few drinks. “Now, everyone is on their phone,” she says. I think the 1920s speaks to a lot of people because it puts them in a comfortable place.” Unlike actual 1920s speakeasies, families are welcome at The Cured Plates, which has items for kids.

302 The Local: Where Everybody Knows Your Name 

This new restaurant is in Chaps Pit Beef’s old location next to Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. However, Chaps’ customers will see some familiar faces. Chris Desch was the Chaps franchisee. He owns 302 The Local with his brother, Steven. “I wasn’t cut out to be a franchisee,” says Desch. “It isn’t for everyone, especially someone creative who wants to spread his culinary wings.”

For the new concept, his goal is to provide a place where area residents can meet. “We love the tourists—they’re great—but we wanted to celebrate the locals,” he explains. However, when it came to décor, he gravitated toward items from the early 20th century, including Delaware license plates, a wall phone, and a piano. “I love the whole 1920 to 1933 Prohibition thing; there’s something mysterious about ‘The Great Gatsby’ of it all,” Desch says.

The cuisine, however, appeals to the modern palate. Consider smash burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hotdogs and sandwiches. Many items are named for 1930s-era gangsters. For instance, the Al Capone burger has ghost pepper cheese, serrano peppers, and mayonnaise with ghost pepper emulsion. “We want to focus on freshness and quality,” Desch says. “We want to do the best we can with quality and price for locals.”

The restaurant debuted a separate dinner menu available from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and one entire wall is dedicated to the bar and shelves of spirits, including bourbons and whiskies. Well-known area bartender Ryan Minnick designed the cocktail program.

The Libation Room: A Restaurant Within a Restaurant

The Summer House’s back room was once a refuge for locals escaping seasonal crowds. They didn’t need to leave their beer behind. A sign over the bar read “Libations Served Here,” recalls Regan Derrickson, a bouncer at the Rehoboth landmark when he was 21.

After purchasing the landmark restaurant in 2022, Derrickson turned the room into a stylish lounge with a Rat Pack attitude. The entire Summer House menu is available. However, The Libation Room’s guests can also select cocktails and tapas from a specialty menu, including black garlic-truffle parmesan popcorn, scallop crudo and caviar cannoli.

The Libation Room takes reservations, although The Summer House does not, making it a good option for those who want to ensure a seat during the season. Plus, you’ll feel like Travis and Taylor when you whisper your name to The Summer House host, bypass customers waiting for a table and walk through the double doors to the secret space. 

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