Of the many modern “speakeasy” bars in DC, there was one that really lived up to the theme of an illegal drinking den: The Speak, which was shut down twice by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for operating without a proper liquor license. Three years later, the K Street basement bar is back with a different name (the Mirror), new owners—and all the right paperwork.
“When we had the opportunity to bring it back to life, we didn’t hesitate,” says Seth McClelland, who consulted for The Speak and is now an owner of the new place along with the bar’s original beverage director, Jeff Coles.
McClelland, who’s also a co-owner of Alexandria cocktail bar The People’s Drug, says he wasn’t deterred by the naysayers who’ve sounded the death knell for the faux-speakeasy trend. “This idea that people try to call the end of things—like is Tom Brady done? I just love speakeasies. It’s a place where like-minded people can go hide.”
And hide you will. Directions to The Mirror sound like clues in a Nancy Drew mystery: Beneath an abandoned storefront…down the stairway…there’s another abandoned storefront…pull the mirror hanging on the wall, which is really a secret door… Once inside the 55-seat drinking den, McClelland says the “speakeasy” rules stop—no passwords, dress codes, or reservations.
“We wanted to bring that dive bar element to the speakeasy,” McClelland says. “The cocktails are world-class, but the environment is relaxed. And our clientele is self-selecting. If you can find it, you’re in.”
Coles says he curated a team of bartenders from top cocktail spots around the city, including the Left Door, Columbia Room, and Quill. True to genre, libations lean classic—daiquiris, aviations, sazeracs—though he says it’s cool if you just want a basic vodka soda (or one of the Fireball shots on the menu). Designer drinks hover around $13, though prices drop to $10 during weekday happy hour from 5 to 7:30 PM.
As for food, that’s where the faux-dive bar element comes into play. The bar stocks Lunchables—real, non-ironic Lunchables—that patrons can order for $5. McClelland said they toyed with the idea of meat-and-cheese plates (there’s no kitchen), but decided snack trays were better than serving mediocre, pre-sliced charcuterie boards.
“You can expect a level close to perfection with the drinks, and then if you’re hungry, Oscar Mayer can take care of the food situation,” says McClelland.
The Mirror. 1413 K St., NW. Open Tuesday through Saturday (open daily starting in January).