Food & Drink

Ranstead Room

Published On 04/26/2010 Published On 04/26/2010

Gaining access to clandestine bars can be tough, what with the secret locations, need to acquire a password, and, in West Philly anyway, having to wait on the students to finish Model UN and leave the school. Keeping the underground feel but making entrance a little easier: The Ranstead Room. A classically-styled bar from the mind of Stephen Starr, the semi-cloaked Ranstead Room features an interior reminiscent of post-war, pre-hippy night spots, with a gilded chandelier suspended over red leather booths and snakeskin stools, gold tile arches over the booze, a red/black tiger-striped carpet, and vintage wallpaper so loudly patterned you'll almost be forced to shriek "houndstooth!!!". To find the joint, from 20th turn left onto Ranstead past two trees, then look for a dark door on red-bricked facade with side-by-side, backwards-and-forwards "R"s, and head on in; inside, the libations (created with the help of luminary mixologist Sasha Petraske of NYC's Milk and Honey) keep with tradition: they're built with house-made mixers, hand-chipped ice, and fresh-squeezed juices -- meaning you can drink like granddad did, only without dousing yourself in Old Spice or being casually racist about the Irish. The knowledgeable barkeeps'll make you any classic cocktail along with their own custom twists, like the bourbon/Campari/sweet vermouth Boulevardier, the Williams Fizz, with cognac, Poire William, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white, and the maraschino liqueur, gin, grapefruit/lemon juice Sands Cocktail, which everyone knows you shouldn't bring to the beach if you want sex on it. As there's a daunting list of consumables, you can always opt for the self-explanatory "Bartenders Choice" -- a safe way to say "I don't know" without getting a Jersey Turnpike, a Cement Mixer, or a trip to detention.

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1. Ranstead Room 2013 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (Center City West)

A classically-styled bar from the mind of El Rey taco mastermind Stephen Starr, the semi-cloaked Ranstead Room off Rittenhouse Square features a retro interior decked out with red leather booths and snakeskin stools, gold tile arches, and a red/black tiger-striped carpet. This luxe back bar offers fittingly high-end boozy libations. Surprise yourself and order "the bartenders choice" or go with one of the bespoke cocktails of the moment from the ever-changing menu.

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