Speakeasy opens in downtown Stillwater

The Velveteen features 1920s decor in its basement “speakeasy” locations. (Gazette staff photo by Alicia Lebens)

The Velveteen features small plates and cocktails

Stillwater’s newest bar and small plates restaurant has the feel of a secret Prohibition smuggler’s club.

While you don’t need to slip a password to the hostess to get in, The Velveteen combines the aesthetic of a 1920s speakeasy with the quality of an upscale bar and restaurant found in downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis. Located in the basement of JX Event Venue on Second and Commercial streets, visitors follow “the rabbit” down a set of stairs to a completely remodeled space you would never guess used to be an old shoe factory.

“The owners, Dariush and Sarah Moslemi, went to bars and restaurants Minneapolis a lot and wanted something of the same quality here in Stillwater,” said general manager Marcus Clark. “The flavors are old school cocktails from over 100 years ago.”

The vision for the establishment features cozy and heartfelt touches. The name, The Velveteen, comes from the Margery Williams’ book, “The Velveteen Rabbit.” A passage from the book was used in the Moslemis’ wedding vows, Clark said. One of Clark’s favorite cocktails on the menu is the Sloane Ranger, named after one of the Moselmi’s daughters.

Cocktails include housemade and unique flavors. (Gazette staff photo by Alicia Lebens)

Behind the bar looks more like a chemistry lab with house-made cocktail ingredients in hand-labeled bottles. With an ever-changing menu, new takes on aromatic bitters and cocktail flavorings put a spin on old classics. Food items include dishes from the Mediterranean, Latin America and Asia.

Minnesota author and 1920s contemporary F. Scott Fitzgerald and his character Jay Gatsby would not feel out of place at the Art-Deco inspired bar or one of blue velvet booths. A taxidermy jackalope — a mythical North American creature — hangs above the fireplace mantle. The ambiance exudes a stylish elegance that would impress any date, but also plenty of cozy corners to seek a drink after work with friends.

“The vibe in here is unreal — everything is handmade and upholstered with such creativity,” Clark said.

Clark is a veteran of the upscale restaurant scene in Stillwater, and has surrounded himself with seasoned staff who work well together, even though The Velveteen has only been open a little over a month.

“We have had a lot of great feedback and people are talking about it. So far, so good,” Clark said. “It has a sort of timeless quality to it that you could be in any city, and people just love the space.”

The Velveteen is open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday is located on Level -1 at 123 2nd St. N. in Stillwater. More information can be found at thevelveteenspeakeasy.com

Contact Alicia Lebens at [email protected]