Smokestack is the worst at being a speakeasy: it’s located in the busiest part of town, has a massive “Smokestack” sign on the outside and it’s friendly and welcoming. But having the speakeasy feel without being too exclusive is no bad thing at all.
The bar’s tagline is “music for both ears”, and this is evident as soon as you walk in. The soundtrack is jazz, funk, blues and soul, with a good mix of classics everyone knows and music for fans. There’s a live music night once a week and club nights on several of the others. Even when there’s not a club night on, the bar always stays open until at least 2am. There are two floors, with the upstairs “Roost” available for hire on quieter evenings.
The music is turned up loud and the lights are turned down low. Here is a place to come if you want to have to get very close to see and hear each other. There are big booths and sofas and the atmosphere is very chilled out, which is a welcome break from most of the other places in this part of town.
The beer selection here is bottles-only but quite a good selection: pretty much everything you’ll find at sister venues Sandinista and Blind Tyger. When we visited there were two Brooklyns, 2 Anchors, Odell’s IPA, a Sierra Nevada special, Old Engine Oil and several others.
There’s also a “soul food” menu, but we didn’t read it because it was too dark.
Smokestack is definitely appealing to a specific demographic: if you’re looking for a chilled late-night place with good but loud music then you’ll find everything you need here. We’ll definitely be back.