The nightmare that was the Prohibition Grille is over. The Everett eatery just invited Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares in to do their makeover magic, and with tough-love guidance from Gordon Ramsay, it has emerged as Prohibition Gastropub.
You’ll have to watch later in the season to see all the trials and tribulations that went into the transformation, but as someone invited to participate in the before-and-after process, I can tell you that it was quite the turnaround.
Prohibition Grille had suffered from an identity crisis, deciding whether to be a southern restaurant or a steakhouse, serving subpar food (often overcooked, under-seasoned, and lacking soul—a lot of freezer-to-fryer items) at somewhat prohibitive prices. A bigger identity crisis, though, was reconciling the (confusing) cuisine with the belly dancing as entertainment.
As “Grille,” the service was bad enough to start (first visit, the food came so slowly that I almost started to eat an energy bar I dug out of my bag), but actually came to a standstill when the waitresses disappeared to change into lamé bikini tops and put on a belly dancing performance—to the cries of “sexism” I heard from a few in the dining room.
It was time to steer the sensuality to the décor and the food. In two days, exterior signage reflected the new restaurant name, while the interior was spiffied up, still keeping a Prohibition-era feel. Servers were trained to be more attentive and efficient. And with prohibition on dancing shifting attention away from the bellies and breasts of the waitresses, the focus has turned to the legs of ducks and the wings of chickens—with the kitchen now under the leadership of Tyler Palagi. (Note that Palagi will soon take the helm at Radiator Whiskey, a sibling bar to Matt’s in the Market, which will have a menu that includes smoked meats.)
The “Gastropub” menu has been tightened from a rambling multi-pager to a simple sheet with eight appetizers, seven entrées (nothing more than $16, which is less than “Grille’s” Prohibition BBQ Sampler—about the cheapest item on the old menu), and three desserts.
Onion Soup ($5) is hearty and flavorful, though it could stand for even more onion oomph. Even better as a starter is the Duck Leg Salad ($12). The skin is nicely crisped, with bacon shallot vinaigrette complementing the duck, the whole thing balanced by a refreshing salad of frisée, fennel, parsley, and chives.
Both entrées I tried were solid—and a stark improvement over my dinner at “Grille.” The Short Rib Stroganoff ($16) was rich, full of large chunks of beef along with a surprising number of pleasing pearl onions. Meanwhile, the King Salmon ($15) was perfectly pan-seared (needing just a little hit of lemon, which I had to request), sitting on a delightful bed of farro with roasted fennel, pancetta, and cauliflower.
Desserts were a little less successful, but a deal at four or five dollars each. My server steered me to Butterscotch Bread Pudding ($5, served with whiskey whipped cream and strawberry compote) which was less sweet than I expected (a good thing), though not as moist as I would have liked. Meanwhile, the Chocolate Mousse Parfait ($5, with white chocolate pastry cream, shortbread, and peanut brittle) was more like a rich pudding than an airy mousse. Still, smacking of comfort rather than sophistication, I managed to eat much of it.
Kitchen Nightmares’ transformation of “Grille” to “Gastropub” is an impressive overnight success story. The long-term question is how they’ll build on that success, and whether success will be sustainable, especially with the imminent need to find a permanent head chef. The challenge for Prohibition: Don’t repeal the changes, and instead find appeal in the new menu, new look, and new service model.
Here are all the dishes from my dinner at Prohibition Gastropub:
Duck Leg Salad
Short Rib Stroganoff
Pan-Seared King Salmon
Butterscotch Bread Pudding
Chocolate Mousse Parfait