After a Kitchen Nightmares Makeover, Prohibition Gastropub Dances Into a New Era

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:

Onion Soup

Duck Leg Salad

Short Rib Stroganoff

Pan-Seared King Salmon

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

Chocolate Mousse Parfait

The Prohibition Grille on Urbanspoon

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5 Responses to “After a Kitchen Nightmares Makeover, Prohibition Gastropub Dances Into a New Era”

  1. Jaime Ste.Joan
    December 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Wow, I have read post-Ramsey comments on line and the comments have little to do with my experience. First, onion soup, short rib stroganoff was not on the menu. Second, the photos I’ve seen online of some of the “new food” do not look quite different from the food we were served. The unseasoned pan-seared salmon did not have garnish and there was very little “food” under the salmon, in fact, I had to lift up the salmon to see what was under it. My chocolate mousse was in a very tiny stemmed glass, perhaps two tablespoons of mousse, with a couple of pieces of brittle ontop. My very dry, unseasoned caesar salad was about five small inner core leaves of whole lettuce, about three thin slivers of parmesan cheese the size of a nichol-which I had to look for, and four seasoned croutons. Add two glasses of excellent red wine and my bill was $69 plus tip. During dinner staff were lifting chairs over the heads of customers, including us, in order to provide chairs elswhere. Our server was excellent. I was hungry when I arrived home and had to find a snack to satisfy my hunger. I will not return, sad to say.

  2. Jay
    December 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Thanks for writing, and sorry to hear about your experience, but it’s good information to have. If you have links to any recent reports about the restaurant, I’d love to see them!

  3. Jaime Ste.Joan
    December 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    [Revised] Wow, I have read post-Ramsey comments on line and the comments have little to do with my experience. First, onion soup, short rib stroganoff was not on the menu. Second, the photos I’ve seen online of some of the “new food” look nothing like the food we were served. The unseasoned pan-seared salmon did not have garnish, or lemon, and there was very little “food” under the salmon, in fact, I had to lift up the salmon to see what was under it. My chocolate mousse was in a very tiny stemmed glass, perhaps two tablespoons of mousse, with a couple of pieces of dime-sized brittle ontop. My very dry, unseasoned caesar salad was about five small inner core leaves of whole lettuce, about three thin slivers of parmesan cheese the size of a nichol-which I had to look for, and four seasoned croutons. Add two glasses of excellent red wine and my bill was $69 plus tip. During dinner staff were lifting chairs over the heads of customers, including us, in order to provide chairs elswhere. Our server was excellent. I was hungry when I arrived home and had to find a snack to satisfy my hunger. I will not return, sad to say.

  4. The Fat Man
    January 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    My wife and I are both Ramsay fans so we thought that after the “nightmare” it would be safe to try this place.
    Generally I would avoid the most obvious family friendly places but here we found 2 families both with babies under a year. The establishment doesn’t lose any fan points for that. Both were seated out front where the music could drown out most of the chaos.
    We were greeted and seated promptly. Overall service was prompt and courteous throughout. The dim lighting would be fine for fine dining but this joint is far from fine dining. The decor reminded me of a funeral parlor.
    We were not offered a wine list or drink menu. I prefer water most of the time but asked to see the wine list anyway after our server’s 2nd trip to the table. A brief review of the wine list left me wondering “Why bother?”. Not sure who they sell that cheap junk to but I don’t drink it and I’m certainly no wine snob.
    For an appetizer we ordered the Ricotta Truffle Cheese Dip. We found it to be bland and under-seasoned. I’m pretty sure the Salt and Pepper chips were fresh out of the large Kettle brand bag from Costco.
    We both ordered the burger. Her’s medium well and mine medium. The burgers were both well past well done. The over searing caused the meat to be tough and hard to chew. The fries were previously frozen and overcooked too. The pickle had good flavor but was lifeless and looked like it was cut last week or maybe passed from plate to plate all day.
    Since the burgers are better at Red Robin and the fries are better at any fast food joint we didn’t stay for dessert.
    What a dump!
    I seriously doubt we’ll be back for more.

  5. Jay
    January 16, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks for your report! Hope to hear more, as I’m curious what will happen long-term with this restaurant–especially knowing that the chef they brought in is not the intended long-term solution.

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