by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez
When the 18th amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified in 1919, the United States embarked on what President Herbert Hoover called “The Noble Experiment” of Prohibition. As the teetotalers rejoiced, bootleggers and moonshiners got to work and supplied a thirsty nation with spirits, served discreetly in basement speakeasies and after-hours clubs. Eventually the experiment ended with Americans getting back their cocktails and turning the page on temperance.
St. Augustine’s Prohibition Kitchen gives a nod to the era, but in a modern and impressively large restaurant on the main strip of St. George Street that can accommodate more than 200 diners and a few dozen at its stately bar. A stage for the nightly musical acts sits just inside the entrance and rows of tables and booths stretch far back into what used to be the Old Town Wine Cellar & Restaurant. The Sheltra family, owners of Pizzalley’s on St. George next door and the Chianti Room, went heavy on the period details, using reclaimed wood and installing tin ceilings. Edison bulbs hang down from custom lighting fixtures made of pulleys, metal blades, and pipes, and there are welcome modern touches like electrical outlets with USB plugs for visitors seated at some booths.
Executive chef Bradford Smith and chef de cuisine Joshua Day designed a menu of seasonal and elevated gastropub food that sets the new restaurant well above the usual bar fare. There is an attractive charcuterie and cheese board ($15) and seasonal deviled eggs ($6) that come topped with a fried pork belly marinated in datil pepper jam. Oysters can be ordered steamed or on the half shell ($12), and a massive German style pretzel ($9) is another interesting starter.
Prohibition Kitchen’s signature burger ($16) and whiskey BBQ burger ($14) are both mouthwatering standouts. For a little flair, the signature burger even has a “PK” emblazoned onto the top of its brioche bun. The chef isn’t stingy with the portions of lobster in the Maine-iac ($18), served on a sweet Hawaiian roll, or with the fried chicken sandwich ($12). The skirt steak ($25) and the portobello Wellington ($17), an almost-vegetarian take on beef Wellington, save the savory mushroom and beef reduction, are excellent.
The Florida citrus tart ($8) is reminiscent of a Key Lime pie, and the New Orleans style beignets ($7) are a fine take on the Crescent City’s famous dessert, though a cookies & cream milkshake ($9)—that comes complete with an Oreo cookie—might be the best finisher of all.
Sing Me a Song • Live music daily, 6-9 PM. Late night performances Th-Sat, 10 PM. A list of upcoming bands is on the restaurant’s website under the events link.
Take a Seat • Prohibition Kitchen doesn’t take reservations, so it’s best to arrive with a little time to spare.
Have a Drink • The bar has a full complement of craft cocktails and beers on tap, in cans and in bottles. Create an Old Fashioned, choosing your bitters, simple syrup and bourbon.
Prohibition Kitchen 119 St. George St., St. Augustine • 904-209-5704 • prohibitionkitchenstaugustine.com