Thursday, December 3, 2009

restaurant: Prohibition

It's Prohibition -- you've heard rumors. An underground pub. A hidden door, accessible only by entering a secret code in an inconspicuous phone booth. Inside, amidst the dark woods, rich leather, cozily low ceilings, and sepia-toned lighting, bartenders sharp in vests and ties serve cocktails to men smoking cigars at the bar and ladies lounging by the fireplace.

Okay, on East Andrews in 2009, it's schticky. The fireplace is electric, there's a flat-screen above the bar that's likely to be tuned to a basketball game, and UK-style phone booths, while not entirely exotic in the Brit-pub–loving Atlanta metro area, are not even vaguely inconspicuous. But honestly, it's no more artificial an atmosphere than any of the other bars in Buckhead or Midtown sport, and the quality of the cocktails is worth the kitsch.

Before I tell you more, full disclosure: A dear friend of mine, Darrell Autrey (seen here in full-speed-mixing mode), was hired on as one of Prohibition's bartenders, so A) I'm probably biased, and B) I went on the very first night that the place saw customers, so the staff was still gaining their pub-legs. A few things could've gone better, but the drinks were spot-on.

Among the five people in my party (which I mention as so to look less like a complete lush), we sampled their:

  • Ramos Fizz, which is their take on a silver gin fizz: A light, creamy, refreshing gin & lemon juice & egg white cocktail made with an additional hit of tart raspberry liquor. Don't be afraid of the egg, or the gin. This drink has converted everyone who's tried it on both accounts.

  • Fancy Tequila Cocktail: Made with Lunazul tequila and fresh-squeezed citrus juices, this, out of everything we tried, was the drink that made me grin involuntarily upon tasting. It's everything good and pure about margaritas.

  • Aviation: Gin + maraschino liquor + lemon juice + crème de violette = a juicy SweetTart. Try this if you'd usually order a Cosmo.

  • Dark & Stormy: They make this popular rum & ginger drink with a kick-yo-mamma-strength ginger beer, rum that adds just enough sweetness, and a squeeze of lime. It's simultaneously spicy & soothing.

  • A new thing that is possibly being called a Ten-Penny Piece: Drambuie, gin, a twist of lemon, and a bit of orange peel that's briefly introduced to fire on its way to your glass. Refreshing, herbal, and slightly sweet, this drink is everything I love about the retro craft-cocktail trend: it's yummy art.

  • Tom Collins, with muddled mint: The addition of mint makes this version taste even less like alcohol than usual. Like dangerous soda pop.

  • Mount Zoom: Aviation gin, cream, honey, and a dusting of nutmeg, which all together taste like a bright, snowy Christmas day. (No really.)

  • A Cooley Sinister Proposal: amaretto and orange peel tempered by slightly bitter Cynar (artichoke & herb liquor), forming a sweet-but-not-too-sweet nightcap of a cocktail.

The food showed promise but a less complete delivery. Three sample dishes were being passed around:

  • Lamb chops on the bone over a mushroom risotto: The heaviest of the three, and the most in need of work. The lamb, while perfectly (i.e., rarely) cooked was a bit greasy, and the risotto was salty and somewhat crunchy. With slight tweaking, it'll be every bit as warm and stick-to-your-ribs as it's intended.

  • Thin slices of smoked duck breast piled against a salad of arugula and roasted corn with a creamy dressing (blue cheese, I think): The lightest and most balanced dish. The smoke treatment took most of the gaminess out of the duck and left it wonderfully tender, and the salad's play of sharp, bitter greens against sweet corn and mellow dairy simply worked.

  • Crisped prosciutto wrapped around melty cheese (mozzarella, maybe), plated with a yellow heirloom tomato salad: This dish was the most craveable. Though a few of the tomato slices I got were mealy, most were good and bright-flavored. Dressed casually with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and perhaps a tiny bit of vinegar, they melded with the oil from the prosciutto on the plate. And the crispy prosciutto/cheese rolls were pornographically delicious, a combination of salty, crispy, fatty, and chewy that makes for the perfect indulgent drankin' snack.

They have an extensive cigar list that I can't speak to because I don't smoke -- if anyone who's been has any comments about it, let us (my readers & I, not the royal we) know!

The atmosphere was thematic and cozy, mostly. The music was jazzy and at that elusive audible-but-nonintrusive volume. The lighting was moody but not too dim to read the wood-bound, clear & cleverly written menus. The chairs at the bar were wide and comfortable, if a little low-sitting. My only gripe concerns that flat-screen TV over the bar -- it's distracting and (I am seriously saying this about a pub) anachronistic at best, and tacky at worst. I understand that sports are important to people, but it injures my delicate aesthetic sensibilities to see a classily-over-the-top theme smashed by such a direct reminder that it's all just play-pretend.

Overall, Prohibition isn't a place I'm going to call home -- like most of Buckhead, it's a wee bit outside of my nerd/hipster comfort zone and price range, and I'm sorta-definitely That Guy Lady about smoking in bars. (I'll put up with it occasionally, but I don't like it. Cigars are at least atmospheric, to a certain extent and in a themed place like Prohibition, but I can't abide that kind of pollution on a frequent basis, especially if I'm trying to treat my palate.) But for the kitsch factor, the cocktails, and to check out the evolution of the menu, I'll certainly be visiting again.

If you want in, I'd keep an eye on their website and Facebook page (dudes, I know). Or drop me a note, and I'll see what I can do.


Dawoo said...

Thanks for the love!

the grammar monkey said...

Always welcome!

Nic said...

oh, we've been looking for a good Aviation! Might be worth the venture into Buckhead [ew]. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

sounds great...i'm really thinking about trying it this weekend...also, i would definitely like to know more about the "nerd/hipster" bars in the area, i'm out of the loop..hahahah...thanks for the great review...

the grammar monkey said...

Glad y'all found it useful!

Anon, the places in town where I'm most comfy are all in Decatur (Brick Store, LEONs, JavaMonkey), Oakhurst (Steinbeck's, the pizza joint), and Little 5 (Porter, Brewhouse, Corner Tavern). I've been meaning to write up some stuff about my favorite places... maybe I'll actually work on that!

the grammar monkey said...

OH OH and also in Decatur: Twain's and Thinking Man.

I might love Decatur.

¡sean! said...

Don't hear too many people talking about Steinbeck's; that place is great!

What does it take to get into Prohibition? It sounds interesting enough that I'd consider leaving the comforts of Brick Store.

Anonymous said...

Dear Grammar Monkey,
Would you use your amazing social networking powers to allow us mere mortals to traverse through the doors of this kitschy bar that you speak of?

Email address -

I thank you kindly.


Stephanie said...

My girlfriends and I wish to successfully penetrate the doors to this magical land of secrets... anyway you can help us out!? Thanks grammarmonkey :-)

Darold said...

Sounds like an interesting place, despite the popularity.

Ormsby's could institute a similar password to help control crowds (not exactly something most businesses are shooting for). I'd like to go, since I can appreciate a well made drink. I'd like to try this place out after work this week if you wouldn't mind sharing your knowledge. I have a friend visiting in town soon, and want to check it out ahead of time.

If you like these type of drinks, and frequent Decatur, I suggest Cakes and Ale.

It sounds very "milk and honey"esque.

Darold said...

Forgot to leave my e-mail

Rachel said...

I've heard amazing things about this place, and the drinks you describe sounds delectable... but can't seem to get my hands on that password! I also have a very "nerd/hipster" NYC friend coming to town, and I will be shunned if I don't show him the epitome of the scene. This place seem perfect to avoid the scathing words that downtown nyc-ers usually go on about when comparing their city to ATL. So, if you could provide me with the proper info, I'd be forever grateful. Drop me a line at, I'll be indebted to you. Thank you


purpleducks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ace said...

I've been to this place once with a friend and was truly impressed. However can't get back in on my own. Can u help with this?


Kara said...

My girlfriends and I are trying to go to this place for a birthday celebration and would love the password to get in! We would be totally in debt to you for the assist!
my email is

Thank you soooo much!!!!

Tom said...

I would really like to check this place out! It sounds like a really interesting concept. Could you please email me the code.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is dying to go, can you email me the code or provide more details on how to go about getting it?


Anonymous said...

Great info!! Have a great friend coming into town and wanted to know the password to get in!?!? Cannot wait to check this out!! thanks!

Berncolleen said...

Would love to get back into this lil "secret" gem. Have been once, but since my friend is off frolicking in India, she won't reply back with the code! I too enjoy the Decatur seen (being from Seattle it's more my speed) but am really trying to impress a guy! I know...I'm lame :) Thank you and namaste!!