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Restaurants

Prohibition

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on March 18, 2010 / review policy

Prohibition TorontoProhibition may have had a controversial birth -- being the site of a feud between former partners Joey McGuirk and Michael Summerfield -- but aside from the signage outside, it'd be tough to find much evidence of these early hiccups. Walking into the spacious pub, dimly lit by the green glow of its Grolsch signage around 6 p.m., I 'm struck by how rammed the place is with after-work imbibers and hungry plaid-clad hipsters. I'm told by our cheery waitress that it gets pretty busy on Thursdays, but always clears out around 10 p.m.

Whichever savvy restaurateur came up with the concept for daily specials deserves a medal. Did I necessarily feel like Prohibition's chalkboard-advertised "Mussels 2nite" special when I walked into the place? Not so much. But I'm a sucker for featured or themed anything (at least when it comes to dining), so my companion and I decided to give them a go.

We settle into a high-top at the back of the restaurant, and after placing our requisite order of mussels (we go with the $13.95 Spaniard option, the promise of chorizo sausage being too enticing to turn down) get down to hacking our way through the rest of Prohibition's overwhelming menu.

The options are pure pub fare heaven, and everything sounds delicious. In the mood for fries? How about "hand-chipped russet Burbank spuds, twice cooked with sea salt" and your choice of either wasabi-mayo or a rather curiously named "garlic-goop shot"?

Mac n' cheese more your thing? They've got that too, amped up with gruyere, sharp cheddar, Roquefort, double smoked bacon, truffled cream, and a brioche/parmagiano reggiano crust. And the list goes on.

After much careful and agonizing deliberation, my dining companion opts for one of Prohibition's most popular items - the Buckingham Blanket ($12), while I opt for the Tri-Sliders ($14), the potent combination of a crab cake, a lamb burger, and a bison burger just being too enticing to turn a blind eye (and starving stomach) to.

We've ordered just in time, as our waitress quickly returns with a steaming plate of mussels (oh yeah, I'd already forgotten we'd ordered those). The heaping plate of cockels is swimming in a tangy tomato bouillabaisse and served with a rather unremarkable loaf of French baguette, but is tasty nonetheless. Alas, the chunks of gristly chorizo sausage are a disappointment and detract from the light, perfectly steamed mussels.

Prohibition restaurant torontoHaving gotten our mussels fix, we turn our attention to our arriving mains. My fellow diner is smitten with his Buckingham Blanket, which consists of beef and caramelized onions wrapped in a sort of weird Yorkshire pudding/crepe hybrid, which is served with a tasty, horseradish flavoured au jus option.

It's an interesting approach to the classic British pot roast but I can't help but note how much it looks like a poor man's Sunday dinner on the run, the kind of bastardized wrap option you would likely find in the 7-11 sandwich fridge. Protesting too much, he lets me try and bite, and I have to concede it's a pretty solid reinterpretation. Besides, I have bigger problems happening at my place setting.

Much like cupcakes and, well, miniature versions of anything, sliders have quickly become the pint-sized dynamos of the culinary scene. It seems like everyone is throwing them on their menu these days, and Prohibition is no exception. Here, the results of caving to this trend are heartbreaking. The crab cake is a pitiful, ossified version of its glorious former self, while the lamb and bison options are both so dry and under-seasoned that I have difficulty even distinguishing between the two. All three are sandwiched between generic, store-bought sesame buns, and if it weren't for the lively side salad of tossed greens, roasted beets, and candied walnuts, the entire dish would be a disaster.

Prohibition Restaurant torontoComing into Prohibition, I was optimistic. And I still want to be. The upbeat, new wave soundtrack, relaxed atmosphere, and reasonably priced selection of great beers (Sapporo and Erdinger on tap!) hold a great deal of promise for this Riverside resident. And, to be fair, I should add that the aged white cheddar grilled cheese on sourdough ($5) ordered by nearby diners nice enough to offer us a bite (who does that!?) was everything you wish your attempts at making grilled cheese after a night of too many vodka sodas could be - crunchy, flavourful, greasy, but miraculously light at the same time.

Yet upon leaving Prohibition, I'm again reminded of the advice against creating large menus dispensed to restaurateurs-in-peril on the Food Network's Restaurant Makeover - often you end up sacrificing quality for quantity.

Writing by Julia Gilmore and photography by Tom Cardoso.

Discussion

15 Comments

InaOnlina / March 3, 2008 at 02:42 pm
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My wife and went in here on a Sunday evening. We were one of only about 4 tables when we arrived. The service sucked. After we got our meal, which was pretty good, but nothing special (over-fried tater tots. We were completely ignored. No-one asked if we wanted another drink (yes please, it's a bar!) or dessert. We finally flagged the bartender down to get our bill, after sitting with finished meals for about 20 minutes. Like I said, it was dead inside. I don't think that place is long for this world, and with service like that, deservedly so.
Shyama / December 6, 2008 at 07:07 am
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I was a regular when it opened, cause it was one of the only places open late in my neighbourhood to go grab a bite and maybe a pint that didn't look shady.

I will openly admit that about 85% of the time the service is some of the worst I ever experienced.

But the saving grace of this establishment is the owner's mother Joan. She typically works weekdays and for the Sunday Brunch daytime. She is one of my fave people I have met in my whole life. I've brought my friends in to meet her as well as my own mother when she came for a visit last spring. She's a little Scottish fireball!

When you go in get to know her, and then tell her your astrological sign. She's the best and one of the only reason I go back.

ps: Trevor and Damien are also great!
drinks / March 18, 2010 at 01:45 pm
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"selection of great beers (Sapporo)"???? Are you kidding me? I know tastes are objective, but all there is at this place are terrible beers.
d / March 18, 2010 at 02:19 pm
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YOU SUCK blogTO
Travis replying to a comment from drinks / March 18, 2010 at 02:32 pm
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"I know tastes are objective" !!!

How can anything you say be taken seriously after that...and I, for one, like Sapporo.
DSK / March 18, 2010 at 02:54 pm
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Can't say we are regulars, but we do enjoy Prohibition for its pub like feel. Yes, they serve food, and decent food at that, but, in my mind, its a pub, first and foremost. Its a place to go enjoy a good pint, relax and converse with friends and neighbors. We shouldn't be trying to put Prohibition up on an unrealist pedestal. It's not a place for foodies. I might just drop by tonight!
Aric replying to a comment from Shyama / March 18, 2010 at 03:35 pm
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Shams!

How is the life on the coast?

I was at Prohibition a few weeks ago, and I thought my meal was amazing. Nothing complex, just some chicken fried ribs, but I was ready to die right then.
bittles replying to a comment from drinks / March 18, 2010 at 09:35 pm
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hahaha, i was going to post the same thing.
Mick / March 19, 2010 at 12:12 am
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Popped in for a quick bite and a pint before a show at the Opera House last week. I had the grilled cheese and my buddy had a caesar salad and they were both very good. The service was very attentive and I was glad to see Pilsner Urquell on draft. Will definitely go again when I am down that way.
Derek Zoolander / March 19, 2010 at 12:55 am
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What is this? A restaurant for ants?! Those look like the smallest portions ever.
Jordan replying to a comment from Derek Zoolander / March 19, 2010 at 01:40 pm
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ya Derek, their main demographic is ants and they have jokes from 2001 on every napkin
..you're going to love it
M.A. / August 24, 2011 at 02:22 pm
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Check out Wednesday nights. Band Rockaholics were great and pint was $5. Great time.
LeslievilleLocal / July 22, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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Great atmosphere and service. Servers have always provided excellent attention.
The bison buger is amazing! Everything I have ordered has been tasty and well worth the price. Great upscale pub food ie gastro pub.
The music is lively and you can catch a game on the tv's above the bar. A great addition to the neighborhood.
Jodi / November 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm
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I really like this place, food is always good and servers are friendly, best part is the fact that you can add fois gras to anything and it won't cost you a zillion dollars either. This is a great spot, very comfortable, no attitude and has character.
Ella / September 20, 2014 at 09:39 am
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Great drink prices.. Service is satisfactory

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