By Kara Pound
Photos by Tammy Harrow
Prohibition: the notorious era in our nation’s history that gave rise to things like the speakeasy, moonshiners, jazz, and – the cocktail. A nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages forced consumption of alcohol underground. Thank goodness it’s been nearly a century since the Eighteenth Amendment dictated how and where (if at all) Americans could consume their cocktails.
“In the period from 1920 through the mid-1950s, there were areas of St. Johns and Duval Counties into which even the most intrepid would not venture,” reads the cover of Prohibition Kitchen’s newspaper-style menu appropriately titled The Prohibition Post. “Those were areas frequented by moonshiners.”
Sure, we no longer rely on bootleggers and moonshiners like Lucky Luciano and Popcorn Sutton for a cocktail, but the Prohibition era is far from a long-distant memory.
“Shane wanted to do a sports bar. We wanted to do a jazz club. And Travis is the one who brought up the Sheltra, who owns Prohibition Kitchen on St. George Street along with his wife, Carol, and sons, Travis and Shane. “It’s really a family affair.”
The Sheltras are far from newcomers in St. Augustine’s restaurant scene. They have owned downtown’s Pizzalley’s and Chianti Room for decades, but this is certainly a departure from those establishments.
Their newest venture, Prohibition Kitchen, which opened in December 2016, is stunning. From nightly music, which includes sultry songstresses belting out tunes from the stage, to a craft cocktail menu featuring a “Create Your Own Old Fashioned” section, no expense was spared to ensure success.
Especially when it comes to the food.
The same self-indulgent feel of the Prohibition era is offered up in culinary form: pork rinds with Sriracha and lime, candied bacon with brown sugar, and a short rib grilled cheese with tomato, bell pepper, and onion.
Then there’s the “Build Your Own Burger” with nearly two-dozen choices of toppings, from roasted garlic aioli and cheese curds to pork belly and a fried egg. And keeping with Tom and Carol’s Southern Maine roots, “The Maine-iac” boasts three-and-a-half ounces of Maine lobster bathed in Old Bay Seasoning and a housemade lemon mayonnaise.
“We source from local farms when we can and continue to offer our customers the quality that they’ve come to expect from us,” explains Tom. “Our chefs, Bradford Smith and Joshua Day, have created a menu that is accessible and creative that we feel locals and tourists will love.”
“When we started this project back in 2014, we came together as a family knowing that there would be a lot of tough decisions and choices to be made,” says Tom. “We voted on everything and worked together really well. It’s a family affair.”
In an age when time moves fast and human connections are often made through social media, returning to the old-fashioned roots of our parents and grandparents is a welcomed experience. Food made with simple, authentic ingredients keeps our bellies full and our hearts happy.
If that’s illegal, well, lock us up (hopefully in there) and throw away the key!