Soak in the old school style, modern flourish and creative programming at Probition Supperclub and Bar in Downtown Houston.
“It’s better than we even planned!” says Corporate Chef Ben McPherson. He’s enthusiastic, talking about Prohibition’s first four months in its new space Downtown. “Absolutely phenomenal!”
If that sounds like typical chef praise, think again. While you’d expect a chef to be excited about his concept, McPherson says he’s seeing diners are excited, too. The chef thinks it’s a combination of the restaurant’s theme, which blends a clubby, old-school vibe with kick-up cuisine and a huge theater where the Moonlight Dolls perform weekly burlesque shows. It all translates to a space that feels like something fun is always happening, fun that echoes from the décor to the food to the chef and his team who are behind it all.
“It all goes back to the team,” says McPherson. “Mike MeElroy and Matt Wommack have been with on this all the way. Matt’s my right hand.”
He’s also part of the creative force behind one of Prohibition’s favorite dishes, the Kabocha Kombucha, an Asian squash done with kombucha tea, with mushrooms and “super colossal jumbo crab,” says McPherson.
“We take the tea and do a butter sauce,” he says. “But that dish came about because Matt and I were in the grocery store and we saw the squash, and later on we noticed the tea. So, we found a way to put those two things together. It’s just fun to say.”
And fun is exactly what McPherson wants you to have.
The Kabocha Kombucha packs a big flavor, the crab meat plump, tender and gorgeous on the palate, while the blending of butter, garlic and tea offer a savory base. Throw on some ginger for just a hint of sass, and you get a dish that ticks all the boxes.
Also on the don’t-miss list are the Oysters Rockefeller, a dish authentic to Prohibition’s nostalgia-induced feel. Gulf oysters dressed with herbs, butter, Parmesean-Reggiano cheese and bread crumbs, they’re an excellent example of old-school taste.
Modern Old School
It’s that combination of old and new that makes Prohibition really sing. McPherson says he’s looking to get people out of their comfort zones when they come in to dine. He’s steered them toward the fried octopus, a beautiful presentation of Portuguese octopus with a garlic aioli. It was succulent and exotic, but felt somehow familiar. If you like calamari, you’ll flip for this.
“I want people to be blown away,” says McPherson. “I love it when they ask questions, want to know more about the menu. We love that this food is ours, and we love to play with flavors. And it’s great to see people enjoying it.”
His pride of ownership extends throughout the Prohibition Supperclub and Bar landscape. McPherson says that Wommack mentioned how much he loved smoky flavors and wanted to incorporate those to the setting. Thus was born the Smoked Fried Chicken, which has proven to be a favorite among diners. But ditto the banquet courses that are served in the theater, three courses selected by McPherson for diners to enjoy during the Moonlight Dolls show. He’s adamant that it not be ordinary banquet dishes. On the day we talked, the entrée was a Berkshire pork chop, brined and smoked and served with roasted cauliflower.
“It’s a juggling act,” he says about balancing the sometimes 700 dinners he’ll be making for the theater, along with the 150 in the main dining room. “But there’s order in the chaos.”
And it’s clear McPherson is enjoying the restaurant’s success. His manner is happy, “here, try this,” and not chef exhausted and in the weeds. Prohibition’s the kind of place that manages deftly to be many things to many people – a task at which many restaurants fail. There’s a real throwback feeling to the space, with its dark woods and rich leather, old, black-and-white photos from the 1920s on the walls, all of it a perfect setting for the building, which was a theater in the early to mid 20th century. It’s also a comfy bar, where you can enjoy an classic cocktail after work, and the bar vibe doesn’t interrupt the feeling of excellent dining experience. And all of it is removed from the 5,000-square-foot banquet hall and theater.
Supperclub & Bar
“I want people to have an experience every time they come in, not just if they’re coming in for a special dinner. But if they’re just sitting down at the bar with a cocktail,” he says. “We’re really hitting our stride, and we know we’re a different concept from anything in the city. We’re honing who we are and who want to be.”
And what is that, exactly? Dinner theater? Nostalgic bar? A restaurant where the food is as fun as it is fine? Turns out, McPherson showcases it as all of the above.
“We want to be a national landmark.”
Prohibition Supperclub and Bar
- Location: 1008 Prairie, Houston, TX 77002
- Phone: 281-940-4636
- Restaurant Hours: Monday to Thursday 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Friday 11am-2pm, 5pm-11pm; Saturday 5pm-11pm
- Bar Hours: Monday to Thursday 5pm-midnight; Friday to Saturday 5pm-2am
- Happy Hour: Monday to Friday 5pm-6pm