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Prohibition/Booze Emporium Review

Stopped into Prohibition/Booze Emporium last night for a quick dinner mostly as a result of all of the talk about the spot on this board.

The room is nicely put together with some cool touches (we loved the idea of the light-switches in the booths that were wired for service requests - like in planes - although we didn't need to use it as the service was very friendly and well-timed).

As for the food, it certainly wasn't horrible but we walked out questioning the term "GastroPub" they have been advertising. With the exception of oysters being on offer, the menu was pretty much straight-up Pub. I had the fish and chips, which was too heavily battered and salty for my personal taste, but otherwise standard and decently executed. My friend had the chicken "TV Dinner Special" which he liked less. It included a grilled chicken breast covered in an overly sweet BBQ sauce, a compartment of passable mashed potatoes and a compartment of very oily zucchini slices. He found the whole thing quite boring after a couple of bites.

The bill, with tax and tip, for the two entrees, one draught beer and an iced tea was $50.00.

We were expecting the menu to have more twists and interest. Our overall review was that based on the room and the service we would happily return for drinks, but the food was underwhelming.

Intrested to hear from others who have visited - did we just select the wrong items from the menu? Other options included a Kobe burger, mussels done two ways, wings, gourmet Mac & Cheese, smothered steak...

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  1. i am not sure chefs in toronto understand what the term 'gastropub' really means...many seem to be using it now...but i have yet to experience the gastropubs of england

    1. I have to admit, my experience was completely different. My expectation was that being a gastropub, Prohibition would be swank, hip and have something other than pub food. What a complete mistake that is!!!

      Basically, this place has all the feel of a rocker bar that will pretty much close up in about 3 months. It's completely skidsville.

      Those switches on the side of the booth were interesting, except any attempt at using them resulted in zero service. I perused the wine/drinks list...ummm.....may as well be ordering from a very low end restaurant...nothing interesting at all.

      Eventually, I picked a bottle of red to share with my 3 companions. The waitress appears, 4 chunky, very inappropriate glasses in hand, struggles to open the bottle and then finally manages to pour the wine. As I go to drink there is lipstick smeared all over my glass..umm...great. I ask for a new glass, it arrives and I pour my wine in.....guess I should have inspected it first, as this one has a toothpick in it. At this point, I should have just walked out the door, but being the polite boy I am, I again alert our waitress. Alas, she offers us as replacement a glass of house red or a round of shots. Well, being no dummy, we take the shots. They arrive after we drink the rest of the wine....all 5 of them. Obviously, our waitress decided she was to be included in the event, as she hadn't been doing enough of them behind the bar already.

      All I can say is don't even bother with this dump. I can't wait for it to close and something decent pop in. Gastropub? I'd rather go to Dangerous Dan's down the street.

      3 Replies
        1. re: JamieK

          haha they have a copy of his review up on the wall...perhaps downtownjoe will make millions from the royalties ;)

          1. re: JamieK

            Now if only they had a fact checker on their Betty Ford material.

          1. re: julesrules

            apparently all Molson, lol, real nice taps those are ; )

          2. I went by to try out the new (and welcome addition to the 'hood) last month. I was impressed by most of the d├ęcor, though I have to say the plywood tables painted black were a bit of a let-down.

            They were definitely having trouble with staff (not enough, and unprofessional), but I chalked it up to the hurdles of opening a decent restaurant in a neighbourhood that's still trying to shake off it's blue-collar and socially-assisted roots. I imagine there are a lot of hurdles and roadblocks to drain an owner's energy and attention that you might not find in a 'hood more ready to support such an endeavour.

            Anyway - operational glitches aside, here's the run-down on the food:

            I ordered the open-faced steak sandwich. It was phenomenal. Tender, seasoned just right, and covered in brie and sauteed mushrooms and onions, it exceeded my expectations.
            Someone else at the table had the pork ribs, and they were equally delicious. A good BBQ sauce, and perfectly cooked, the was a lot of "mmmm" happening as they were passed around for everyone to sample.
            Someone else ordered the french onion soup, and it was less than great. Tasting like a packaged broth, it was bland and uninteresting.
            The last dish ordered was the fish and chips. The pieces of fish were dismally small and yes, over-breaded.
            The fries were perfect.
            The calamari appetizer was exceptional.

            I haven't written this place off by any means.
            I'm returning today for lunch. I'll report back.

            1 Reply
            1. re: metalmustache

              Guh. I never got to try the lunch because they weren't open for it yet. I think they may have extended their hours by now, but I don't know for sure due to the following more recent experiences:

              Mid October: Went back for dinner with a friend, tried many of the same dishes I'd mentioned in my earlier post. Each one was horrible. The calamari was no longer fluffy and light. The ribs were dry and the sauce tasted cheap. My date's meal was equally disappointing. Beyond the food misery though, the crowning achievement of the evening were the vocal nightmares blared by the resident "entertainment" at the piano. This guy was singing off-key billy joel covers at full volume to a restaurant containing 8 people. We couldn't hear one another talk, the talent was untalented, and the food was beyond being just a let down. We left without finishing our meal.

              I returned several weeks later with a friend just to grab a drink on a wednesday evening. We had the pleasure of being pummelled by the very same billy joel covers being sung by the very same "talent". We gulped down our drinks and quickly made our way across the street to Soma where we has a fun evening of Dirty Bingo, surrounded by people with wit and a personable bartender.

              I've avoided Prohibition since.

            2. I randomly found myself at this place last week and this thread had been blown up and posted :)

              I liked the place; waitress was superb. Drinks.. well.. I don't like Molson, and it is indeed Molson only. Plus the beer fridge was left open for a good 20 minutes while I was there - that made me cringe.

              Food was good; we had the "sashimi" - a flash grilled piece of steak. Very small for the price, I thought. For virtually the same price a dining guest had the shrimp cocktail with four HUGE shrimp; not sure how they're making money on that thing.

              Mains were Rickard's battered fish and chips, open faced steak sandwich and a smoked cheddar grilled cheese w/ bacon. It's all better than average pub food.

              We were told the place is now just called "Prohibition" because the city gave them a hard time over the name "Booze Emporium".

              2 Replies
              1. re: NovoCuisine

                They weren't going to be allowed to open their doors if they kept the original name. Sorta like calling a place Free Beer. Breaks the LLBO irony laws.

                At least one of the owners was involved with the defunct Betty Ford. No wonder they blew up and posted this thread and offer a choice of one beer. If it worked in the past...

                1. re: Googs

                  This place is like Gabby's trying to be the Drake. I was really hoping for something a little more honest and authentic, much like many other great places in the area (The Mercury, Pulp Kitchen, Bario, lil Baci, The Comrade) The food was boring, bland, and overpriced. I guess every neighborhood needs a glorified sports bar that yahoos can feel important spending more money in. I wish I had more hands, so I could give 'Prohibition' four thumbs down!

              2. Just adding a quick place link to this thread.

                696 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jacquilynne

                  Never been BUT we just passed by there on the way home and the place was PACKED!!! Either it was a private party or they are doing very well.

                2. Want good Gastropub? The Dizzy on Roncevalles. I believe there are new owners now and the food was amazing. Been a couple of times now, probably the best wings (I know) I've had in TO to date. More of a "sports bar" but amazing food.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: TCB

                    They Dizzy tried hard when the brothers first took over...very much a sports bar now and the food is now less inspired but still very well executed bar food with moments of brilliance. But still not the gastropubs of England

                    1. re: robgm

                      I frequented Prohibition when it first opened because of the loacation, Oysters were great, most other menu items were okay for a neighborhood pub.
                      Food and service have gone down hill since. Mid Feb. I met a friend for a drink around 6pm, the music was so loud we couldn't hear each other, or the bartender. We asked if he could turn it down a bit, he didn't, so we left.

                      1. re: uberguy

                        what a shame that the food sucks! I really enjoy it here and go often for pints and oysters. Never ate from the menu though.

                        The only problem I've had was the case of the disappearing waitress. But the bartender noticed her lack of service and he was very attentive to the 7 of us.

                        To be honest, I've never really noticed the decor except for that one hideous table that faces the beer fridge.

                  2. Has anyone been lately?
                    What are the general portions like for the price? Comparable to most typical pubs or no?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      Portions are generally smaller than your typical pub, although I never have a problem with not having enough food. They continue to be just overpriced enough to irritate me each time we go, but we're generally okay with them as a neighborhood spot. I wish they would drop their prices to make them a bit more reasonable for the food you get, though.