Prohibition was a period when America was dry. Prohibition Chicken, however, took dry in a different direction.
Not even thorough service, a warm atmosphere and a unique theme can save a restaurant from serving mediocre entrees.
Prohibition Chicken got everything right — well, most everything.
The staff was kind and effectively used teamwork to make sure guests were taken care of. The aesthetic was heavily wood-trimmed and cozy. (“Southern chic,” my date called it.) The libations were well-crafted and numerous in options.
But these hold little weight when the chicken, the namesake, my main reason for walking into this fine establishment, is lackluster.
Prohibition Chicken, which opened in Old Town at the end of April, is a 1920s-themed eatery that serves various family-style dishes and beverages. It supposedly has a speakeasy through the phone booth, but word around the front-of-house is it isn’t open on weekdays.
Attempts to sneak into a hidden part of the restaurant through the booth confirmed either this was the case or that I look like a snitch who couldn’t be trusted.
Old Town was alive with activity on this particular Tuesday evening. Church Street was shut down for the farmers market and Wayne Ferguson Plaza was overflowing with concert goers getting their Rolling Stones fix.
The fried chicken spot at the corner of Church and Charles had a bustling dining room, with most tables seated. The cool summer evening lent itself to the open garage door connecting the wraparound patio and the indoor dining area, allowing the sounds of Lewisville to intermingle with the overhead tunes and customer chatter.
Regardless of the near-full tables, we were seated promptly. As we waited for the preparation of our table by the original host, we were greeted twice more by other staff members who wanted to make sure we weren’t left hanging.
While I found the wooden barrels and moonshine jugs decorating the walls well-placed and an appealing use of modern-yet-rustic decor, part of me did wonder how that exactly fits into a restaurant theme revolving around the secrecy of serving prohibited booze, at least in the portion of the restaurant that wasn’t considered a speakeasy.
The one-page menu managed to provide a surprising amount of options, with meals on one side and drinks on the other. It took three attempts by the server to get our order before we figured out what we wanted.
Not only were there many entrees and sides to sift through, each item was significantly detailed. Did we want Pot Licker Power Greens with Pick a Pepper Vinegar (Collards, Kale, Mustard Greens Braised with Country Ham and Pot Licker) or Smoked Cheddar Ale Mac And Cheese? Somehow having to choose four of our included bottomless sides for the two of us was difficult.
When we looked ready, another staff member took no time to see if we’d like to go ahead and order.
As a chicken joint touting locally raised birds with four types of preparation, we decided chicken was the route we needed to take. We ordered the top-listed Crispy Fried chicken as the control and the Smoked Fried chicken to compare it to. In hindsight, I wish we ordered at least one of the other offerings instead: beef or fish.
Both fried chickens were rather dry and boring to say the least. The breading was nothing special while the flavors were too subdued to write home about. Typically I can at least count on the dark meat to be juicy, but in this instance it was either overcooked or under-marinated because it was all parched poultry.
I will say the Smoked Fried had a smokey flavor that can’t be found in the usual fried chicken, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to come back and order it again.
The eatery provides four kinds of “sops,” or sauces, to sop up with your meat choice — Coffee Stout Red Eye Gravy, Roasted Jalapeno Sawmill Cream Gravy, Apple Moonshine Prohibition BBQ Sauce and Deep South White BBQ Sauce.
I’d like to say these added the much needed flavor or moisture lacking in the chicken, but alas none were especially tasty enough to make up for it. The sauces try so hard to be distinct but fall flat by not being simply creamy, sweet, spicy or just any flavor that could complement fried chicken.
We also ordered the greens, grits, smashed potatoes and cucumber salad (names summarized for length.) The greens and cucumber salad made us feel healthier but weren’t necessarily something we wanted seconds of.
The grits were wonderfully cheesy with bacon undertones, which I could have eaten a whole vat of as my meal and licked the pot to boot.
The smashed potatoes had an atypical yet pleasant quality to them which can be attributed to the parsnips, giving the side a fresh but not overpowering flavor.
If anything, the meal was filling and did its job in that regard. We had leftover chicken to box up and bring home with us.
The drinks offered range from your classic libations concocted in the 1800s through the early 1900s to in-house creations based on the theme.
We had the Sazerac as well as the popular Hair of the Dog. The Sazerac, made with Sazerac Rye, cane sugar, bitters and Absinthe, was simple and just sweet enough.
The Hair of the Dog had a beautiful flavor to match its hue. Bourbon mixed with lemon juice , cranberry juice, simple syrup and blackberries, the drink was both tart and sweet.
There was plenty of beer on tap — a mixture of craft beer and your basic brews. That is from what we could tell at a glance, as they’re not listed anywhere and the server said she lost her draft list.
We decided to do cocktails instead of getting biscuits, which are unfortunately not offered as one of the sides.
Perhaps we’ll return to try the beef, biscuits and the highly recommended $1 salad.
We’ll have to save up though because there’s no walking out of there without spending at least $50. The chicken is served as a half-bird at $19, the beef $31 per pound and a whole fish comes to $23, which includes your sides. While it is family style, you pay per person.
Your choice of cocktail starts at $10, so you could save a few bucks ordering beer or soda.
Prohibition Chicken is located at 201 W. Church St. in Lewisville. It’s open from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, Friday from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s closed on Mondays.