WILMINGTON — A full house of diners were treated to first bites at the soft opening of a new restaurant on Front Street Tuesday.
Prost opens to the public for dinner Thursday through Saturday this week, with lunch hours added next Thursday through Sunday.
READ MORE: Eat better, support local: Port City Taste kicks off Monday
Located at 115 Front St. the restaurant is the latest undertaking by husband-and-wife team Justin and Bekah Smith, Kyra Faina and Gil Johnson. The restaurateurs also operate YoSake, Dram + Morsel and Husk.
“It’s been a fun passion project,” Justin said. “Bekah and I have always loved going to places like this in other cities and just sharing nosh with friends.”
The atmosphere is convivial and communal. Some areas are outfitted with long tables to seat more people, as seen in traditional beer gardens. Though two- and four-tops are also spaced for those who want more private dining options.
A large bar, constructed by Tym Dyvorak, is the centerpiece in both the indoor and outdoor spaces. The bar inside is made of old doors that have been finished with a patina. Part of a piano hangs above it on the wall — a nod to its former tenant, Tails Piano Bar, Bekah said.
The back patio is open air, featuring exposed brick and windows, a chalet-like façade framing the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, and old shutters reclaimed from the building. They align some of the door frames to create an Old World European feel.
“I love the courtyard so much,” Bekah said. “It has always been something Justin and I were just obsessed with. We always were saying: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody did this?’”
The space came open in summer 2021 and the group jumped at the opportunity to renovate it, mainly with cosmetic repairs. The kitchen was intact from when Aubriana’s Fine Dining operated in the space years ago, before Tails.
However, the former dark walls, once black and gold, have been transformed into a whimsical mish-mash of light and dark, hard and soft, masculine and feminine touches. The natural wood and exposed brick indoors are complemented by handmade oaken barrels from which plants by Dagmar’s Designs and Landscapes cascade.
It was Bekah’s inspiration: bringing the outdoors in with a lot of greenery.
“If you’re gonna say it’s a beer garden, I think garden,” she said.
It’s also apparent in the pop of floral wallpaper with cool salmon and green colors on one back wall. It juxtaposes a darker black and cream design, featuring images of flowers, skulls, potions and palms embedded with a third eye on the opposite side of the room. The funky images add in touches of modernity to an otherwise historical space.
“I wanted it to be pretty but also cool,” Bekah said.
The unique light sconces hanging on the walls are more of an art installation, featuring the frontends of motorcycles. They were designed by Corey Kovach — who also made all the wood tables in the space, as well as the oaken barrels suspended from the ceiling on a pulley system for easy care.
“He is just amazing,” Bekah said. “You have an idea and Corey takes it to the next level.”
Strung lights cross overhead on wooden beams and brighten the space in a dim glow.
“It’s not a traditional German bar,” Justin said, “but more of a fusion of what we like.”
Bekah said it was a collaboration of local talent and hands, as well as imagination coming into play.
The Smiths have always boasted Prost — a year in the making — as an experiential dining concept, much like YoSake, which is Asian fusion. Its menu, created by chef Erin Wiley — who led the kitchen at YoSake for years — now blends German with other flavors.
Wiley even scooped up YoSake’s famed firecracker shrimp but instead of tossed in a spicy Asian chile sauce, it becomes coated in horseradish mustard, served with Brussels and kraut slaw.
Shrimp and grits also get tweaked, a favorite dish from Dram + Morsel, which hasn’t reopened since shuttering from Covid-19 (but Justin said it’s likely to reopen). Instead, it’s shrimp and spaetzle, a thicker egg noodle, made with Black forest ham, garlic and white wine.
The noodle transforms mac and cheese, created with emmental (medium-hard cheese), Swiss and butterkäse (semi-soft cow’s milk) cheeses.
Of course, bratwurst, kielbasa, and bauernwurst are offered in the form of sandwiches. The sausages are procured from a New York deli that specializes in German fare, Justin indicated (a Beyond label is also on the menu for vegans). However, Prost’s sous chef, Chris Andrews, will eventually be making some homemade.
“That’s specifically why Erin hired him,” Bekah said. “Chris has vast experience and is just excellent; we are lucky to have him and Skip Taylor, as well as all of our staff.”
The goal is to have a sausage board eventually. In fact, Justin expects the menu to evolve according to diner feedback.
“We really want the dining public to dictate what this place will be,” he said.
Schnitzel appears as both an entree, with braised cabbage; it can be ordered traditionally as pork or with chicken. A pork variety also comes tucked in a handheld, updated as a patty melt. Fried and pounded, the pork is stacked with rich in-house dijonnaise, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
Beef stroganoff is highlighted in the entree section, an homage to Bekah’s Moravian roots, specifically her grandmother’s recipe. A bit different than the normal creamier versions most may identify with the dish, Prost’s leans into the rich flavor of slow-cooked beef tips resting in its broth, filled out with mushrooms and herbs.
Chicken paprikash swims in a smoky paprika sauce, sour cream and herbs.
Both entrees are served with egg noodles.
For diners wanting quick, fun snacks over drinks, Prost’s app menu shines. Homemade chips, perfectly thin, crispy and salty, are served with a caramelized onion dip — a homemade take on French onion, only backed by a slight smoky finish. The smoked trout and horseradish dip is served with crostini and house pickles.
The pretzels — ordered from a bakery in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina — make the perfect vessel to dip into the Haus cheese sauce and beer mustard. Prepare for the latter opening the sinuses with its kick.
“I bet we tried a dozen varieties of pretzels from various vendors,” Bekah informed. “And we kept coming back to those.”
Insanely buttery, the dough twists have a soft crumb and crispy finish, thanks to a quick dunk in the fryer.
Beer on tap is locally procured, featuring varieties from Wilmington Brewing, New Anthem, and Edward Teach, alongside regionally made craft brews, such as Bird Song in Charlotte. They’re offered in 10-, 16- and 20-ounce pours.
Bottles and cans tap into traditional German flavors, including Erdinger dunkel, Konig Radler, Paulaner hefe weizen and Spaten premium lager. A German wine list is also featured.
But the sips are elevated in a craft cocktail menu, with prices not exceeding $12.
Sangria, for instance, comes with a Jägermeister twist — the liquor adds a dry anise flavor on the backend, combined with red wine, apple brandy, St. Germain Elderflower and housemade blackberry syrup. It’s also a deal at $8 for a generous pour.
The Porter Old Fashioned is made with Sazarec rye, Benedictine, chocolate bitters, Fernet Branca, and housemade demera syrup. Tequila is the shining star in the Sauer Flower — Milargo, grapefruit liquor, Aperol, curry bitters, simple syrup and lime.
Prices for appetizers are between $7 and $13, handhelds are $12 to $14, and entrees, $16 to $24. Side items, including German potato salad and cold cucumber salad, are $4 and up.
Prost will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Eventually, the outdoor bar will host bands, too.
Below is a first look at the food, drinks and restaurant:
Have restaurant news? Email Shea Carver at email@example.com
Want to read more from PCD? Subscribe now and then sign up for our newsletter, Wilmington Wire, and get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.