DUNEDIN — The wait is finally over: Prohibition Kitchen and Tap, the new restaurant and bar inside Dunedin’s beleaguered Whiskey Cartel space, is now open.
The restaurant, cocktail lounge and bar — billed as a “Southern comfort gastropub” — opened Tuesday afternoon, capping a two-and-a-half-year saga that spawned internet speculation, countless memes and plenty of pithy jabs from locals in waiting.
The hype surrounding the long-vacant space wasn’t missed by the new owners, who have been playing along tongue-in-cheek, plugging the restaurant’s eventual launch for several months. (A recent meme pictured the now iconic image of a bundled-up and mittened Bernie Sanders waiting in a chair outside the building.)
Tuesday’s announcement fell right in line with the long-running local joke.
“OMG. It’s happening. Open at 4,” general manager Brad Crum wrote on the restaurant’s marquee.
“We wanted to drive that buzz within the community,” Crum said. “At the end of the day, we all have a good sense of humor.”
News of Whiskey Cartel’s imminent opening at 1600 Main St. was first shared in 2018, when the building’s owners announced they would launch a restaurant, beer hall and cocktail bar with a focus on “the craft of bourbon, Scotch and rye.” But as the months — and then years — passed, their vision never materialized.
For Dunedin residents, the ill-fated project became a popular topic of local discussion and mockery on social media. In March 2020, the owners of nearby Dunedin watering hole Eddie’s Bar & Grill purchased the space. The building, which dates back to the 1960s, has since undergone significant renovations. Crum said his team only kept the inside bar — a poured concrete-top bar outfitted with wooden accents and metal straps — and gutted the rest.
“We did a complete, almost million-dollar renovation to the building,” he said.
The space now features a Prohibition-era theme throughout, with raw-cut cedar walls, porcelain tiling, wainscoting and the building’s original brick fireplace.
The roughly 5,700-square-foot space includes seating for 210 people and features two bars — one inside and one outside on a large, smoke-free and dog-friendly patio, which is surrounded by green space and outfitted with fans and televisions.
Crum and his team hired local artist Beth Warmath to decorate the space with five original murals. A 1920s REO Speedwagon truck sits outside the building overlooking State Road 580.
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Executive chef Jack Brown is helming the kitchen, where a menu of Southern-inspired comfort fare features a heavy emphasis on barbecue, with dishes like St. Louis-style ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork and brisket. Crum described the food as “feel-good-stick-to-your-ribs.”
Snacks and “shareables” include dishes like smoked pork boudin balls served with remoulade ($9.95); lobster street corn fritters with brown butter and a lime chipotle crema ($15.95); and smoked brisket-topped sweet potato waffle fries with tomato bacon jam and smoked Gouda ($9.95).
A selection of sandwiches and other “handhelds” includes brisket burnt end tacos, served with a guajillo pepper barbecue sauce and peach chutney on fried blue corn tortillas ($12.95); a smoked pastrami Reuben ($14.95); a pork belly BLT with pickled tomatoes and lemon basil aioli on sourdough ($11.95); and a Southern-fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese ($12.95). A small selection of larger, entree-style dishes includes a Creole-glazed salmon risotto ($18.95); a burnt ends mac and cheese ($13.95); and braised bone-in short ribs served with bourbon cream mashed potatoes ($26.95).
The restaurant, which will expand to include a catering arm and curbside to-go operation in the coming weeks, also features an in-house bakery, led by pastry chef and baker Denise Otero. The bakery counter, which sits at the entrance of the building and greets customers as they enter, will feature baked goods like pastries and cakes to-go, including desserts and treats like vegan chocolate chip cookies, a chocolate peanut butter s’mores brownie and a pineapple upside down cake with rum whipped cream.
Crum designed the cocktail and bar menus, which are anchored by a strong selection of whiskeys and gin. A Prohibition-themed cocktail menu includes several different twists on an Old Fashioned, including a version made with Woodford Reserve bourbon and cherry bitters ($8); a Citrus Sour made with Makers Mark 46, Pamplemousse liqueur, orange bitters and egg whites ($9.50); and the Perfectly Pear’d, made with Gray Whale gin, pear liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup ($9). The bar also features 37 beer taps with a strong focus on local options, including selections from Dunedin breweries.
In the coming months, Crum said the restaurant will start serving weekend brunch. For now, Prohibition Kitchen and Tap will be open for lunch and dinner from 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
1600 Main St., Dunedin. 727-754-8448. prohibitionkitchendunedin.com.