WORCESTER – If you want to eat at a place this cool, and cravable, and completely delicious, you need to enter through a secret door, know the right password, and not be afraid to sip a little moonshine.
Bootleggers Prohibition Pub is a unique, hidden away restaurant and bar in Worcester. It’s really more like a time warp directly to the 1920’s, according to brother and sister owners Al Maykel and Celeste Zack.
“We created an atmosphere where you feel as if you’re walking into somebody’s basement. The walls are a mix-match of brick, wood, and wallpaper,” Celeste described. “The bar scene here is so much fun. Everyone is relaxed, has a great time, loves to try the moonshine. We have a million different drinks that we’ve put on the menu, that are completely different than anywhere else in the city.”
Before you can eat here, first you need to find the place. There’s an interesting story behind that, and their not-so-secret “secret entrance”.
“Bootleggers Prohibition Pub is located on the corner of Chandler and Park Ave, and we have a secret entrance around back,” Al said.
“The reason why we put the big sign outside that says ‘Secret Entrance Around Back’ is because unfortunately, people were complaining that they couldn’t find the door and that they were trying to come to this great new place, but they didn’t know how to get in,” Celeste added.
It’s no secret that the menu at Bootleggers was inspired by the Prohibition era, but with plenty of up-to- date touches.
“We have bites you can have for one person. We also have larger portions that you can share. We have sandwiches, burgers, we have flatbread pizzas and we also have an amazing list of entrees,” Celeste stated.
The servers certainly dress the part, and the kitchen can absolutely walk the walk. There is Buffalo Shrimp Mac & Cheese with bacon and a honey blue cheese drizzle; Grilled Mexican street tacos; Southern fried lollypop-style chicken wings; Steak Frites boasting a perfectly seared 12-ounce sirloin and a silky smooth Bernaise sauce. To start your meal, the so-called Coney Island fries are like the perfect combination of nachos and poutine.
“The Coney Island fries are actually my favorite appetizer that’s on the menu,” Celeste said. “They’re covered with our chili, cheese, banana peppers. There’s a spice to it, then also the crispiness of the French fries, and the banana peppers on it just give it that little extra kick.”
If you happen to be the kind of New Englander who can’t decide between ordering some Clam Chowder or a plate of fried clams, the signature Moontown Clam Strips offers the best of both worlds.
“Basically you have a metal bowl that we serve it in. We put a nice ladle of our clam chowder in it, a grilled piece of corn bread on top of that, and then we take crispy, Cajun seasoned clam strips and put it on top of that. So you get crunchy, you get soft, you get soup, you get kind of the whole flavor profile,” described Al.
The flavors are kicked up even further when it comes to the Bootlegger Burgers and Prohibition Dogs. You can go all-in on some twin Kobe beef hot dogs smothered in chili, onions, and cheese. Or check out the Topless Floozie Burger, featuring a half pound of Angus beef and cheddar cheese with a fried egg on top. It gets just the result that Al is looking for.
“I had one customer say, ‘I was eating your burger and my plate was a mess afterwards.’ And I said, ‘Success. That’s victory. That’s what a good burger should do for you.’”
Perhaps not quite as messy, but every bit as delicious is the Blackberry Short Rib flatbread.
“So addicting. I am hooked on it. I eat it at least once a week,” Al said. “We put down a layer of ricotta, blended cheese, and then our braised beef short ribs, banana peppers and some Vidalia onions, and we drizzle it with our moonshine barbecue sauce that we make here… It is one of the best pizzas you’ll ever have.”
If you want to have that, or anything else on the menu, you will need to know the secret password. Don’t worry though. It’s not that tough to get it. You just need to call for a reservation.
“People call and make a reservation and they’re given a password. The passwords that the hostesses will give out have something to do with the Prohibition era,” Celeste explained. “They enjoy the concept. They love being on the seedier side of Prohibition.”
You’ll find Bootleggers at 234 Chandler Street in Worcester, but make sure you call for that reservation and password. Their website is bootleggersprohibitionpub.com.
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