Sip and Savor History: Join the Prohibition Food Tour in West Palm Beach for a Culinary Time Machine Experience!
By Shay Spence
During the Prohibition era from 1920 to 1933 in the U.S., during which the sale and distribution of alcohol was illegal, Floridians didn’t exactly play by the rules: rum running, bootlegging and moonshine making made our state a sneaky source of alcohol that made its way across the rest of the country. As a professional eater, travel writer and food content creator based in Key West, I was particularly intrigued by the opportunity to immerse myself in this part of our history on the Prohibition Dinner and Drinks Tour put on by West Palm Beach Food Tours. This is just one of many food tour options from the company, but if you love history and trivia, this is absolutely the one to pick.
For $94 per person, you get a taste of the absolute best restaurants in the area, making 5 stops for signature dishes and cocktails at each. Now, this would be totally worth it for the food and drinks alone–I can personally vouch that you’ll leave full and buzzed–but along the way you’ll also take in the captivating artwork that colors the buildings of West Palm Beach and learn the fascinating, scandalous, and sometimes dark tales of the Prohibition era Palm Beaches.
Here are all the stops we made along the way and exactly what you’ll eat and drink when you book a tour!
Prohibition Food Tour Stop 1: Hullabaloo
The not-so-subtle theme at this popular Italian Gastropub is “dead rock stars,” which you’ll probably pick up on when you enter and look at the photos along the walls. It’s also where you’ll kick off this walking tour with a “Van Zant” cocktail made with Bulleit bourbon, orange blossom honey and lemon juice (it’s described as being reminiscent of a Hot Toddy but…cold…we are in Florida, after all.) As a bourbon lover, this cocktail truly warmed my soul, even though it was served on ice–and the orange blossom honey added just enough citrusy sweetness to balance the acidity from the lemon.
To pair with it you’ll get the restaurant’s roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone cheese. The slight ever-so-slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe is the perfect complement to the savory shredded pork and sharp cheese — and it’s served with au jus for dunking. And don’t overlook the zucchini chips with spicy aioli they serve on the side! These were, like, so impossibly crispy and well-seasoned that I didn’t even miss the French fries, and that’s not something I ever thought I would say.
Be sure to check out the trailer seating in the back for even more interesting decor and vintage rock star photographs. This was an incredible first stop and the hearty serving may have you already starting to feel full, but we’ve still got a long night ahead so be sure you save room.
Prohibition Food Tour Stop 2: Sassafras
Just a few blocks away from Hullabaloo you’ll get a taste of some true Florida seafood with this hot spot’s Key West Pink Shrimp and Grits. The restaurant has an open kitchen, so you get to see them flambé the shrimp right in front of you, and the silky, buttery sauce flows into the creamy grits for a truly blessed union–and you’ll wash it down with a Kiwi Mojito, which provides a bit of citrus that makes the shrimp shine.
I may be biased as I live in Key West–or perhaps that only lends more credibility to this statement–but the shrimp and grits here were easily my favorite bite of the evening. Weeks later I’m still dreaming about it! The shrimp was perfectly cooked until just tender but not at all rubbery, and I’d venture to say it competes with the best Key West pink dishes we have in the Keys. Paired with the refreshing, slightly fruity rum cocktail, you might as well be laying on the beach (and luckily, you’re not far from the actual beach so that daydream can come to fruition rather quickly).
Speaking of beaches, the details in the decor inside this restaurant are incredible, and if you look down when you’re sitting at the bar you’ll notice the whole thing is a model of a vintage beach scene, which was so intricate I could’ve sat and stared for hours. And maybe had a couple more kiwi mojitos.
Prohibition Food Tour Stop 3: Sourbon
The recently renovated interior of this space makes it truly one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to…well, a lot of restaurants. The dining room has a botanical theme with beautiful greenery draping the entire place, and stunning light fixtures to match the upscale vibe.
To enhance the surroundings you’ll start with a crisp glass of Champagne, served alongside bruschetta topped with burrata, roasted tomatoes, arugula and balsamic glaze. This is a classic flavor combination reminiscent of a caprese salad–but even better as the burrata lends a creaminess you’re not going to get from straight mozzarella. Add in a little effervescence from the bubbly and you have a lovely, elegant party pairing you’ll want to recreate at home.
In true Prohibition fashion, you’ll also get to check out the restaurant’s hidden speakeasy in the back up the stairs. This is a spot you might just want to stop for a nightcap later after the tour is over.
Prohibition Food Tour Stop 4: Proper Grit
In the lobby of The Ben hotel, you’ll find this grandiose restaurant where they serve a charcuterie board that’s as magnificent as the design of the space itself, alongside their rum-based “Old Cuban” cocktail.
Pro tip: when the charcuterie board comes out, you will be overwhelmed with options, but go straight for the green streaky cheese–and don’t be freaked out by the color. It’s infused with pesto, which provides a glorious nutty herb flavor that perfectly complements and cuts through the salty cheese.
From this point, all we have is dessert left, and thankfully it’s just a quick elevator ride to get there.
Prohibition Food Tour Stop 5: Spruzzo
Finish off the tour by heading up to the rooftop of the hotel which offers one of the best views of the city, and you’ll have their signature carrot cake ice cream sandwiches waiting for you poolside. I normally don’t love carrot cake, and I don’t know if it’s the booze talking, but these were a work of art. Not too sweet, perfect soft-yet-sturdy texture, and a great way to end a raucous (and hot) Florida evening. This is also the ideal time and vantage point for taking photos with your group with a sunset lighting and picturesque backdrop for your social media posts.
If you’re done with the tour and don’t want to stop the party, the good news is you’re right in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach and in a prime position to explore the nightlife of the Clematis Street district. Check out O’Shea’s if you’re in the mood for an Irish pub, or Lost Weekend if you want to try your luck at vintage arcade games, bowling or billiards. There is also often a free concert happening in town at the exact time the tour ends, which is a huge bonus.
Overall, this is an absolutely fantastic deal. It was a great mix of meat, seafood, vegetarian dishes and dessert, and our guide was knowledgeable and funny, immediately setting the tone for a remarkably irreverent tour when I arrived. By the end of the night you’ll be full of some of the most delicious food you can find in West Palm Beach, and probably have made a bunch of new friends as those cocktails flow. Plus you get your steps in along the way, so it all balances out.
To book your tickets, head to West Palm Beach Food Tours and choose the Prohibition Dinner and Drinks Tour. It takes 2 1/2 hours total and can accommodate groups of up to twelve people. Cheers!