German with a Twist
Prost's German fusion menu finds success
As the sun started to sink into the horizon beyond the Cape Fear River on a warm February evening earlier this year, KYRA TEBO FAINA was peeling the paper off the street-facing windows at Prost, like a child unwrapping a present.
Natural light streamed into the dining room, illuminating the exposed brick walls, custom planters brimming with green tendrils and stems, and warm jewel tones throughout the space. More than a year in the works, the German beer garden was moments away from welcoming its first guests. Tebo Faina remembers feeling excited, seeing the room fully ready for the first time.
“It was beautiful. The sun was right there setting, and it was really magical in here right before we had our first customers,” says Tebo Faina, general manager of the eatery as well as a partner in the Roudabush Group, the parent company behind Prost as well as Dram + Morsel, The Husk, and YoSake. And then it was go time. As soon as the doors at 115 South Front Street opened, business boomed.
Owner BEKAH SMITH, says she and her husband, JUSTIN SMITH, thought Prost would have some time at the end of the slower winter months to work through the kinks of opening a new restaurant before peak season hit in the spring. Instead, lines formed out the door as soon as Prost was open.
“It was like all the stars had aligned, but we weren’t expecting it,” Bekah Smith says, describing this time as both exciting and overwhelming.
Work on the restaurant began in 2021 when Bekah Smith and her partners realized the historical building on South Front Street was available. They brainstormed a concept worthy of the space, particularly the back courtyard. ERIN WILEY, who headed the YoSake kitchen at the time, walked through and suggested a German beer garden, and Prost was born.
Wiley agreed to join the new venture as executive chef and began crafting a menu of German fusion fare, informed by her own German heritage.
“My family’s kind of German – kind of,” Wiley says. “I mean, my mom cusses me out in German. I’ll put it that way.”
When mapping out the menu, Wiley wanted to create food that was interesting and fun, but accessible. The final product, described by Tebo Faina as “elevated (and) thoughtful,” blends German classics such as schnitzel, spaetzle, and sausages with elements of Southern comfort food.
Pillowy soft spaetzle is dressed in a three-cheese sauce for a spin on macaroni and cheese on the appetizer menu. For entrees, spaetzle replaces grits in a reimagined take on shrimp and grits.
Much of the menu is scratch-made, Wiley notes.
“We really pride ourselves on making all of our sauces and pickles. A lot of these things, there are no shortcuts. You can’t buy spaetzle anywhere,” she says. “We’re in here making 50- to 60-cup batches of flour for spaetzle every other day. I’m going to have Popeye shoulders by the end of it.”
Top sellers so far include the potato pancakes, served with chives-flecked sour cream and homemade applesauce; the schnitzel patty melt, with a crispy pork schnitzel layered with caramelized onions and mushrooms and a smear of house dijonnaise on rye bread; and soft pretzels, fried fresh and accompanied by beer mustard and cheese sauce for dipping.
“The beer mustard that Erin makes is a pretty big hit,” Bekah Smith says.
Named after the German word for “cheers,” Prost also offers a full bar of options. About a dozen beers are on tap, many of them German-inspired styles by local breweries. For those who want a truly authentic European drink, the bar is also stocked with cans of beer and bottles of wine imported from across the pond.
For cocktails, a German classic – Jägermeister – makes an appearance in a house sangria, where the herby digestif is mixed with apple brandy, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, red wine, and blackberry syrup.
“It sounds weird, and it tastes delicious,” Bekah Smith says.
Even though the first few months felt like a whirlwind, she says she’s now able to pause and reflect on the restaurant’s instant success.
“It’s a good feeling to see people enjoying themselves, liking the food and liking the atmosphere,” she says. “A year in the making is a lot of pressure, and I feel like we did a really good job.”
Wiley agrees. On particularly pretty days, when she walks through the courtyard to access a walk-in freezer for supplies, she often observes people eating, drinking, and being merry.
“I’m jealous,” Wiley says. “I want to come here and hang out.”
To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.
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