The shades are still drawn on the street-facing windows at 115 S. Front St., but behind their cover, the historic space that housed iconic Wilmington businesses like Mickey Ratz, Aubriana’s and Tails Piano Bar is nearing the end of its transformation into Prost, a German beer garden set to open later this month.
The bones of the building have been preserved, with exposed brick walls and abundant natural light juxtaposed with warm, muted jewel tones to lift the space. Playful touches – including custom motorcycle sconces mounted above the tables, their headlight sockets brimming with greenery – add a dose of whimsy.
Preserving the character of the storied storefront and its exposed brick courtyard was important to the team behind Prost, which includes co-owner Bekah Smith. Hanging on the wall above the bar, a refinished shell of a 1918 piano pays homage to the building’s past life as Tails, and the glass block wall in the back hallway was preserved as a nod to the days of Mickey Ratz.
“I like the history of what’s here. I want to keep that going and not let it be forgotten,” Smith said.
At the same time, Smith and her team wanted to provide something new for the southern stretch of Front Street, a place that feels special to Smith as the home of numerous businesses she’s had a hand in opening and operating: Little Dipper Fondue, since sold to new owners, as well as YoSake, Husk and Dram + Morsel.
When she and her partners realized the location was becoming available in 2021, they tried to envision a concept that would match the space, including a use that could fully utilize the back courtyard. A proper German beer garden, the centuries-old staple throughout Germany where visitors gather to enjoy drinks amidst the fresh air, seemed like a good fit. Erin Wiley, who has headed the kitchen at Yosake for years, leveraged her German heritage to devise a menu of German fusion classics, and Prost was born.
Prost (the German word equating to "Cheers!" in English) will serve a full bar of options for drinks, with 12 taps of mostly local beers, including some iterations of German-inspired brews like Kolsch, lagers and pilsners, alongside bottles and cans of imported European styles. The cocktail menu, developed after extensive research into continental preferences, will also reflect the German theme.
“What I’ve discovered is Jager has not gone away. It’s still very prevalent in Germany,” Smith said.
Best known in the United States for its use in Jagerbombs, where a shot of Jagermeister is dropped in a pint of energy drink, the German aperitif will be used differently at Prost. For example, a red wine sangria is laced with the herby and spice-forward notes of the liqueur.
“It sounds weird and it tastes delicious,” Smith said.
Other house cocktails are crafted with a base of crisp, light prosecco, another popular choice across the pond.
Likewise, the menu of German fare offered for lunch and dinner is the product of weeks of tastings. Expected classics like soft pretzels, schnitzel and sausages make an appearance, although Wiley has lent her flair to traditional offerings. Spaetzle, a pillowy soft egg noodle typically served as a side, is dressed in a three-cheese sauce to create a spin on macaroni and cheese as an appetizer, and it replaces grits in a reimagined take on shrimp and grits for dinner.
For lunch, diners can choose from bratwurst, bauernwurst and kielbasa plus a vegetarian option from Beyond Sausage as well as a crispy pork schnitzel served in the style of a patty melt. Sides include braised cabbage, potato chips and potato salad, all made fresh in-house.
While the food may seem a bit sophisticated for younger palates, Smith said they will also cater to the simpler tastes often preferred by kids.
“The sandwiches are a little more elevated, but you can still bring your kids here and if they just want a hot dog, they can have a hot dog,” she said.
Once open, diners can choose from about 50 seats indoors and 60 in the courtyard. About a third of the business’s seating will be communal, a traditional feature in Prost’s German counterparts.
“If you go back to beer gardens and European-style dining, people sit together,” Smith said. “We’re not going to force anyone, but I want to make it more inclusive and a meet-your-neighbor kind of thing.”
In the exposed brick courtyard, a new bar has been constructed in a style similar to the iconic half-timbered buildings seen throughout Germany, with exterior framing used for decorative effect. Like the interior, the courtyard is dotted with warm pops of color, playful decor and plenty of plants to create a cohesive aesthetic throughout the business.
“I never want anybody to feel like they’d rather be in a different part of the space. I want it to flow so you’re comfortable whether you’re inside or outside,” she said.
Smith plans to open Prost by the end of the month. She anticipates the business will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with later hours on Friday and Saturday.
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