DINING OUT: NAPA PRIME HEADS DOWNTOWN

By Kathie Stamps

 

Whether you have a craving for a gourmet burger with a local craft beer or fresh seafood with a California wine, you’re going to love Napa Prime in downtown Lexington.

Three venues are opening under one roof this month at Napa Prime. It’s on the corner of Broadway and Cedar Street, next to Clean Sweep Car Wash. In addition to extra parking at the carwash in the evenings, Napa Prime has a designated parking space for Uber and Lyft drop-off. They also offer valet parking on Friday and Saturday evenings.

So where did the name Napa Prime come from? “When people think of Napa Valley wines they think of a higher-end wine,” said owner Darrell Lewis.

“The emphasis is on prime ingredients. We wanted to reinforce that with fresh seafood and prime burgers.”

Lewis has 30 years’ of culinary management experience. He opened his first Napa Prime in early 2014 in his hometown of Versailles. That location employs 30 team members; 60 more have been hired in Lexington.

Built in early 2013, the Cedar Street space started out as JDI Grille & Tavern and then Alexander Bullitt’s Winery, Brewery & Bistro before Lewis took over the space in July. He refurbished the building with new lighting from Brecher’s and Pottery Barn, new furnishings from local gems like Scout Antique & Modern, and fresh paint to brighten up the feeling of the first-floor restaurant.

Each floor has its own vibe for diners, party-goers, and event planners and attendees. The first-floor restaurant, which opened on October 2nd, has seating for 90, plus 30 on the patio, with a menu specializing in prime beef burgers and fresh seafood.

By mid-October, Rocks Bourbon Bar will be open on the second floor, serving up handcrafted cocktails from 5 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday, and live music on weekends.

Napa Prime Events opens on the third floor in late October for private dining and events, with seating for 30 to 90 guests. There’s a complete A/V setup, a bar with customizable offerings, professional chef service with charcuterie stations available, and any number of ways to configure tables and chairs to the host’s liking for baby showers, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, pharmaceutical sales entertaining and more. “If you have a private party on the third floor, valet parking is going to be offered to your guests,” Lewis said.

Napa Prime Events’ mobile kitchen food truck has been on the road since 2016 and is still going strong as an arm of the Napa Prime catering operation. The food truck has served up to 500 people at one function and to prove just how popular it is, Lewis said the truck is already booked for May 2019. “September of next year is almost sold out,” he said. “We’re already booking for April 2020.”

Lewis is as business-savvy as he is customer-friendly. In early 2019 he’ll be bringing in guests from California vineyards and Bourbon distillers from Kentucky for a series of private dinners featuring bourbon and wine pairings. Next year he’s also franchising Napa Prime. This second location in downtown Lexington is quite the showcase for interested franchisees. Lewis hired Franchise Marketing Systems, an Atlanta-based business that has already projected selling 50 to 60 Napa Prime franchises within the next five years.

Now, back to the Napa Prime menu. The restaurant uses USDA prime beef for all burgers, from a classic cheeseburger to a PB&J burger. “Prime” is a designation of superior quality by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fresh seafood for Napa Prime is sourced on a weekly basis from boats in Miami, Los Angeles and Costa Rica. It’s not all beef and seafood though. For a “burger of the month” experience, Lewis has featured ostrich, camel, kangaroo, water buffalo and other exotic species.

“I wanted to create a menu that you cannot duplicate at home,” he said. “If you can make these items at home, then we offer no value to you as a guest.” Guests would agree Napa Prime is one-of-kind.

For online ordering, gift card purchases and carryout for large parties, visit NapaBurgerBar.com.


Q&A with Darrel Lewis

What drives you? A relentless pursuit of excellence. In everything.

What is your favorite year-round ingredient? Bourbon.

What is your favorite dish at Napa Prime? New York steak with chimichurri sauce, and french fries.

Favorite childhood food? PB&J.

What do you do on your days off? I like to bass fish and duck hunt.

What is the last thing you cooked at home? Filets on a Weber grill with sushi grade pan-seared diver scallops.

What quote gets you through the day? “You can only coast one way, and that’s downhill.”

What do you tell your children when they leave the house every morning? “Go make a difference.”

 

 

 



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