by Dr. Aubrey D. Sharpe

photos by Noel Martin

It was a rainy day in Tyler, but elegant and dry inside Prime 102 on the downtown square. Twelve months, almost to the day, have passed since the last “Man About Town,” just before the Pandemic restrictions set in. While it is good to be back, celebrating with Steve Barnhart and his staff was a special treat. All of us have been anticipating the opening of this new first-class venue for months, and it has been worth the wait.

When we say first-class, we’re talking first-class beef—the best you can buy—top of the line; first-class chef and kitchen staff; first-class service and ambiance; first-class “Corner Bar” and bartender, and first-class owner who is personally committed to our community. But Prime 102 is not just fine dining. As Director of Marketing Peri Janis puts it, “It is fine and not so fine—your choice.” The dress code is come as you are whether casual or dressed to the nines. This people-friendly place is for your very special occasion or any occasion. Steve Barnhart says, “My desire is for folks to enjoy a casual lunch two or three times a week and dinner several times a month.” It’s a regular place for regular people to feel at home away from home.

Steve and Peri planned this party from start to finish. They invited nonprofit human services agencies of Tyler to share in the celebration. That’s where their heart is, having volunteered throughout the pandemic for PATH. The guests were Andrea Wilson of PATH, Kilton McCracken from Mentoring Alliance, Trudy Williams from Meals on Wheels, Donna Spann with the East Texas Food Bank and John Gaston of the United Way of Smith County. The personal chemistry was ideal. At the end of the night, Andrea Wilson said, “We are such a great fit, let’s meet together monthly for dinner to collaborate and communicate about working together for the good of our neighbors.” It was unanimous, and the “Man” will be there, too.

The menu at Prime 102 is American Traditional. Steaks and seafood are the bill of fare with perfectly paired selections of salads and sides, uniquely prepared with layers of flavors that pop in your mouth.  The steaks are the best prime-cut Angus beef, seasoned only with salt and pepper, broiled to perfection in an 18000 oven, then grilled with Chef Eric’s special technique. Everything is made in house but the ice cream. The produce is farm fresh from local farmers. The wine list is extensive with choices that fit any one’s taste or pocketbook. 

The luncheon menu boasts “ten-minutes or less in and out of the kitchen” and thirty-minutes for you to enjoy and be on your way, should you choose. There are small plates, soups, salads sandwiches and entrees from which to choose.

The new Corner Bar is an especially tasteful nook with two walls of windows overlooking downtown. Tyler’s own Trent Poarch, Certified Bourbon Steward, tends the bar. In addition to the finest craft specialty cocktails or libations of choice, a diverse food menu is available. The star specialty drinks of the house are the Yellow Rose of Texas with pineapple infused Tito’s and the famous Old Fashion with Knob Creek Bourbon.

For our party, Chef Eric, Matt, Steve and Peri ensured the fun dining experience of a lifetime. It was the best of attention without interruption. Matt set us up faultlessly with dinnerware, drinks of choice and a never-ending stream of a Darioush Cabernet, while Chef Eric kept his specialty Starter Creations coming. They were beautiful, artistically presented, and full of flavor. The Chef knows his food and his craft well.

But this was merely the beginning. Chef Eric prepared a feast fit for royalty. As our entrees were being prepared, he continued to tease us with his Starter surprises. The entrees of choice were diverse: 8 oz. USDA Prime filets topped with bleu cheese; USDA Prime 14 oz. New York strip; king salmon; jumbo lump crab cake dinner; and honey glazed Berkshire pork belly dinner. Of course, we shared bites of each! The sides, large enough to share, are gastronomical delights. Each of us, feeling full as an overloaded baked potato still sampled dessert. The Bread Pudding is to die for!

Whatever your choice, fine dining or fun casual, Prime 102 has a place for you. You must add this unique venue to your list of “Go to Places” … and do it often.

The evening was so wonderful we lost track of time and closed the place down. Go figure! And we’ll all be back. So, if you’re out and about, look for us, we’ll be about town. 

Prime 102 is located within the former People’s Bank lobby in the renowned art deco Peoples Petroleum Building at College Avenue and West Erwin. Serving hours are 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM M-F and 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM Saturday. Closed Sunday. For reservations or special events, call 903-400-9102.