Prime 102 by Robert Marlin

A new restaurant opening has occurred in the downtown people’s
petroleum building. this new additionto Tyler’s culinary scene is called
prime 102, and according to restaurateur Steve Barnhart, the name
has significance, “in the restaurant business, ‘prime’ refers to the top
graded beef by the USDA. Prime also refers to priming the pump ‘to
get things moving.’”

“With all that is going on today, or should I say isn’t going
on, opening a restaurant now, with the help of partners Tim
Brookshire, Garnett Brookshire and Andy Bergfeld, we thought
this was an opportune time to get things moving again. ‘Prime’
also means something that is of first importance, our guests as
well as the internal guest—which is our staff. Our name reflects
all those definitions because we are determined to create a dining
experience for the people of Tyler that is second to none. We have
a prime location, in a historic building, and we plan to capitalize
on using that unique location to create an atmosphere that reflects
Tyler’s heritage while serving prime cuisine to guests who expect
nothing but the best.”

Barnhart bought a house in the Azalea District a couple of years
ago. “At the time, I was dividing my time between West Texas
and Louisiana, and Tyler was central to both. I have to admit, the
first time I came to Tyler, I fell in love with the city. I liked the
beauty of the countryside and the friendly reception given to me
by everyone I met.” When he first moved to Tyler, he had no plans
of opening a restaurant. “That changed when I met Andy Bergfeld
and Garnett Brookshire through a mutual friend who knew about
my background in the restaurant business. A crazy time to open
a restaurant, but I believe when God opens a door it’s probably a
good idea to walk through it.”

You might say that Barnhart was born into the restaurant business.
As a child growing up in Dallas, his grandmother had been with
the Kirby’s Charcoal Steak House on Greenville Avenue when
owner B.J. Kirby opened Dallas’ first specialty steakhouse in 1954.
His grandmother worked as a server in the restaurant from the
day it opened until it was closed in 1987. At the age of twelve,
Barnhart went to work at Kirby’s as a barback. “At an early age, I
learned that one of the most important aspects of the restaurant
business was building relationships. I remember watching as
guests would come in and request a table that my grandmother
was serving. Success in the restaurant business depends on repeat
guests. Serving a great product should be a given, and when you
build a relationship with the people you serve, they come back
again and again.”

Taking that knowledge to heart, led Barnhart to a fourteen-year
career with Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Working first
in Dallas, Barnhart was asked to open locations in New York and
Philadelphia. “When I arrived in New York in March 2000, I
expected to be there for a short period, just long enough to get
the restaurant up and running. I ended up staying for eight years.”
Barnhart was also entrusted with assisting in the reopening of
Tavern on the Green in New York City in 2015.

At this writing, renovations to the space are completed. The kitchen
was completely revamped with new equipment and a more efficient
layout. Barnhart is quick to emphasize that maintaining the building’s
Art Deco character is a priority. “We intend to take advantage of the
original look and feel of the property but also adding some elements
to give the space more intimacy and glamour.” This will include
custom drapes that will provide for privacy on the mezzanine level
for private affairs. “We are also creating a new bar, enlarging the
space and providing more convenient service for the patrons. ‘The
Corner Bar’ is located literally in the front corner of the building
overlooking the corner of Erwin and College streets.” The main
dining area is on the second floor, and is reached by either elevator
or from the original grand staircase. “We intend to take advantage of
the original granite that has long been admired from the days when
this space was used as a bank.”

“Prime 102 will offer the best available cuts. We are fortunate to have
relationships with the top meat purveyors in the country to offer
something special to our guests. Using locally sourced and market
fresh ingredients on all of the menu items, we can offer an exciting
and varied menu for dinner, lunch and the Corner Bar,” Barnhart
explains. Dinner will be an exceptional offering from prime steaks,
seafood, unique salads and sides to house made desserts. The lunch
menu will have a competitive price point and is designed for rapid
midday service. Lunch menu items will include everything from a
daily homemade soup and salad option to chicken fried steak and
everything in between. The Corner Bar will give guests an intimate
atmosphere with an eclectic offering of appetizers and other
house-made lighter fare options.

“Our menu is designed to provide something for every taste and
price point. We want as many people to enjoy our atmosphere and
quality food, to fit any budget. Our guests will be able to enjoy a
fabulous meal in an environment that is comfortable and inviting.
We intend to incorporate the heritage of this iconic location into
the overall dining experience. We are creating this restaurant for
the people of Tyler. We want them to come here for celebrations
of the important moments in their lives, as well as for casual
dining and a quick lunch,” Barnhart says. “I am excited about the
opportunity to assist in creating jobs and thrilled with our team that
we have in place here at Prime 102. I look forward to the continued
revitalization of downtown Tyler and the opportunity to give back
to this community which I am proud to be a part.”