Downtown Memphis’ vibrant dining scene just got brighter with the brand-new addition of 117 Prime. Restaurateurs Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp teamed up with Chef Ryan Trimm to create a unique steakhouse experience. “117 Prime is a traditional American steakhouse but with a touch of our own Southern charm,” says Ryan.
Ryan and his partners Craig and Roger are known for their Southern fare. Ryan is the chef and owner of Sweet Grass and Next Door, while Craig and Roger created Central BBQ. The three joined together last year as Across the Board Hospitality to create Sunrise Memphis, a downtown breakfast joint that has quickly become a dining destination. In 117 Prime, the three have created an elegant steakhouse with a Southern flair.
As the team was brainstorming what to do with the downtown restaurant space at 117 Union Avenue that Roger has owned for decades, they knew they wanted to create a concept tailored to the area. “If we were going to open something downtown, we wanted to be an addition to complement the already great downtown restaurant scene,” Ryan explains. Memphis has some great classic steakhouses, but most are all out east. A refined steakhouse was the perfect fit for the space and location.
Ann Nordeen Parker of Parker Design Studio transformed the space into an elegant dining room with a stunning bar. “We wanted to create a classic, old-school steakhouse — like the ones you would go to for a Saturday night dinner with your parents or grandparents — but with a modern-day edginess.”
The dining room’s dark stained wooden tables, comfy leather chairs with nailhead trim and tall banquette are juxtaposed by the Southern charm and playfulness of the wall art. “We used framed cocktail napkins and collected mirrors to connect folks to the past days and evoke a little humor of going to your parents’ or grandparents’ favorite restaurant,” Ann explains of the unique art display. “All that’s missing is the basket of packaged crackers,” she jokingly adds.
The bar is the star of the restaurant decor. It features a beautiful white marble bar with mosaic penny tiles in gradations of blues below and big wooden geometric light fixtures above, lending the bar a modern edge. We recommend enjoying cocktails and a plate of oysters at the bar before dinner at 117 Prime. It’s also the perfect spot to meet friends after work.
And speaking of cocktails, 117 Prime has a beverage menu you are not going to want to miss. Start with a handcrafted cocktail for your pre-dinner libation. Nick Lumpkin, who also designed the cocktails at Sweet Grass, Next Door and Sunrise, has created a sophisticated cocktail menu that focuses on using premium liquors as well as fresh and seasonal ingredients.
“One of my favorites is ‘The Primer,’” Nick explains, “It’s our Memphis take on an Old Fashioned. Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small-Batch Bourbon is muddled with coffee-infused Demerara syrup, Memphis BBQ bitters and orange zest.”
Nick also recommends enjoying his seasonal cocktail – Lilly’s Crush – with your steak. “It’s an approachable, fresh Whiskey Sour cocktail. Fresh strawberries, stone fruit and Lillet Rouge are combined and served over crushed ice. It’s a refreshing spring and summer cocktail that also pairs well with steak, thanks to the wine-based Lillet Rouge,” Nick adds.
Wine lovers will also be pleased with 117 Prime’s extensive wine list. The waiters are knowledgeable and can help you pick the perfect wine to complement your meal. And if bourbon is your thing, plan to order a glass for an after-dinner treat. 117 Prime has one of the best bourbon selections in Memphis. From Whistle Pig to George C. Stag and Pappy Van Winkle, their bourbon selection is sure to be a hit with even the pickiest bourbon aficionado.
The menu at 117 Prime has all the classics you would expect at an upscale steakhouse. Classic starters include a selection of raw oysters, an iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon and a decadent French onion soup. While lobster corn chowder, chargrilled oysters and jumbo lump crab cakes with remoulade sauce are a few of the Southern-inspired appetizers on the menu.
And, of course, a steakhouse is all about the beef, and 117 Prime offers six different cuts. From a 4-ounce filet to a 28-ounce dry-aged porterhouse, there is a steak just right for every meat lover.
One of the things we love most about the steak menu is the selection of sauces to accompany your steak. Demi-glace, béarnaise, sauce espagnole, charcuterie, Henry Bain, gremolata, gribiche and Worcestershire are the options. It’s hard to pick just one. “As an A-1 lover, the Henry Bain sauce has always been my unsung hero,” says Ryan. “I also love the charcuterie sauce. In addition to steaks, it’s great on pork and birds.”
You can also make your order “surf and turf” by adding crabmeat, shrimp or lobster.
As at every old-school steakhouse, there is a wide selection of a la carte side dishes that are perfect for sharing. A one-pound, pecan-baked sweet potato or the “Dirty” Brussels sprouts with bacon and blue cheese are two of the not-so-traditional options that Ryan has put on the menu; while the buttermilk-fried onion rings, potatoes au gratin and creamed spinach are a few of the classics you will want to share with the table.
If not in the mood for beef, Ryan recommends the pork porterhouse. It’s a 16-ounce, locally raised porterhouse cut from Home Place Pastures in Como, Mississippi. Fish lovers will enjoy the king salmon served with lemon-Parmesan risotto, spring vegetables and sauce Américaine or the Gulf black grouper with a goat cheese ratatouille tart. Vegetarians aren’t forgotten either. Ryan teamed up with Justin Fox Burks of The Chubby Vegetarian to create a hearty vegetarian dish of grilled butternut squash steak with oyster mushrooms Rockefeller and buttermilk-fried onion rings.
Portions are generous, but if you still have room for dessert, consider a sweet bite of tiramisu or classic New York cheesecake topped with Italian Luxardo maraschino cherries.
While 117 Prime has all the charm of your grandparents’ favorite classic American steakhouse, its elegant yet edgy setting and exquisite culinary offerings take it to the next level.
117 Prime is located 117 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38103. Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and brunch will be coming soon. Complimentary valet parking is available. For more information or reservations, call (901) 433-9851 of visit 117Prime.com.
And thank you to 117 Prime for today’s beautiful images.
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