Raising the steaks: Downtown steakhouse is primed for launch

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Prime 109, the Downtown Mall steakhouse that’s the brainchild of the team behind Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, is slated to open later this month. Image: Signe Clayton Prime 109, the Downtown Mall steakhouse that’s the brainchild of the team behind Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, is slated to open later this month. Image: Signe Clayton

Prime 109, the much-anticipated local-farm-centered steakhouse located in the former Bank of America building on the Downtown Mall, opens this month after nearly two years of planning and design.

The restaurant is the brainchild of the Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria team of Ian Redshaw, Loren Mendosa, Andrew Cole, Shelly Robb, and Mitchell Beerens, and it will showcase the cooking of Bill Scatena, formerly of Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, as chef de cuisine.


What’s the number?

Prime 109 takes its name from steakhouse slang for prime rib. When a steakhouse orders “prime 109” from a butcher, the butcher knows to send over roast-ready prime rib of beef. Ian Redshaw, executive chef at Prime 109, is especially excited for the restaurant’s namesake item, a Virginia-raised, 109-day dry-aged 109 steak.

Sharing center stage with Prime 109’s locally grown and produced food will be the interior Beaux-Arts décor of its 100-year-old neoclassical building, an architectural gem from a bygone era.


Redshaw, Prime 109’s executive chef, says the intent behind the restaurant is to feature the bounty of central Virginia’s food while operating in the most sustainable way possible.

“Creating a sustainable cooking community is really hard in Charlottesville because a lot of people outsource everything,” says Redshaw. “We’re trying to keep everything local as much as possible, from our beef all the way down the line, so it’s really to walk the walk of a local restaurant. With Virginia being such a great place to [raise] livestock, it fits hand in hand. Through the community we can vertically integrate everything we have. It creates a language everyone understands—we can tell a farmer ‘I need to talk to you about a cow we need 24 months from now’—and they like that!”

Redshaw adds that we here in Charlottesville are fortunate to have such amazing food grown and sold right in our proverbial (and sometimes literal) backyards.

“We’re trying to feature the bounty of the Shenandoah Valley. It’s such a big bread basket that people forget about it—but it’s some of the best vegetables and livestock around.”

Redshaw reassures Lampo fans currently fretting about the team redirecting its focus to this much larger venture: “Because of our management structure, it’ll just run as Lampo has run; you’ll see the familiar faces, Mitch and Loren will be there. A lot of the partners are pulling double duty to make sure it’s the same experience for our customers.” Cole will be Prime 109’s wine director and Beerens its pastry chef.

Prime 109’s options run the gamut from, well, steak, naturally, to a meatless Bolognese that Redshaw says is particularly delicious.

And, of course, there’s the steak so exciting, they named the entire restaurant after it, the prime 109, which Redshaw says is local pastured beef meticulously dry-aged and cooked to the customer’s liking.

He says they have a dry-aging facility at Seven Hills Food Co. in Lynchburg, a wholesaler of premium pastured Virginia family-farm-raised beef, whose mission is to connect local meat producers with local meat consumers.

“We have a lot of stuff going on in-house, but they do the majority of the processing there [at Seven Hills]—we’re bringing the beef in to them, and we teamed up with them as the livestock producer to help us out in this way.”

Sharing center stage with the locally grown and produced food will be the interior Beaux-Arts décor of the 100-year-old neoclassical building, an architectural gem from a bygone era. Two rows of Corinthian columns, which repeat the design and grandeur of the columns that front the building’s façade, grace the cavernous open space inside of the building, and support gilded coffered ceilings that invite your gaze. Banquettes flanking either side of the restaurant—decorated by local design company Jaid—are showcased by burnished maple floors reclaimed from a mid-19th-century building.

Just past the main dining area on the left is a butchering area and the main production part of the kitchen, where diners can sit at the chef’s table in front of the custom-built, wood-fired grill created by Corry Blanc of Blanc Creatives. Directly across from this is the bar, which will be headed up by Abraham Hawkins, formerly of the C&O.

The polished Carrara white tile flooring leads to a marble staircase that ascends to the mezzanine-level private dining space, which seats 40, overlooks the restaurant below, and lends an up-close look at the space’s gorgeous architectural flourishes.

Redshaw is thrilled to see the Prime 109 team’s dream of a truly local restaurant come to fruition.

“It’s been a huge undertaking with local artisans to bring everything in—from beef producers to blacksmiths to all of our plates are handmade in North Carolina. This collaboration with all local and regional artisans lets us show off what Virginia and the region has to offer.”

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