Pick-your-own steak, butcher block paper and more on tap at new downtown venture.
Who knew it would take a Block to make a local restaurant duo’s dream come full circle?
But that’s just what happened when Ichiban, Bar 101 and The Lookout Bar & Grill owners Todd Moore and Dave Andrews signed a deal Friday afternoon to open a new restaurant in downtown Charleston in a prime location.
The business partners will take over the space that recently housed The Block restaurant and wine cellar on the corner of Capitol and Quarrier streets. They are turning it into D.T. Prime, a “very nice” bistro steakhouse they hope to open around Valentine’s Day – less than a month from taking possession of the space.
Just how nice?
They describe the vibe as something not quite as fancy as The Chop House, but definitely more elevated than your run-of-the-mill chain steakhouse.
“It won’t be a white tablecloth kind of place, but it will offer a really nice experience where you can enjoy top-quality steaks in casually elegant surroundings,” Andrews said.
“We’ll have butcher block paper spread over the tables, so it will be a place you’d even feel comfortable bringing the kids. Instead of looking at your phone all night, you can put it down and play tic-tac-toe on the table with your family.”
And those steaks? You’ll be able to walk up to the glass-walled cooler that previously housed The Block’s imported cheeses, where you can point at the exact cut of beef you want the chef to prepare to order and be delivered to your table.
There will probably be a few chicken, pasta and maybe seafood dishes too, he said, but steaks will definitely be the star of the show here. Entrées will come with a side or two, but in true steakhouse fashion you’ll probably also have a choice to add your own a la carte options.
“And we’re going to have the best bread and butter in town, hands down,” Andrews promised.
“Really nice steaks you can pick yourself, plus bread and butter you can’t find anywhere else. That’s all you need right there. That’s what we’re going to hang our hats on.”
Although they’ll likely only start with a limited dinner menu at first – with a possible separate lounge menu for the more casual bar area up front – Moore said plans are to eventually expand the menu at night, roll out a separate lunch menu during the day and maybe, just maybe, reopen the building’s basement as an additional cocktail lounge.
Even though the restaurant sits in a prime downtown corner location on Capitol Street, a series of businesses have not been able to make a go of it there long-term since McDonald’s pulled out back in the 1990s. That includes the Bus Station Grille that replaced Micky D’s, plus subsequent restaurants Café de Paris and, most recently, The Block.
The Block closed without notice on Dec. 15, leaving customers and employees shocked.
Moore and Andrews, however, are not deterred by what happened in the past. They’re too busy working on a successful future.
“We really feel we have a great concept, we’re assembling a top-notch staff and just look at this location,” Moore said, while glancing out over Capitol Street, downtown Charleston’s busiest, buzziest thoroughfare when it comes to strolling local restaurants, bars and shops oozing with charm. “This is one of the best patios in the city.”
Even though The Block’s sudden closing was unexpected, this next venture for partners Moore and Andrews was anything by spontaneous.
“After we took over Bar 101 and Ichiban, then The Lookout a few years ago, we really went through the expected growing pains to make each place successful before finally hitting our groove,” Moore said.
“Once we did, we started bouncing around this bistro steakhouse concept and just needed the right place to make it happen.”
Moore said they were seriously considering leasing space at the new Park Place shopping center going in across from Riverwalk Mall in South Charleston, until life pointed them in a different direction.
During a recent dinner with a friend who knew about the pair’s steakhouse dream, that person said “you really need to get in touch with John Smallridge, who owns the building where The Block was.”
They did, quickly met Smallridge for dinner and inked a deal for a five-year lease just two weeks later.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Moore did say they’re paying a little more in monthly rent than they were hoping, but got a “sweet deal” on all of the restaurant equipment, furnishings, décor, supplied and inventory left behind.
Cases of wine and beer. Dozens of bottles of liquor. Coolers stuffed with food. Crates and shelves full of pantry items.
“It’s unbelievable how much stuff is here,” said Andrews, who once managed Tidewater Grill, The Chop House and Gratzi at Charleston Town Center years ago. “It’s like they were planning to stay open for quite a while, then just locked the doors and left.”
He said they’ll spend the new few weeks sorting through the bounty they inherited – including a binder of The Block’s recipes left on the kitchen counter – but are more excited to bring in their own ideas, menu and staff.
D.T. Prime’s executive chef will be Jeremy Sprouse, who spent 15 years in the kitchen at Tidewater and The Chop House before being hired by the duo to come elevate the menu at The Lookout at Eagle View last year.
They’ve already hired a new bar manager they’re really excited about, but wouldn’t disclose her name until she gives notice to her current employer, and they’re putting together a team of experienced servers and staff.
“Just as we don’t want to poach staff from our own restaurants, we don’t want to hurt other places either,” Andrews said. “But once people started to hear about the new place, many have told us they really want to be a part of D.T. Prime.”
So about that name. The pair said D.T. not only stands for the restaurant’s prime location downtown, but also represents the first letters of each of their first names – Dave and Todd.
“It’s all coming together and we’re really excited to dive in,” Moore said.
“Excited, nervous, scared,” he added, with a laugh. “We’re definitely feeling all of the emotions right now.”
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.