Prime 109 has some of the most decadent and well-prepared dishes I’ve tried in Charlottesville. The Downtown Grille pales in comparison to this modern and glamorous restaurant. The upscale interior is supported perfectly by the menu, which is a mix of familiar dishes like bolognese and caesar salad and new exciting plates like lobster tail pasta and cioppino — a seafood filled soup.
I opted for the lobster tail pasta, a caesar salad and the lemon meringue for dessert. The caesar salad was delicious and surprisingly filling. The salad is a base of little gem lettuce topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, an anchovy vinaigrette and frico — a thin, crunchy cheese crisp. The salad isn’t too fishy — an initial concern I had when I heard anchovy vinaigrette. Instead, it’s just slightly salty and has a satisfying crunch from the crisp little gem lettuce and the brittle frico. The lobster tail pasta was rich and buttery, and I enjoyed every bit. A large piece of lobster was positioned atop a bed of gnocchi in a delicious tomato sauce.
The shining star of the meal for me, however, was the lemon meringue dessert. I’m a huge fan of any kind of pie or tart, and this was one of the best tarts I’ve ever tried. The filling was a delicate mix of lemon and lime curd sitting inside a small shortbread crust. The tart is covered with white and purple meringues surrounded by light purple berry sugar. The finishing touch is a scoop of Splendora’s blueberry sorbet. The dish was as beautiful as it was delicious. I couldn’t believe such amazing flavor was coming from such a small, elegant dessert. Every bite was slightly different and better than the last.
This is definitely not a place to bring friends for a casual Friday night dinner. Prime 109 is quite pricey with most salads costing around $10, sides coming in between $6-15 and entrees falling between $14 - $37. The steaks cost anywhere between $24 and $80. This is a great place for a birthday dinner or a fun restaurant to bring your parents when they visit. It may be expensive, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Prime 109 comes with the challenges of parking Downtown and sadly, the building does not appear to be handicap accessible, as it has a small flight of stairs by the entrance. Prime 109 is open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and open from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays. I recommend making a reservation either online or by calling the restaurant to ensure you can get a seat. I went right at 5:30 p.m., and it filled up quite quickly. Prime 109 is also not the place to go for a quick bite — our dinner took almost three hours, though we did have a party of eight.
Walking into Prime 109 feels like walking into Gringotts Wizarding Bank from Harry Potter — fittingly so because the location of this new restaurant is in the old Bank of America. This new addition to the great dining on the Downtown Mall is a definite win in terms of the ambiance. The ceiling is high and grand with the columns lining the dining area giving it a regal air. The clean marble floors and simple table settings also make just entering the restaurant part of the dining experience.
The restaurant was busy and loud but in a comforting, exciting way. The servers were professional and efficient. Our dinner was long but not by fault of the kitchen or servers — we just enjoyed our time and ate slowly. My water glass was never empty and all my questions about the menu were answered.
I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Prime 109 and hope to return again. The meal was an experience, and though it is definitely not an every weekend venue, I will certainly returning when I have an occasion to celebrate.