Downtown’s newest fine dining restaurant soon to open within historic mansion
Situated within a historic downtown mansion, Preston Restaurant will open as downtown’s newest fine dining establishment next month. (Photo courtesy of Preston Restaurant)
A new downtown restaurant aims to offer a taste of history when it opens next month.
Located on the first floor of the historic Graystone Inn at 100 S. Third St., Preston Restaurant will serve its first guests on June 9. The restaurant’s opening will mark the latest chapter in a yearslong renaissance on the historic property, which began when it was acquired by Alfalla Hospitality in 2021. Jamie Alfalla, a majority partner in Alfalla Hospitality along with her husband, Ace, had long dreamed of opening a bed and breakfast. She saw the building’s potential and has since shepherded the space through its renovation and revival, according to Dave Gerin, Alfalla Hospitality COO.
“She fell in love with the building. She fell in love with the history. And that’s where it all stemmed from,” Gerin said.
The building’s revival is rooted in its history, Gerin noted, and as much as possible, the project has focused on restoring the property to its former grandeur while incorporating plenty of modern luxuries. Like the newly renovated guest rooms, the design for the soon-to-open restaurant was inspired by touches of opulence common at the turn of the 20th century, when the mansion was erected as a home for Preston and Elizabeth Haywood Bridgers.
Even the name was culled from the property’s past. Although Preston Bridgers was alive to see construction begin on the mansion in 1903, according to Gerin, he passed away before the building was complete.
“As an homage to him, we decided to bring Preston home and named the restaurant as his namesake,” Gerin said.
Preston’s main dining room is adorned with a gold leaf ceiling painstakingly installed by hand, with milk glass chandeliers and sconces that reflect the glimmering texture above. Master craftsmen were hired to recreate the house’s original moulding along the bar, Gerin said, and the original woodwork and built-in bookcases in the room that once served as Elizabeth Haywood Bridgers’ library were preserved to showcase the restaurant’s wine collection.
“This way, we can store all of our wine inside the bookcases. So instead of reading the spines of books, you’re reading the labels of the bottles,” Gerin said.
Among the three spaces, the restaurant will have the capacity to seat about 60 guests. Outside, there are another 60 seats on the Bluestone Terrace and Patio.
Gerin and Jamie Alfalla recruited chef Thomas Calhoun to develop the restaurant’s menu and helm the kitchen. Preston’s menu features elements of classic steakhouse fare along with coastal Southern influences that reflect its location. With previous training as a pastry chef, Calhoun ties these influences together with an eye toward balancing textures and flavors. Gerin described Calhoun’s approach as “technical” and “precise.”
For steaks, the restaurant offers a selection of both Certified Angus Beef and wagyu cuts, the latter of which Gerin described as “elevated and a little bit different” from other local offerings. Wagyu cuts are known for their marbleization, with streaks of fat lending an enhanced flavor and texture to the meat.
“You get all of that buttery mouthfeel of the wagyu, but still maintain the taste of beef in it,” Gerin said.
Steaks come with a choice of garlic butter, chili butter or chimichurri, with additional enhancements including twin lobster tails, bearnaise sauce or a crust of freshly cracked black pepper and grated truffle. Lobster Lasagnette, a pasta dressed with tomato butter, asparagus and herbs, is expected to be another popular option.
Later this year, the property will debut its next project: The Juniper Room, a speakeasy developed in homage to Burke Bridgers, the son of Preston and Elizabeth Haywood Bridgers, whose eclectic pursuits included manufacturing bootlegged gin in the building’s basement.