Larry Drexler and his wife, Kim, were staying at the River and Twine tiny house lodging site at the Rocky Mount Mills when they heard about a great restaurant in the commercial and residential development off Falls Road.
On Thursday evening, the couple, who live in Wilmington, Del., ate supper at The Prime Smokehouse: Barbecue & Beyond. The restaurant recently relocated to much larger space at the Rocky Mount Mills after having been along East Thomas Street downtown since 2013.
“We didn’t know it had just opened — and we stumbled in and we were able to get a table,” Larry Drexler said. “So we’re very grateful to be here.”
Larry Drexler summed up his opinion of the restaurant in one word: “Spectacular.”
Kim Drexler said of the restaurant, “I think it’s lovely. I love the exposed brick. It’s a huge place. The floors are beautiful. I think the staff is doing an amazing job.”
Kim Drexler said that while she knows the restaurant is in the midst of a soft opening, “I think they’re really, really stepping up.”
“It has exceeded our expectations, definitely,” she said.
The couple was staying for the time being in Rocky Mount, with their destination being Florida to visit Larry Drexler’s parents. Kim Drexler serves on the Delaware Public Service Commission.
Prior to the couple heading out of Wilmington, Larry Drexler had found out about River and Twine via the internet and he said his thinking was, “This is a cool idea. So let’s try something new and different.”
The Prime Smokehouse is on the bottom floor of the main brick building of the Rocky Mount Mills, adjacent to the building’s lobby, on the south side of the Tar River.
Ed Wiley III, 61, and his wife, Yalem Kiros, 58, own the restaurant.
Wiley said in an interview Thursday that the location downtown was closed roughly a month ago and that Thursday marked a week the new location has been serving customers.
“I did a sneaky opening,” Wiley said with a smile. “I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want to be overwhelmed. And I knew we would be overwhelmed.
“I didn’t put it out to the universe. I didn’t even do a Facebook post. We’re not on the radio with it,” he said.
Wiley made clear the thinking was, “We’re just going to open it and let word of mouth sort of just create a trickle that would allow me to be able to take and train staff, to hire staff on a steady basis and to be able to get the rhythm of the restaurant.”
“You always need to establish the rhythm of a new place because if you open it when you’re trying to figure out all these moving pieces, then it will crash and burn,” he said.
Wiley said that rhythm is getting better.
As for how business has been so far, Wiley said, “It has been incredible. And I’m glad it hasn’t been any more incredible than it has been right now because there was a lot of pieces to this puzzle.”
Wiley said one piece of the puzzle that is filled is offering complimentary valet parking. The service is in place to reduce the distance of a customer’s walk to the restaurant due to there being a limited number of parking spaces immediately close to the main building of the Rocky Mount Mills.
As for the restaurant’s appearance, he said the feedback has been amazing.
“I mean, people didn’t really expect this when they walked in,” he said.
He said customers who have dined at The Prime Smokehouse in the past have known the establishment is going to be clean and serve good food.
Wiley said customers upon entering the new location are commenting along the lines of, “Oh, my God, that’s in Rocky Mount.”
He credited his wife for the design of the interior of the relocated restaurant, including choosing the art to be placed on display and having every chair custom made.
“I mean, she has an amazing eye, amazing taste,” he said.
Wiley said that presently, The Prime Smokehouse has 25 employees, but he needs about 20 more employees.
Wiley emphasized his belief that this is a great place to work and that he is putting out the word he is seeking servers and kitchen staffers.
“I think that people will really love working in this environment,” Wiley said, noting the restaurant has a large smoker and a spacious kitchen. “I mean, they could hold a dance in my walk-in refrigerator.”
In the meantime on Thursday evening, local residents were enjoying the new location at the Rocky Mount Mills.
Rita Wade said of the relocated restaurant, “I love it. I’m so proud of Yalem. She has worked so hard and she’s part of our women’s networking group — and so we know her very well.”
More specifically about the relocated restaurant, Wade said, “I just think that it has the right vibe. It is fun and not what you would expect in Rocky Mount. Ultimately, I believe that these sorts of great spaces bring people together. So, it’s just a wonderful place.”
Kate Barnes said, “I’ve been waiting for something like this to come to the mill.”
Barnes was enjoying broccoli, crab cakes and sweet potatoes.
“And I’m going to get back to it,” Barnes said with a smile and a laugh.
Kay Courtney said, “I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s very good for the city, I really do.”
“I just think we need it,” Courtney said. “There’s really nowhere, really, that compares with this in Rocky Mount at all.”
John Lane and his wife, Christine, both were leaving to return to their home in Nashville after having dined at the restaurant for the first time at the new location.
John Lane said the food and the service were always good at the previous location.
“But everything is better,” John Lane said of the relocated restaurant. “The location is better. The food is better. Everything is better. A-plus.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant also can be reached by phone at 252-972-7770.