What’s good here?
Though your mind may take in the phrase “private property” and immediately think to yourself, “Keep out,” that’s the opposite of what diners want to do once they discover the Private Property restaurant in Lexington.
Tucked away in a renovated old homeplace on West Main Street in the heart of Lexington, Private Property is one of those places you just might miss when you cruise through town. And if you’re looking for large signage out front to help you locate it, you won’t find it.
Restaurant co-founder Trip Chalk came from the political world, having worked for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for three years and then as a business development executive for Verizon.
“For a long time, people have asked why we didn’t have a sign,” Chalk said.
He said his team at the restaurant still consider themselves novices, and they want to make sure they are good at what they do before they put themselves out there – figuratively, and then literally with a sign.
“We were learning on the job, and our customers who heard about us through family and friends just kept coming back. They kept us open as we learned more and more each day.”
With a Cajun- and Lowcountry-themed menu, Private Property uses cast-iron skillets to blacken pork chops and its 21-day aged prime ribeye steaks. Once the skillets are heated to 700 degrees, steaks and chops are blackened on the stovetop, then finish cooking in the oven.
In addition to the heavy-hitter meats, one of the most popular dishes at Private Property is seafood jambalaya, made with Andouille sausage and Tasso ham straight from New Orleans. Shrimp and grits is a fan favorite, made with locally grown Adluh stone-ground white grits and topped with a Tasso cream sauce with jumbo shrimp.
“We believe that good is not good enough; it has to be great,” Chalk said. “Our menu is always expanding as we learn new techniques and master new recipes.”
That’s why Chalk travels to New Orleans several times a year to learn cooking techniques, buy seasonings and get get some coaching from Chef Paul Prudhomme and his team at Magic Seasoning Blends.
“Each time we visit New Orleans, we return with great advice on how to create new dishes and build more flavors,” Chalk said. “We’re cooking with the same ingredients here as if we were in New Orleans.”
Private Property features a popular pimento cheese appetizer made with breaded, housemade pimento cheese that is deep fried and served with New Orleans French bread. On the dessert end, bread pudding is a favorite.
“We soak our leftover French bread overnight in a rich custard and then bake it until golden brown and top it with our homemade whiskey sauce,” Chalk said.
The menu also includes burgers, hand-cut fries and fried shrimp po’boys.
“There is something for everyone,” Chalk said.
How did Private Property get its start?
Private Property was founded in 2013 by Chalk and his wife, Alex, along with Alex’s parents, Pat and Candi Bowen of Lexington.
“We got our start by taking our love of food, family and fellowship to the next level,” Chalk said.
It is also interesting to note that with the exception of two recent graduates, Private Property’s entire kitchen staff is high school students.
“We work very closely with the Lexington Technology Center and their culinary arts program,” Chalk said. “Our kids don’t just wash dishes; they cook. And we are very proud to have a certified national apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor, Apprenticeship Carolina and LTC.”
Who eats here?
“Folks who want to eat good food,” Chalk said. “Private Property does not try and script customer experience. We provide the venue and the food, letting our customers create their own experience. We have folks who come in each week and always order the same things, and we also have folks who come in and always try something different. … Private Property is not a restaurant; it’s an experience that you cannot describe unless you come and see it for yourself.”
What does the place look like?
The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Lexington in a historic home built in the late 1800s. The home has that Charleston/New Orleans feel, with separate small dining rooms throughout the house and a beautiful courtyard outside.
Janet Jones Kendall, special to Go Columbia
220 W. Main St., Lexington
Prices: You can eat at Private Property for less than 10 bucks, or have a nice bottle of wine and a blackened ribeye for $25.
HOURS: Lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; dinner, 4-10 p.m. Mondays-Wednesday and 4 p.m.-close Thursdays-Saturdays; happy hour, 4-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Closed Sundays.
INFO: (803) 399-8085; www.privatepropertysc.com.
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