New gluten-free restaurant planned for southern Durham

Jan. 16, 2014 @ 06:23 PM

An established Durham restaurateur plans to open a gluten-free eatery in southern Durham.

Tim Lyons, owner of the nearly seven-year-old Durham restaurant Blu Seafood and Bar, wants to open the new eatery. Called Primal Food & Spirits, it’s slated for later this year in the Kroger-anchored Southpoint Crossing shopping center off N.C. 54 near The Streets at Southpoint.

“I truly believe it’s a healthy way of eating,” Lyons said of the gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease, an inherited disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine, is triggered by the consumption of gluten. Lyons said he’s seen more and more people with gluten allergies emerge, especially in the last two years.

Personally, Lyons said he cut bread out of his own diet in an effort to get more in shape. He lost weight and found that he had more energy, he said.

Primal Food & Spirits will be 100-percent gluten-free in the kitchen, Lyons said, and he also plans to have a selection of gluten-free beer and liquor. However, he said he will serve some local beer that won’t be gluten-free.

He plans to work with local meat and vegetable producers to source his products, and to have a wood-fired grill inside the restaurant. Lyons said that he wants to “get back to the basics” of cooking at the restaurant.

“Cooking with fire – it couldn’t be more primal than that,” he said. “We really want to not overcomplicate our food, and just try to buy some really good, local products, and prepare it with fire simply, but with kind of modern techniques.”

Lyons said the restaurant will offer a selection of grilled meats served with a sauce or accompaniment and a selection of 10 to 15 sides. Examples of menu items may include a lettuce wrap, grass-fed burgers, a kale salad and a mixed-grill option that would come with a sampling of meats, such as venison, boar meat, hanger steak or duck.

Lyons said he grew up in California, and was living in Key West in Florida when he decided to move to the area in 2005. Lyons said he was chef de cuisine at a restaurant called Louie’s Backyard in Key West for eight years, which is where he worked with Dan Wright. He said Wright has accepted the position of chef at Primal Food & Spirits.

He said he’s able to put “a lot of focus” on the new venture because of the team of workers he has at Blu Seafood and Bar.

The new venture is restaurant will be in space occupied since 1998 by the salad bar and soup eatery Souper!Salad!

Paul Muñana, who handles the leasing of the center for Regency Centers Corp., said the Souper!Salad! location in the shopping center closed permanently on Christmas Eve. Attempts to reach officials at the corporate headquarters of Souper!Salad!, which is a franchise restaurant operation, were not successful Thursday.

“Their lease was coming to its expiration, and we collectively decided with Souper!Salad! that we were going to move forward with a different concept in this center,” Muñana said. “They elected to not exercise an option, and we elected to not offer them a renewal.”

Sam Poley, director of public relations for the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau who’s also a former chef and restaurant owner, said Lyons, as an “astute restaurant owner,” is responding to a trend in opening a new gluten-free eatery. Poley said there are people who have Celiac disease who are forgoing eating gluten to avoid becoming sick, and another group of people who are pursuing the gluten-free diet to maximize the health benefits they see coming along with it.

“I think any diner is going to want to check out what he’s up to because he’s got a well-respected restaurant to start with,” Poley said.

However, he added that he believes there are many restaurant owners in Durham who are flexible, and will cater to their customers’ specific dietary demands.

“We’re lucky in Durham that we have a really active and involved community of chefs who really care about their customers,” he said. “So you can go into any locally-owned restaurants, and you can say ‘Hey, I really can’t eat gluten, how can you help me?’”