- Micah Moore, Dallas Observer

A Dallas dining institution is poised to return to Uptown, with a more modern take on Tex-Mex this time around.

By the end of the year, Primos MX Kitchen and Lounge will reopen at its original location after a six-year hiatus from McKinney Avenue. Along with it are new owners who are betting big on the concept.

The revamped Primo’s is coming from Centurion American Development Group, which bought the brand. Centurion’s CEO, Mehrdad Moayedi, is responsible for the rebirth of The Statler Dallas hotel downtown and Plano’s Collin Creek Mall; he’s presently renovating the Cabana Motor Hotel on the Stemmons Corridor.

With the new Primo’s comes a new restaurant division. Centurion drafted chef Jeffrey Kollinger, owner of Tillman’s Bishop Arts and CEO of The Spice of Life Catering, as a partner of the new Refined Hospitality Concepts, which promises more restaurant concepts in the future.

CarberyCarbery Primo’s gave a sneak peek of its menu at a pop-up tasting event this week where executive chef Ryan Carbery debuted his take on Tex-Mex classics.

“We are looking at the flavors and not just making food spicy. Our kitchen is driven by robust flavors, complex sauces and bold aromatics,” Carbery says. “We are transforming something simple and making it something spectacular.”

When Primo’s opens — they’ve said that’s looking like the end of the year — you’ll find grilled fajita tacos with pickled red onions, roasted poblano relish and a house chili de arbol salsa. The carne asada quesadillas come stuffed with onion, peppers and crema, and crispy brisket tacos have avocado crema and a mango pico de gallo.

“The Veracruz with red snapper is my favorite dish,” Carbery says. “It has fresh, vibrant flavors prepared with real sophistication.”

Appetizers will include shrimp and snapper ceviche, jalapeño poppers, chicken tortilla soup and Primo’s villa dip with a roasted tomato salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole.

Plus, there will be off-menu items including dishes and appetizers we already want to explore.

“We have crispy tuna tartare tacos on our secret menu,” Carbery says.

The tartare tacos come with a soy glaze, chili sauce drizzle, scallion and microgreens.

Overall, the kitchen is focusing on lighter, healthier options including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu items.

Primo’s is perhaps best known for its bar program, and they aim to live up to the reputation.

First up are the coctels de cantineros, or bartenders’ cocktails, made with a mixology focus. Margaritas lead the menu with the flaca (skinny) margarita with Uno Por Favor tequila, organic agave nectar and lime juice, and the anillo de fuego (ring of fire) made with Uno Por Favor serrano-infused tequila blanco, pineapple and lime juices, cinnamon bitters and serrano pepper.

Coctels de cantineros also include la caldera (the cauldron), made with mezcal, passionfruit, Campari, Yellow Chartreuse, habanero and sal de gusano (worm salt for the uninitiated). The anticuado is a twist on an Old-Fashioned, containing Maker’s Mark, Aztec spice, Suze, Meletti, Ancho Reyes, achiote and chocolate molé bitters. Holy moley, we need a drink stat!

The bar menu also has frozen cocktails that include a frozen flaca margarita, as well as the Bellini blues, with Western Son blueberry vodka, blueberry compote, BluMania energy drink, citrus juice and lemon whip.

The Uptown location will be the first of three Primo’s to open in Dallas-Fort Worth, general manager Eric Trejo says.

“We are expanding Primo’s as a brand,” Trejo says. “Primo’s is a brand that has meant something to the restaurant industry for a long time … it’s something that needs to continue on and grow into something much more than that.”

In 2020, Centurion will put Primo’s locations in two of its mixed-use developments currently under construction. The second location will go into the River Walk at Central Park in Flower Mound, and later in the year they plan to open at the Westlake Entrada.

Primo’s operated in Uptown for 20 years before abruptly closing in 2013. It was a popular haunt for service industry staffers who would cozy up to the bar after their shifts. It wasn’t uncommon to see top chefs, servers and dishwashers having cocktails and enchiladas late at night.

Primo’s was also in Uptown before the waves of development that morphed the neighborhood to an entertainment district then to a residential and business neighborhood lined with office towers and restaurants.

“You look at the way [Uptown] looks now as opposed to when Primo’s arrived on the scene and you don’t see very much of what was there then is still there now,” Trejo says. “It will still be a neighborhood place that caters to everyone from the super wealthy to young professionals and, of course, the service industry. We want this to be a place that offers elevated cuisine and traditional fare for everyone to be welcome, comfortable and [to] enjoy.”

Primo’s MX Kitchen and Lounge, 3309 McKinney Ave. (Uptown). Opening late 2019.