Short-lived Primary Food & Drink closes its doors

The rumor was circulating among foodies in town: Graham Elliot’s Primary Food & Drink had closed.

A visit down to the highly anticipated eatery on Thursday night offered some clues. The tables were set with silverware, plates and glasses. The bar was fully stocked with expensive scotches and high-end vodkas. But the door to Primary was locked and the dining room, the bar and the kitchen were empty. Not a sole in sight.

“It closed last night (Wed.),” said Hearst Connecticut’s Susie Costaregni, columnist of The Dish.

And so it ends . . . so shortly after it began. The restaurant business is a notoriously tough game, but it’s not often that a place as heralded as Primary Food & Drink folds as quickly as this, especially in as restaurant-friendly a market as Greenwich.

Part-owner Justin Shaw confirmed the closing, but would not say why.

The eatery, which opened in early December, closed Thursday. It arrived in Greenwich amid great fanfare. Chef/owner Graham Elliot was not only a celebrity – cast member on “MasterChef” and guest on “Iron Chef” and “Top Chef Masters” – he had real credentials, including successful restaurants and two Michelin stars under his chef coat.

“Graham and myself are very humble people, and I think the greatest compliment people pay us about our restaurants is that when they eat there, they say they have fun,” Merlin Verrier, Elliot’s director of operations, who also served as Primary’s executive chef, told Greenwich Time in the lead-up to the anticipated opening. “It doesn’t have to be this pretentious thing. It’s good food and re-envisioned with the utmost integrity to the food and service.”

Primary Food & Drink decided to come to Greenwich out of “mutual admiration” between the town and the chefs, Verrier said. He has participated in the annual Food & Wine Festival in town for three years and, as a native Californian, liked the idea of being by the water.

“We really enjoyed the town’s feel and proximity to New York,” Verrier said. “The style of the restaurant is different from anything this town has seen. And it takes a little bit for customers to trust a new restaurant.”

Apparently, that “trust” never took hold, though Primary Food & Drink opened to generally good reviews.

“The theme is to take classic American dishes and give them contemporary incarnations,” wrote Hearst Connecticut restaurant reviewer Melanie Barnard. “This works exceedingly well in some instances, while others seem to be a work in progress. A main course of Moroccan lamb packs tender pieces of boneless lamb together and lightly breads them in panko before a quick, crisp sautéed finish … This one works exceedingly well. But a work in progress is the ‘deconstructed’ Caesar salad. Three tiny (really tiny) crunchy wedges of lettuce rolled in a creamy but bland Caesar dressing and arranged in a row, with one atop a golden crusted brioche rectangle (described as a brioche Twinkie) and the other two decorated with miniscule anchovies is not a salad, and certainly not a $12 salad.

“An intriguing addition to Greenwich Avenue,” Barnard concluded, “the food at Primary Food & Drink is far more complex than it is ‘primary.’”

Intriguing … and very short-lived.