Most independent restaurants don’t last five years, which makes it all the more impressive that local Italian restaurant, Prima, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. While on the wrong side of the street to technically be in the Lynnhurst neighborhood, Prima (and the other businesses on Lyndale) are de facto members of Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association, frequented regularly by Lynnhurst residents.
Prima was founded in 1999 by Jennifer and Eliot King. Both Jennifer and Eliot have spent their careers in the restaurant business, Eliot as a chef and Jennifer as a manager. Eliot was born and raised in New York and Jennifer grew up as a dairy farmer’s daughter from northern Minnesota. Their respective careers took each of them to California, where they met. Looking to buy a house, Jennifer and Eliot found the prospects in Minneapolis more attractive than San Francisco and moved to the Lynnhurst neighborhood on Lyndale and 51st street. The restaurant scene was very different at that time – with barely any “neighborhood restaurants” – and the Kings saw a void that they could fill. The Boulevard was being renovated and a space was available, so Eliot and Jennifer opened Prima.
A few years later, the Kings had a daughter and Jennifer’s farm roots called, so they moved to a 20-acre farm in Waconia. They raised food for themselves and had horses and other animals. Although they never intended to grow food for the restaurant, finding specialty ingredients was difficult in the early 2000’s, so Eliot began growing herbs and amaranths that he would use in his recipes at Prima. The Kings’ lettuce supplier, Harold Webber, began teaching Jennifer and Eliot how to expand on this idea and raise their own produce. Before long, the Kings began supplying all of the baby greens, tomatoes, and herbs to Prima during the growing season. The Kings do only outdoor farming and grow all their food organically, each day harvesting ingredients for the restaurant. During the summer months, they get up at 4:00 a.m. to care for the animals and pick the produce to be used that day. They make all of their stock and sauces from scratch. This farm-to-table method keeps waste to a minimum and results in fresh ingredients that Prima’s patrons love. What they do not supply themselves, the Kings purchase from local farming partners.
Jennifer loves the Lynnhurst neighborhood, and over the past 20 years has become close to many Prima regulars, getting to know families and seeing their kids grow up. “We couldn’t be in a better neighborhood. South Minneapolis people are very loyal. They care.” Happy Anniversary, Prima!