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Primos Cafe is One of the State's Oldest Restaurants and Still Going Strong, Here's the Reas

When Greek immigrant baker Angelo "Pop" Primos opened a bakery at 236 E. Capitol Street in 1930, his goal was simple: bring delicious, made-from-scratch delicacies to the Capitol City. Pretty soon, Primos Bakery transitioned from coffee and pastries to cafe fare, offering sandwiches and baked goods.The first Primos restaurant became famous for its ample portions of delicious food at reasonable prices. More than 80 years later, the family tradition continues. Multiple generations of residents and visitors from around the U.S. still drop by Primos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week at one of three locations in the Jackson metro area.

In 2003, third generation restaurateur Don Primos opened Primos Cafe on Lakeland Drive. At various times, other family members were involved in the business, but Primos is now sole owner of this location labeled a “fast, casual cafe,” as well as in Ridgeland and Madison.

Fittingly, just as his grandfather had sought to do, Primos seeks to offer something for everyone, including customers representing multiple generations and backgrounds.

As Primos describes it, “we have a great mix of customers, from regular diners to visitors to Jackson and everyone in between. We’re proud that our food and service appeal to a cross-section of customers just as it did nearly 90 years ago when the first Primos opened.”

It makes sense that regulars can still find their favorite dishes on the menu and then walk a few feet into the bake shop and pick up the same favorite caramel cake, just as they have for decades. After all, why mess with a formula that has pleased multiple generations of diners?

Just as the downtown location was famous for its made-from-scratch biscuits and other breakfast items, present-day Primos Cafe locations are upholding the family legacy of providing a delicious start to the day. Breakfast is served all day, so a craving for a stack buttermilk pancakes or a bowl of grits can be accommodated from early morning to closing time.

Those that point to pancakes ($7.75) have a steaming stack delivered to their table with a choice of bacon or sausage. Another favorite is the early bird platter ($7.95) filled with two eggs cooked to order, choice of sausage or bacon, grits or hash browns, and toast or a biscuit. Pete’s Omelet ($9.25) contains eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and hot pepper cheese. It’s served with turkey sausage, grits or hash browns, and toast or a biscuit. Other breakfast items include the breakfast wrap, filled with scrambled eggs, vegetables, and cheese in an herb tortilla with a choice of bacon, sausage, grits or hash browns; fried chicken and homemade biscuit drizzled with honey and served with hash browns or grits; Primos parfait, homemade granola served with Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries and similar variations of these favorite items.

Customers also return for lunch to check out the daily blue plate special for only $9.95, which offers a choice of two main entrées and two vegetables. On a recent visit to the Lakeland cafe, (menus are the same at all locations) I got lucky and dropped in on a day when chicken and dumplings and hamburger steak were the blue plate specials. It was a hard choice, but I finally settled on chicken and dumplings. With sides of turnip greens and squash, cornbread muffin, and a big glass of iced tea, I sat with a friend at one of the cozy booths and immediately felt the noise of nearby Lakeland Drive and my stress level fade away.

A mammoth slice of Primos’ homemade strawberry cake and coffee served in an old-school mug was the perfect ending to my trip back to a simpler era. My friend was swept up in the nostalgic atmosphere and ordered a glass of milk reminiscent of a childhood snack with her slice of caramel cake.

That’s the beauty of Primos; the food and ambiance are comforting and serve as reminders of a time when meals were cooked from scratch and enjoyed with loved ones in a soothing atmosphere.

If you prefer to order from the menu, there is plenty from which to choose. Each entree comes with a green salad and roll and two sides from the daily vegetable and potato offerings.

On the menu are grilled tilapia ($13.50) topped with meuniere sauce, with the option to add shrimp or crab cakes; gulf butterflied shrimp ($13.95 and $16.95); hamburger steak ($11.95) cooked to order with mushrooms, onions and gravy and country fried steak ($11.25) served over rice with gravy.

Those looking for a lighter meal have several options to choose from. A sample of the green, seafood, and chicken-based salads include the popular black and blue salad ($10.75), spring lettuce, crumbled blue cheese, sliced vegetables, pecans and grilled beef medallions served with creamy herb dressing; Pop’s shrimp salad ($9.75) filled with shrimp, lettuce and chopped egg tossed in a creamy olive oil and vinegar dressing and chicken salad ($9.95) served on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomatoes and fruit.

A variety of sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and seafood tacos rounds out the menu for those in search of a quick meal with a down-home flavor. One of the most popular is the Biloxi Press ($10.50), fried Gulf shrimp piled high on a toasted poboy bun with tartar sauce, shredded lettuce and tomato. Another favorite selection is the Reuben sandwich ($9.25), thinly sliced corned beef, comeback dressing, sauerkraut and aged Swiss cheese on toasted rye.

Primos also serves gumbo ($4.95 and $6.10) and other soups and sides ala carte.

Dessert from the in-store bake shop is necessary for any meal. A slice ($3.85) of three-layer caramel, Italian cream, carrot, red velvet, strawberry or German chocolate cake is the perfect ending to any meal. If you're a pie lover, a slice ($3.75) of fresh-baked lemon icebox or pecan will not disappoint.

On the way out the door, stop by the bake shop and select from additional pies and cakes (whole versions can be purchased for take-out or shipped anywhere in the U.S), cookies, fudge, brownies, petit fours, and pound cakes. These and other sweet treats can be purchased by the slice or piece or in larger quantities.

As you leave the fragrant bake shop and comforting cocoon of the familiar restaurant and step back out into the real world, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Primos has been a Jackson fixture for nearly 90 years and will likely be around for many more.

Primos is located at 2323 Lakeland Dr. in Flowood; 515 Lake Harbour Dr. in Ridgeland and 201 Baptist Dr. in Madison. Hours are Monday – Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed on Sunday.

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