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Minocqua Prime: Rooted in tradition

January 24, 2020 by Delaney FitzPatrick

Any good supper club offers three essentials: a relaxed atmosphere, great old fashioneds, and, of course, prime rib. Minocqua Prime has all three. 

The “prime” in Minocqua Prime does not simply stand for its signature entree. As owners Jeff and Shannon Janco said, the complete meaning of the restaurant’s name is “Prime Drinks, Prime Food and Prime Sunsets.”

“‘Prime’ can mean a couple different things,” Jeff said.

Though originally from Wisconsin, the Jancos spent the last 25 years living in Florida before returning to their roots and opening up their own restaurant. 

Minocqua Prime opened its doors this past June, on Highway 70, overlooking Curtis Lake. The building it occupies has been baked into the history of Minocqua, having housed Mama’s Supper Club for 65 years.

The Jancos quickly embraced the local tradition of Mama’s and the Wisconsin tradition of the supper club.

“This place is a landmark for a lot of people,” Jeff said. 

The new owners want to preserve a casual atmosphere where all customers feel welcome.

“We wanted to just have a variety of people. We wanted to have everyone,” he said. 

Even snowmobilers passing by on the highway 70 trails are invited to stop in for a quick drink or a nice meal.

Prime food

When it comes to some of the beloved Mama’s recipes, Jeff said, “We’re trying to carry on some of that still.”

With the restaurant came the authentic Mama’s recipes, which the Jancos have incorporated into the menu. A few of these favorite dishes include chicken parmesan, homemade pizza and sicilian-style steak. 

As additions to a robust steak and seafood menu, the Italian entrees make Minocqua Prime a steakhouse hybrid. 

“I kind of look at us as more of an Italian-type of steakhouse,” Jeff said.

Regardless of the style of food, the Jancos are focused on quality. 

“It’s a scratch kitchen and you don’t see that too often,” Jeff said, explaining it’s especially uncommon in the Northwoods.

Though the Mama’s menu items are popular, the restaurant’s prime rib reigns supreme. Offered three days out of the week — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — the dish is made in limited quantity and always goes fast.

“I constantly hear that we have the best prime rib in the area,” Jeff said. 

“We run out all the time,” Shannon added.

After dinner, patrons can choose from a dessert menu that includes key lime pie, chocolate torte or grandma’s carrot cake. 

Prime drinks

In addition to “prime food,” Minocqua Prime offers specialty cocktails. The selection ranges from the classic Prime Old Fashioned (Maker’s Mark Bourbon, sugar, sour soda and garnished with olives) to something more adventurous like the Black Beauty Martini (Bulleit Bourbon, peach schnapps and a splash of cranberry juice).

The Jancos are invested in customer service. 

“If somebody requests a beer or they request a liquor that we don’t carry, I make sure I get it in,” Jeff said.

One of the newest additions to the full bar, thanks to a recommendation they received, is a mango habanero whiskey from Ole Smokey.

Those with a sweet tooth can enjoy one of Minocqua Prime’s ice cream drinks, another supper club favorite. Options include staples like a Golden Cadillac (Galliano Liqueur, white creme de cocoa and vanilla ice cream) or a Grasshopper (creme de menthe, white creme de cocoa and vanilla ice cream).

Prime service

After a busy opening summer, the Jancos feel as though they and the staff have worked out any kinks that may have slowed service early on. 

Everything now is “a lot smoother,” according to Shannon.

The owners themselves are often at the front line of service, filling in whenever necessary. 

“We do everything. We’re in the kitchen from morning until night, but we’re also bartending, we’re bussing,” Jeff said. “We’re getting our hands dirty.”

Carrying on the Mama’s tradition of a family-run restaurant, the Jancos’ two daughters, who are students at MHLT and Lakeland Union High School, regularly pitch in.

This dedicated work ethic is something Jeff said the family has been “getting a lot of good feedback on.”

Minocqua Prime is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit www.minocquaprime.com or call 715-356-5070.

Delaney FitzPatrick may be reached via email at [email protected].

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