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Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant has seen it all and lived to keep cooking

Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant is a dining icon on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Opened by Bob and Mary Mahoney in 1964 and still operated by family members, the elegant restaurant has survived major hurricanes, boom times, slow times and last year’s oil spill. Through it all, the establishment has continued to dish up tried-and-true seafood entrees. Located on Rue Magnolia in Biloxi’s oldest house, the French-style structure has atmosphere galore, including a courtyard with huge, ancient live oak trees.

“We were closed only 55 days after Hurricane Katrina even though we had extensive damage. But we got after it real quick and got open,” said Bobby Mahoney, son of the founders. “Last year we were definitely affected by the oil spill, mostly by the spike in seafood prices.”

Mary Mahoney’s signature imperial dishes, such as Crab Imperial, are 98 percent pure crabmeat, unlike some places that use a lot of breading. With other dishes that feature a lot of crabmeat, it’s easy to understand how the restaurant racks up a $25,000 to $30,000 bill for crabmeat each month. Other specialties include Lobster Georgio, Shrimp/Crabmeat Melba and flounder and trout dishes.

“When she opened the restaurant, my mother went to Croatia and brought back her 15-year-old nephew to be the chef. That was 40 years ago and he’s still the chef. He supervises the kitchen and I stay out of his way,” Mahoney said. “This is a family business and we pay attention to it. Mother had it all set up. I followed her around 22 years and I’m still doing it her way.”

Known for entertaining customers with his joke telling, Mahoney says somebody’s got to walk and talk throughout the restaurant, and he’s up to the task. He’s even made a compact disc of jokes and restaurant history. “I tell customers my jokes and next year they’ll come back for more jokes,” he said. “But our menu is pretty stout and they’ll also talk about what they had to eat.”

The venerable restaurant quickly jumped on the bandwagon when Mississippi ended prohibition and obtained state liquor permit #7. Mahoney also recalls the days of gambling in Biloxi before it was legalized. “We were here before gambling and during gambling,” he said. “I dealt dice in 1964 up the beach at Mr. Lucky’s. My mother wouldn’t say I was a dealer; she called me a croupier.”

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About Lynn Lofton

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