Learn more about the legendary Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant with this mouth-watering Q&A.
We hear Mary Mahoney’s is chock full of history and has been family-owned for generations! Tell us about that.
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant opened on Ascension Thursday, May 7, 1964 by Mary and Bob Mahoney, Sr. and Mary’s brother Andrew Cvitanovich. Mary Mahoney’s is proudly in its third generation of management and will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The legacy of Mary Mahoney’s continues to this day by Mary and Bob’s children – Bobby and Eileen Mahoney-Ezell and Andrew’s son Tony Cvitanovich along with other children and grandchildren.
Tell us about your menu. What are your specialties? Has the menu changed much since it first opened?
If one mentions great food in Biloxi – Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant comes to mind. Mary Mahoney’s specializes in fresh, Gulf seafood dishes. The first menu that was used in 1964 still proudly hangs on display in the restaurant and still boasts many of the popular entrees that are still on the menu 50 years later. The World Famous Seafood Gumbo has been on the menu since day one and the recipe has never changed. It has been a best-selling menu item and is especially popular since it is available to be shipped throughout the continental United States.
Tell us the story behind The Presidential Platter.
One of the most unique culinary challenges Mary Mahoney’s Old French House has faced in its 50 year history was when the restaurant was one of seven restaurants in the nation to be invited by the National Fisheries Institute to serve President Ronald Reagan and 1,000 assorted congressional guests on the White House lawn in 1984. The event’s purpose was to make members of congress and others in Washington aware of the significance of the seafood industry in our nation. 2,000 pounds of soft-shell crabs and 200 pounds of crab claws were inspected in Biloxi prior to the seafood being packed in ice then shipped to Washington. Because of strict security measures, the White House supplied all of the condiments – lemons, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. Mary Mahoney said at the time, “No tents were provided and no kitchen – all of the food had to be prepared and cooked on the White House Lawn.” Shortly after returning from serving President Reagan, The Presidential Platter, which consists of fried petite soft shell crabs and fried crab claws, was put on the menu and is the top selling appetizer dish and has been for many years.
Tell us about the restaurant’s experience during and after Katrina.
Mary Mahoney’s Old French House sustained tremendous damage during Hurricane Katrina. The restaurant, lounge, shops, kitchens and service areas took on 5 feet of water. Even with some family members personal property at a total loss and some receiving bodily injury, Mary Mahoney’s was able to reopen 65 days after the storm on November 3, 2005 to a positive and warm welcome by the City of Biloxi and Gulf Coast.
We hear your delicious food has attracted many a famous diner! Can you tell us about any in particular?
Mary Mahoney’s has had the honor of serving three US Presidents – Ronald Reagan and H.W. Bush in Washington, D.C. and Jimmy Carter in Biloxi – as well as Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Author Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Buffet, Coach Bear Bryant, Denzel Washington, Usher, Anderson Cooper, Brett Favre, John Grisham, Diana Ross, Chris Rock, Robin Roberts, Robert Plant, Robert Redford, Natalie Wood, Mark Harmon and many more. There are gold plaques located throughout the restaurant indicating which celebrities dined in each room.
Mississippi native and author John Grisham has mentioned Mary Mahoney’s in two of his bestselling novels – The Runaway Jury and The Partner. Years ago, when Grisham was dining at the restaurant, he asked restaurant co-owner Bobby Mahoney if he would grant him permission to mention the restaurant and various food items in two of his upcoming books and Mahoney told him, “Not only do I give you permission, I would be tickled to death if you would!” Grisham is considered a family friend and continues to send Mahoney hand-signed novels when published and he receives a gallon of gumbo from the family every Christmas as a special “thank you.”