BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Biloxi landmark, Mary Mahoney's Old French House Restaurant, celebrated its golden anniversary on Wednesday. The restaurant has served Presidents, celebrities and generations of tourists and local folks for half a century.
The door opened at Mary Mahoney's in 1964 in the Old French House, originally built in the 18th Century. Mary Mahoney, her husband Bob and her brother Andrew Cvitanovich cut the ribbon and the rest is history.
Mary Mahoney was a one of a kind businesswoman who brought charm and fine dining to the Mississippi Coast and beyond.
"She wanted to be an ambassador for the state of Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. She loved Mississippi," said Mary's son, Bobby Mahoney.
Bobby and the second generation of the restaurant's founders are keeping the tradition alive. The ingredients that make up the recipe for success are simple.
"It starts with location. This historic house with the ancient oak tree has always brought people in. The food, our employees over the last 50 years, people come back just to see the employees. People like to request waiters and eat in the same dining room," said Tony Cvitanovich.
Then there are Bobby Mahoney's endless and infamous jokes. Bobby roams from table to table sharing his unique brand of humor.
"A bear and a bull are coming right at you. All you have is one bullet. Which do you shoot? The Bear. You can always shoot the bull," joked Mahoney.
Mary Mahoney's is considered a go-to restaurant on the Coast. If you are celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, you go to Mahoney's. If relatives are in town looking for a genuine taste of the Gulf Coast, you go to Mahoney's.
From the New Orleans style courtyard to the various dining rooms, Mary Mahoney's is an adventure in atmosphere.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush dined here, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"In 1984 we fed Ronald Reagan and George Bush at the Whitehouse. We fed them crab claws and soft shell crabs. Today we call it the presidential platter," Mahoney recounted.
The family has overcome disaster. A line on the wall in the bar reminds visitors how much water Hurricane Camille pushed into the building in 1969. Then, August 29, 2005, it was Hurricane Katrina.
"100 percent mess. All the sheet rock was destroyed. We had five feet of water in here. We reopened on November 3," said Mahoney.
Employees have been here through thick and thin. Chef Georgo has created magic in the kitchen for more than 40 years. It started with the restaurant's namesake, Mary Mahoney, who taught her family a lesson that has endured for 50 years.
"You have to keep them happy. You do that, and they'll be back," said to Mahoney.
The restaurant celebrated the anniversary in a special way. On Wednesday, all restaurant food and beverage sales were donated to St. Vincent De Paul Pharmacy and Biloxi's Loaves and Fishes.
The third generations of the Mahoney and Cvitanovich families are working to keep Mary Mahoney's open for another 50 years.