Seafood gumbo and world class barbecue draws food fanatics to Coast

Seafood gumbo and world class barbecue draws food fanatics to Coast
Mary Mahoney's serves plenty of gumbo during the holidays. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Mary Mahoney's serves plenty of gumbo during the holidays. (Photo source: WLOX News)

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Two of the Coast's signature foods are fine seafood gumbo and award winning barbecue.

"Fifty-two years we've been having it," said Bobby Mahoney, "I was 17 years old when mother opened up; 1964."

Mary Mahoney's may be the best known restaurant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The wall of photos inside is a testament to the countless celebrities who have dined at the restaurant over the decades. And there's a good chance most of them ordered, or at least sampled, the seafood gumbo.

"You gotta put a lot of shrimp and a lot of crab meat in it. You don't want no seafood broth," said Mahoney.

And Mahoney serves up plenty; especially during the holidays.

"We must cook about 2,000 gallons. You know, people come in here for Christmas. It's almost like King Cakes for Mardi Gras. Everybody wants a pot of gumbo on the stove, you know. Somebody's hungry, they can just go get some gumbo," said Mahoney.

The gumbo is something special - a beautiful dark brown roux, a wonderful aroma and of course, lots of fresh gulf seafood.

"John Grisham called it famous in the 'Runaway Jury', and legendary in 'The Partner'. We keep sending it to him every December, so it don't lose his attention," said Mahoney.

Along with feeding celebrities and politicians over the years, the gumbo also found its way to overseas troops; courtesy of former Congressman Gene Taylor.

"Gene took about 100 or so gallons to Iraq right during the war, and I think some people tried to confiscate it. He had to pull, had to get mad and say, 'Hey, I need my gumbo back.'"

Just off Highway 57 in Jackson County is where some say hungry customers will find the best barbecue in the world.

"When we first walked up, we thought, 'This is interesting,'" said Amy Yont, "This is different, the outside of the building."

No fancy table cloths, just tender and tasty pork, chicken and beef. Regular diners soon become "Shed Heds".

"World famous barbecue and we came by for lunch. And I'll tell you, it's absolutely amazing. Everything I thought it would be and then some.  The quality of food could essentially be, hey, you're paying for the experience. But the food's amazing," said Benjamin Yont, from Lincoln, Illinois.

The deliciousness She Heds rave about gets started in the pit.

"In any great barbecue joint, you've got to keep the smoke rolling 24 hours a day," said Brooke Orrison Lewis, one of the owners.

Pecan wood provides the light, sweet, smoked flavor.

"Our pit masters get here at 2, 2:30 in the morning and start the slow and low process. Because with our pork and our brisket, it smokes 14 to 16 hours," Lewis explained.

All that low and slow loving care creates perfect smoked meats.

"You want a brisket to be nice and juicy, yet still fall apart and be perfectly tender," said Brad Orrison, as he held out a perfectly cooked brisket.

The ribs are also fall-off-the-bone tender.

"Nice, juicy goodness. But when you want to, the bone will fall right now," Brad said.

The consistent quality and attention to detail has led to numerous top awards in world class barbecue competitions.

"We like everything really, really tender. We do a lot of competitions, but this is really what we love to here at The Shed, at home and make some of the finest barbecue that we can possibly do. And that's the reason why we've been so popular," said Brad.

The founding family is passionate about barbecue, and so are the employees.

"Passion is key. We're truly passionate about what we do. We're passionate about Mississippi. We're proud, proud, to be from Mississippi. So any time we're out doing anything on a national basis, whether it's competing or maybe filming a show, we always try to represent. And let people know the beauty that Mississippi has to offer," said Brad's sister, Brooke.

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