Mangrove Mama’s Restaurant, located on Sugarloaf Key, has been in business for over 30 years, but the buildings that house the restaurant have been around since the early 1900’s, when they were constructed as a stop for Flagler’s Overseas Railroad. Since then then buildings have been a gas station, a grocery store, and finally a restaurant.
The buildings and decor are reminiscent of old times and calls to mind the Bahamas. With indoor and outdoor seating areas decorated with wood accents, brightly painted local art, and palm trees. If you plan on sitting on the beautiful outdoor patio you can even bring Fido with you.
Back in the 1980s and early 1990s Mangrove Mama’s was the place to hang out and dine. But, with changing ownership, fluctuating quality of food and service, the addition of a few new restaurants in the area, and the burgeoning night life in Key West, Mangrove Mama’s does not have the draw that it once had. Still, many locals still hang out at the bar and listen to live music on Friday and Saturday nights. And, with the latest shift in ownership, I think that Mangrove Mama’s may soon gain back its former popularity.
It had been awhile since we have eaten at Mangrove Mama’s, as sadly, the food quality and service had really gone down hill. But, when we heard that the owners of DJ’s Clam Shack recently bought the property, we were super excited to go back. If you have ready my review about DJ’s Clam Shack, you will know that we love the food there.
Updated Review 2/6/24
Right away upon entering, you can tell that the new owners spent a great deal of time and money cleaning up the property. They also revamped the menu with some great dishes. Sadly, the last owners would not share the recipe for Shrimp St. Jacques with the new owners even though it has been on the menu from the dawn of time. So, the new owners came up with their own version called Shrimp Giovanni which is pretty cool.
Our first foray back to Mangrove Mama’s was for lunch. I tried the chicken tacos and my husband ordered the burger. There were three tacos served in corn tortillas and filled with chicken, shredded cabbage, pickled onions and chipotle mayo with a choice of fries or coleslaw. They were decent, but a little boring so I would not go for this again. Steven’s burger and fries were really good. The bacon on the burger was thick and delicious and perfectly cooked.
We went back for dinner a few days later. This time we started with a couple of strawberry mojitos. Oh my, these were so dangerously delicious! I ordered the conch fritters as an appetizer while my husband ordered the chicken wings. The fritters were just like the ones at DJ’s, my favorite ! The wings were giant and even though I did not try them, I know they were great because my husband refused to share. He did, however, allow me to eat the celery and dip that they came with.
For dinner, he again got the burger. I ordered a Caesar salad with the fish of the day, tile fish. The salad was one of the best Caesars that I have had with garlicky home made dressing, and the fish was fresh and perfectly cooked. For dessert we ordered the cannoli and tiramisu plate and a piece of salted caramel cheesecake. This time it was me that would not share with the husband. The cannoli was really good as was the tiramisu. Remember, I am Italian so I am also very picky about my Italian food. The cheesecake was good, but I will stick to my Italian desserts here.
The next week we went back for dinner again. We loved the mojitos so much the last time that we ordered them again and they were just as good. This time, I ordered the French onion soup to start as it was pretty chilly out and I wanted something warming. Banana Cafe‘s is better, but it was definitely good and I would get it again. And, Steven ordered the wings and the burger again, so nothing new to report there other than they were just as good as last time.
Original Review 10/4/2012
We dined there with some friends this past week. Being early October when the Keys are pretty quiet, they only had a skeleton crew working the dinner shift; one cook, one waitress, and one bartender. It took the waitress a few minutes to seat us since she was waiting on about five tables, and she suggested we sit at the bar because we would have better service there.
The bartender took our drink orders and we also got a few appetizers; Calamari and Shrimp St. Jacques. The shrimp were fresh and cooked to perfection, covered with a rich and delicious sauce. The calamari was lightly breaded and flash fried, served with some chopped tomatoes and balsamic glaze. I did not care for the tomatoes, but the balsamic was a nice touch. And the marinara was a perfect compliment.
For dinner we ordered the Seafood Pasta, Baby Back Ribs, Fried Shrimp, and Mama’s Big Salad.
The seafood pasta is hands down the best dish that they have in my opinion, and one of the best seafood pasta dishes that I have had anywhere, ever. The linguine is cooked al dente and covered in a delicious alfredo sauce. And the seafood loaded in the plate is cooked perfectly. Lobster, shrimp, scallops, and clams make this dish hearty yet delicate.
The baby back ribs were tasty, served with a side of yummy mashed potatoes. The meat was tender and with just enough BBQ sauce covering them all.
With fried shrimp, you run the worry of possibly not getting the freshest available, but these were definitely fresh and delicately fried. Served with a tasty cup of cole slaw and french fried potatoes, this was a tradition dish done right.
Mama’s Big Salad was loaded with fresh veggies including lettuce, peppers, carrots, hard boiled eggs, blue cheese, and choice of dressing.
The dinner was amazing all the way around. The service was not impeccable, but I did not expect it to be, especially with the skeleton crew. But honestly, the reason that Mangrove Mama’s is not a place that my husband and I dine at more frequently is because the service, even when fully staffed, is usually pretty poor and extremely slow. They already have the food dialed in. Now they just need to get the service that way too and I think that it could once again be the place to eat in the Lower Keys.
More About Key West and the Florida Keys
So, I think we have found our new/ not new favorite place to go to eat near our house on Sugarloaf. It is only about a 20 minute drive from Key West, so if you have a car, are staying in the Lower Florida Keys, or simply driving down, this is definitely worth a stop! I cannot wait for our next trip back. I have the French dip, the lobster roll, and the shrimp Giovanni to try!
The Florida Keys and Key West have no shortage of places to dine. Before you decide where to go, check out our restaurant review section of this blog.
And to see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events.
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Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge