Mary Mahoney's has been an iconic restaurant in south Mississippi for decades, and Wednesday, dozens of people gathered in Biloxi to celebrate its golden anniversary. It's an old French house with rich history and even deeper roots. When Biloxi natives, Mary Mahoney and Andrew Citanovich, turned the grounds into Mary Mahoney's Restaurant back in 1964, its popularity and reach grew far beyond anyone's expectations.
Bobby Mahoney, co-owner of Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant, says, "Mary Mahoney's is like the common denominator. You go out of town to Biloxi and if a person has been here, he's probably been to Mary Mahoney's." The courtyard was packed as people gathered to celebrate the restaurant's golden anniversary and golden memories, as shared by Marshall Johnson, a Biloxi native who has worked at the restaurant as a server for 44 years. Johnson says, "Mary would come down these stairs and she'd be dressed in these beautiful outfits. Four or five of the servers would be standing right here by the gate. We would extend our hand to the lady of the house and let her in the restaurant."
Hundreds of celebrities have walked through the doors of Mary Mahoney's, leaving behind some interesting stories. Mahoney also says, "Diana Ross was here. I remember she went and grabbed a big oak tree and said she loved oak trees. Denzel Washington came in for the movie Mississippi Masala and got the gumbo.” While family, friends, and patrons celebrated the restaurant's 50th anniversary, it was a bittersweet day. Just this week, family and friends said good bye to co-founder, Andrew Citanovich, after a battle with illness. Tony Citanovich, co-owner of Mary Mahoney’s, says, "His work ethic was probably his biggest legacy, working hard." The relatives of the original founders still run the restaurant and have quite a few stories to tell themselves, like the time Bobby and other family members decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina at the restaurant.
Mahoney says, "I tasted the water in Camille and Katrina. I'm out of here for hurricanes. Someone said, ‘Why'd you stay here for Katrina?’ and I said, ‘We thought Camille was the mother of all storms until we found out storms don't have mothers.’" The family atmosphere and legacy lives on through this restaurant and her people, who have stood the test of time, and while celebrating the past, they'll keep using the key ingredients to the restaurant's success. Mahoney closes, "We're going to keep on doing what we're doing." The restaurant opened right after the ceremony. All proceeds from Wednesday's food and beverage sales will benefit two local charities.