Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Maple Street Biscuit Company

“Do one thing and Do it well” has been used as a slogan and motivational tool for business and individuals of all industries.  All industries, that is, except for restaurants.  Doing only one thing well in a kitchen cannot provide the average eatery enough turn over and return business to keep the lights on.  But occasionally this model works, and Maple Street Biscuit Company is out to prove it can be done.  They have taken the beloved buttermilk biscuit of the Southern kitchen and created a menu unique and well-rounded enough to satisfy any palette.

In the former Moe’s of San Marco, owner/operators Gus Evans and Scott Moore have taken the southwest eatery and turned it upside down with a sturdy renovation.  And instead of the “WELCOME TO MOE’S!!!” upon entering, you are now greeted with the amazing smell of fresh baked biscuits that are made right behind the register.  The old hot line of beans and rice has been turned into a bar that ends with a specialty coffee station, which includes their house blend of Maple Coffee.  Along the other wall are several individual tables for two to four diners and at the very front a large community table.  It is a very casual place, much like the address’ predecessor, you review the large menu on the wall and walk up to order.  They get the customer more involved by using little questions to call your order as opposed to your name.  Today’s was “What is your favorite band?”, so instead of dining with Maren and Kelam, on this day I dined with Rascal Flats.  We sit at the community table and wait for the band names to be called more impatiently than not.

The biscuit is a difficult art, if not made with the right ratio of ingredients, it can go from the extreme of a hardtack style piece of bread to a mushy lump of school paste.  But at Maple Street, they know and understand the biscuit and what it takes to make a good one.  They would not tell me much about the biscuit’s ingredients, but I did get some insight on the technique.  I was told they do not use the Southern staple of White Lily Self-Rising Flour, but they trade it for their own made in house mixture.  And like any good mother or father in the kitchen making biscuits, they are sure the fat is nice and hard before cutting it into the dry ingredients.  Simply put, the biscuit is a biscuit, nothing to write home about, but nothing to shy away from, it is still one good piece of bread.  The major difference you will find between their biscuit and mom’s is in the texture, since they shred in the cold fat instead of cut or knead it in, it creates a more layered biscuit, but it does not affect the final product.

The Reinhold, all natural fried chicken breast, crunchy dill pickle, house made honey mustard, $6.
Not sure if named after the actor famed for Beverly Hills Cop and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but if it is, I like his style.  For a place that focuses on the delivery vehicle, they do a damn good job making sure the accompaniments are just as good.  The chicken is juicy and well seasoned, could possibly give Beach Road Chicken a run for their money.  The pickles are thick cut and just right for the dish, nothing over powering coming from the brined cucumber.  It is finished off with simple honey mustard, not overly sweet or spicy from one of the ingredients overtaking the other.  A very well balanced dish.

Squawk on the Street, all natural fried chicken breast, house made pepper jelly, $6.
The biscuit.  Then the chicken.  Now the pepper jelly.  Sweet, tangy and spicy all rolled into one tasty treat most southerners eat by the gobs with cream cheese and crackers.  Though not made from the regional favorite of Datil peppers, and I personally felt it could have used a little more spiciness, it was still really tasty.

The Squawking Goat, all natural fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion, $7.50.
Apparently we all thought the idea of chicken and biscuits for breakfast would be awesome this day.  The “Goat” portion is a simple breaded and fried medallion of Chevre. They add a little twist of herbs, nothing over powering.  We felt the portion of the goat’s cheese could have been a little heavier.

The Garden Bird, all natural fried chicken, collard greens, fried egg, hot sauce, $6.
One final chicken biscuit, then we get to the others.  Nothing special about the individual components on this one, standard southern greens, an egg, a dash of Tabasco, and it turns out they all work really well together.

The Blues Biscuit, pulled pork, slaw, honey bbq, $7.
Truthfully the only one we found lacking, though it may have been because we were enjoying all the others that it just got cold on us.  The pork was not over or under cooked, and the bbq sauce was not too sweet.  The slaw was a not as creamy as we liked either.  But, like I said, this one was one of the last tried and it was most likely our fault for it getting cold, which very well may have been perfect when we first got it.  I may give this one another shot, but honestly, the others are good enough to forget this one.

The Ralphie Deluxe, spicy sausage gravy, fried egg, $6.
Biscuit, sausage gravy, spiciness, a fried egg, I am pretty sure this is how a weekend southern breakfast is depicted in magazines.  I remember my mother making biscuits and gravy rather often, and it is always hard to stack up against Momma’s cooking.  They may not get the belt in this round, but they sure did give her a run for the money.  I mean after all, Mumsie Dearest never made fried chicken and pepper jelly to go with hers. Hint, hint.

A very pleasing visit to the Maple Street Biscuit Company left us wanting to just grab a quick nap in our chairs or go for a whiskey tasting at the Grape & Grain Exchange before we go for another round.  Needless to say, I will be back for more biscuits and I will be back soon.  I am hoping I can get them to let me build my own combination of flavors.  If they let me do that with their convenient breakfast and lunch hours, and even dinner hours on the weekends, I may be there often enough to get a biscuit named after me.

Maple Street Biscuit Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Green Erth Bistro

1520 Hendricks Avenue, 32207

There has been a movement in the restaurant industry that has made its’ way into Jacksonville and beyond.  It is a movement that is loved by many: the chef, the farmer, the foodie.  It is the Farm to Fork movement.  A movement defined simply as food produced locally as natural or organic as possible without the use of GMOs or hormones.

Green Erth Bistro is making its push to be in that market under the Persian cuisine banner.  Not yet fully Farm to Fork, they utilize natural and organic ingredients whenever possible.  They even pride themselves on offering a plethora of vegan and vegetarian dishes, but they do not restrict themselves to these dietary restrictions alone.  The Bistro, as they like to refer to themselves as, is tucked into one of the many strips you see in the San Marco area of town.  There is not much to distinguish it from the surrounding areas as the façade on the whole strip has no definition between businesses.  What helps it to stand out is its maroon canvas overhang leading into the patio with the simple text of Green Erth Bistro in white.  It is a quant place with a large community table in the middle as well as several smaller tables skirting the main room for a more private dining experience.  My diner with me tonight is Shelly and we decide on the community table in hopes of discourse during the main course.

After a brief moment our server takes our drink order and gives us time to peruse the menu.  They offer a wide selection of organic and local beers, though Intuition People’s Pale Ale was the only local beer on tap.  They also offer a variety of specialty teas and waters as well as some unique drinks of the vegan/vegetarian and eastern Mediterranean variety.  An order of water and tea reveal drinks are served in a plastic cup, but it is a plastic cup made of recycled materials, fitting with the theme of the restaurant.

We decide to start off with the two daily special soups:  Vegan Tamarind and Coconut Soup and Vegetarian Barley Ash.

Vegan Tamarind and Coconut Soup, $?
It is a hearty soup with a scent not far off from the familiar sweet potato dishes of the South.  The flavor?  Flat.  It was a lentil based soup with hints of sweetness from the tamarind, but this soup offered nothing more than filler.  The texture was grainy, and the flavors barely reminded you of what you ordered.  This was completely different than the broth like soup we expected, but I am not sure that even that would have salvaged it.

Vegetarian Barley Ash, $? 
No this dish does not contain any amount of remnants of a burnt piece of wood.  Ash is a consistency between soup and stew, a “stoup” if you like that terminology.  Loaded with lentils, beans and peas of all sorts, this soup is heavily accented with cilantro and finished with a touch of yogurt.   It needed a little brightness - in all actuality, all it needed was to not sit in a steam well all day which allowed the flavors and brightness drop since it was finished being prepared before lunch.

Hummus Plate, diced tomato, olive, fresh basil, $4.50. 
Being a staple, it was a must to see how they perform on a basic such as hummus.  Overall a good dish, the hummus was smooth and not over powered by any one flavor.  The pita served with it was warm and slightly toasted and had the added health benefit of flax seed.  The downfall of this dish comes with the olives.  I mean we are talking about the eastern Mediterranean, an area of the world known for the harvesting of this fruit and its many varietals and curing procedures and The Bistro chooses to use canned sliced black olives.  Nothing short of the olive you would see from the cheap chain pizza delivery guys.

Kabob Assortment: Tofu and Veggie, $5, Koobideh, $4, Jujeh, $5, saffron basmati rice. 
Large pieces of bright, fresh vegetables skewered and grilled over open flame.  The tofu is seasoned with sumac and nothing else, not even salt.  An ingredient that is essentially a blank canvas of the culinary world and they sprinkle it with a single spice, not very freshly ground, and nothing else.  The vegetables seasoned with nothing at all.  Very disappointed with these, textures are there but with no flavor it became a huge let down.  Koobideh, ground meat seasoned and skewered, can be very difficult to achieve.  Getting the meat to hang onto the skewer can turn into disaster if you do not know what you are doing.  Make the mince wrong and it can be too loose to keep on the skewer.  Not loose enough and you cannot spread it out evenly creating uneven cooking.  It is obvious these guys know what they are doing; it was a near perfect skewer of perfectly cooked and seasoned beef.  Jujeh, saffron marinated chicken, was beautifully cooked breast of chicken with a bright yellow hue from the chicken.  A little seasoning could have carried this to a whole other level, but was good eats none the less.  They prepare the saffron and basmati rice in a somewhat unique manner.  With saffron being the most expensive spice in the world, instead of making large batches and over utilizing or stretching out the saffron, they make plain basmati rice and a smaller batch of saffron rice.  It also allows for a nicer presentation instead of the bland display of nothing but rice on a plate.  Though plenty of these items were in need of seasoning, all the kebabs and rice were cooked perfectly.

At first, we debated dessert, and then we heard about Persian ice cream.  So we had to try it and, of course, Baklava.

Persian Ice Cream, pistachios, $4.50. 
Ice cream, the French concoction of frozen custard that has been bought into by many ethnicities has seen as many flavors, takes on a unique perspective in the Persian eye.  Saffron and lavender accent the dessert in a way that is a bit awkward.  With the first few bites I felt as if I was being attacked by the various scents found in the candle, lotion and perfume isles of the local department store all at once.  That taste of the musky aura associated with an elderly woman fills the mouth and mind.  After you make it past those first few bites it becomes something much more real, a light creamy floral custard whose scent gently floats into you sinuses.  The pistachio flavor is pretty much lost in the lavender but add a very nice regional texture to the dish.

Bakalava, $3. 
Very traditional, very familiar, well done.

When it comes to the food, Green Erth Bistro has more hits than misses, and this usually leads to a recommendation for dining here.  But, we received horrid service.  It was not that the server was rude or impatient; it was that she seemed to not care she had guests.  At multiple times throughout the meal, she would walk from the rear of the restaurant and see us sitting there and realize she had either not talked to us in a while to see if we needed anything, or our order taken, or that she had said she was going to bring us plates so that we could eat the entrée.  Though it seems she may have attempted to rectify her mistakes by giving us the soups on the house, they are still misses that turn any meal, even one of the best ones, into the one you do never want to experience again.

I still love the choice of food they choose to serve and their most of their techniques of serving it, but with the thought of getting the same service mean I am less likely to give them repeat business.

Green Erth Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lola's Burrito Joint

1522 King Street, 32205

The Riverside and Avondale areas of Jacksonville have a lot to offer all lifestyles.  With hangouts, eateries, parks, breweries, and museums, there are endless possibilities of ways to enjoy an afternoon or evening.  The weekends provide even more opportunity to explore the historic streets with markets, special events, and organized bike rides.  

It was a lazy Sunday when I finally decided to trek out to Lola’s Burrito Joint.  Lola’s is the second venture of the people who brought us Carmine’s Pie House. Carmine’s is a place which I have come to enjoy quite regularly, so I had every intention of enjoying my meal here at Lola’s.  Lola’s serves Latin American cuisine, so I was delighted when a friend of mine, Sheena, had asked me to join her and her sister, Yara, to dine here.  I felt as if I had an insider’s view into the restaurant since these siblings are of Puerto Rican decent and Sheena had been able to experience Lola’s once before.
Walking in, you can see their tie to Carmine’s; it is decorated much in the same manner, but with a Latin flair.  It is not a far cry from the way you would have seen an Applebee’s or Bennigan’s decorated ten years ago, a bit tacky in my opinion, but nothing overbearing to make you feel uncomfortable.  Probably the most uncomfortable image of the meal was one that most people probably just bypassed.  A simple 8” x 11” sheet of plain white paper with a message printed on it.  It was not the location, the paper, or even the overall contents of the placard.  It was the atrocious grammar.  Now you can ask my parents, sisters, and even my high school English teachers, I am far and away from an English honors student, and I am sure that one of the main things I got marked on was grammar.  I understand that there are many out there whose skills are much like mine, or perhaps worse.  But when you are a professional establishment filled with professional employees and you post an atrocity such as this, it begins to speak volumes of your location before patrons even walk through the door.  

When it comes to a libation, Lola’s does not hold back. They carry a selection of over 50 beers, most on tap and a good number from local breweries, and a full bar with several house designed mojitos and margaritas.  They are still in the stages of designing the menu, and the condition in which they were presented shows it, with items no longer offered being simply blacked out with a marker.  The menu offers a twist on the average items offered at a burrito joint plus a few that are not expected.

Pineapple and Cilantro Salsa, Tomatillo Salsa, tortilla chips, $2.97 each.
I love a good fruit salsa.  They allow you to incorporate more flavors, even unexpected ones, into a well-known dish with ease.  It is a quick fix for a dish that has accidently had too much spice added to it, while also allowing new dimensions to be found within the surrounding fruits and vegetables.  That is when there is fruit actually put into the salsa.  What I received seemed more like yesterday’s Pico de Gallo with a sprinkling of pineapple.  No actually, that makes it sound like there was still a decent amount of pineapple in this salsa; it was more like the tried to capture the essence of the pineapple by placing the wrapped salsa next to a pineapple in the cooler.  The cilantro flavor was lacking as well, though the finishing garnish was a pinch of fresh chopped cilantro, it just was not enough to lift this dish from the depths it had fallen. 

Verde salsa has many definitions because the translation is simply ”green sauce”.  In Mexican/Latin cuisine it tends to denote the inclusion of tomatillos which tends to give the resulting sauce a dingy color more than a vibrant green color.  Lola’s managed the exact opposite in theirs.  Unfortunately, it seems whatever they managed to do to make the color of the salsa beautiful affected the flavor components.  It was like dipping my chip into thickened bowl of lime juice, unseasoned lime juice at that. 

Mexican street corn, Cotija cheese, cilantro, Lola’s adobo, $2.77.
Elote (pronounced ey [as in hey]-low-tay) is the common name for this dish. It can be found at most food carts in Mexico.  It is a no fuss corn dish served on or off the cob, though at Lola’s no option for off the cob was available on the menu.  The corn is grilled in the husk and once done topped with cilantro, cheese, seasoning, and finished with mayo, or the more traditional crema Mexicana.  Lola’s does away with the crema part of the dish, luckily it does not affect the dish in a negative manner and they finally fought back with a winning dish.

Spicy shrimp taco, mojo lime aioli, $2.97.
Traditional tacos with a modern twist.  The traditional part of the tacos that most people do not like is the raw cabbage, if you can get past that then you are in for a treat.  The mojo lime aioli is a citrusy and spiced sauce that cools the spicy shrimp and melds these tacos.  Though the taco was not bad, Sheena made a point to mention more than once that it was not the same taco she had on a previous visit and ranked this one subpar.

Carnita taco,  Chewie’s chimi sauce, $2.77. 
Carnitas; a twice cooked meat, typically pork, of which the second stage is recooking the meat in its own fat rendered during the cooking process of stage one, giving the meat a deliciously juicy interior and the crispy golden exterior the average American knows and loves.  Ordering this and receiving a taco filled with limp colorless pulled pork is a faux pas that irreconcilable.  Though the chimichurri was loaded with flavor, a sauce does not save a dish.

Dirty Sanchez Burrito, soft shell crab, chorizo dirty rice, chipotle tartar, $10.97.
Because burritos are such a big individual dish, some places tend to stuff it with fillers and unnecessary ingredients.  Lola’s decided to change that and put in thought out, flavor packed ingredients.  Black beans, cabbage, and salsa are the fillers and all bring flavor and more texture to the dish.  The dirty chorizo rice combined with the chipotle tartar sauce brought in the perfect amount of heat without muddling the lightly fried soft shell crab.  All the components to this burrito were good on their own and became a symphony once wrapped in the flour tortilla.  It came with a small side of marinated three bean salad, a component that could have been left out but was a nice little addition.

Lola’s rice, pigeon peas, black beans, $2.47.

Yellow rice and pigeon peas is a traditional dish in Latin American communities, especially in Puerto Rico but is not a dish you will commonly find outside of those homes.  The main reason behind it - no one can make it quite like mom.  This is much like what happened here. It’s not that it is not a good dish; it is the competition it has against the family ties and the fond childhood memories.  Sheena and Yara rated them untouchable to their mom’s, but I felt they were not that bad of a side dish.  Lightly scented with cumin and a hint of chile, the pigeon peas and rice were both cooked very well, though well under seasoned, some salt and acid would have made this dish much more acceptable.

Fried plantains, sweet, 3.47

Plantains – peeled, cut and fried.  Though I have seen these ruined six ways to Sunday, they were perfect here.  Slightly crispy and caramel colored on the outside and steamy gooey goodness inside.  The best part, they finished them with a little bit of grated Queso Fresco, a slightly salty cheese that brings in the perfect contrast to the sweet bites.

It is always rough opening a new restaurant.  You tend to face your toughest critics during this time.  But some places like to make it harder on them by pushing too much at one time.  I could imagine how much better this meal at Lola’s would have been if had they taken an extra week or two to works out these kinks we experienced.  I am hoping that they turn this around and begin to take over this block of Jacksonville.

Lola's Burrito Joint on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tapa That

820 Lomax Street, 32204

When looking for a place to eat, one of the top things on most people’s list is variety.  We want a place that allows us to sample food we have not yet tried, but do not want to be stuck with a plate full of food that we may dislike.  And without going to a top dollar fine dining restaurant, we are often left with whatever we meal we have chosen and sadly push it around the plate.  Enter tapas, the Spanish style of eating that involves a range of appetizers and dishes meant to be shared amongst the table.  Tapas range from fully composed dishes, such as a salad, to portioned dishes, such as a dumpling or fritter, allowing each diner the full experience of enjoying a taste.  Tapas bars are becoming not only more fashionable, but more available.

Menu Board, not from the day of dining.
I could think of no better place in Jacksonville for Tapa That to be situated other than Five Points. They use local ingredients, mainly produce, whenever possible and stick to a solid theme of Spanish inspired dishes with their own unique twist.  It is a cozy well-spaced bar with ample seating and yet had nothing overbearing about the dining area, an easy to read chalk board menu makes up a third of the wall, and a lounge area off in the corner with a few couches.  There is no community seating, an odd thing not to see in tapas bars considering the sharing inspired by such a cuisine, but they are more than happy to pull tables together for parties larger than four which still leaves ample room for any guest to get around the restaurant without bumping into another person’s chair.

Service starts out bad, my buddy, Morgan, went inside as a call came in which delayed my entrance.  Upon finishing, I head to the table and am brought only water and offered nothing further.  While discussing the menu, I find out that Morgan was asked if he wanted a beer, he replied he would wait.  Once I sat down no other offers were made for beverage choices, not even soda.
The menu is simple, eight to ten items rotating daily, each well described and simply priced.  A bright spot in the service was when we did ask about a particular menu item the wait staff had plenty of knowledge about them that they readily divulged the information to us.  The server recommended a few that we had been leaning towards which solidified out first two dishes.

Smoked Duck Salad, bacon shallot vinaigrette, $9.
This dish screamed Warm Spinach Salad redux.  And they a grand job of executing it.  The duck breast was smoked with China Mist Mango Tea imparting a slightly sweet and smoky flavor to it.  We felt they could have kept the duck a little more on the rare side, but it also would not have gotten as much of a flavor from the smoking process had they done so.  The dressing was perfect in multiple ways, it was the right temperature so it just barely wilted the spinach, the perfect amount of acid to fat, the sweetness from the shallot played well with the meaty bacon, it all came together like a well-orchestrated symphony.  Accompanying the salad were toasted walnuts and dried mission figs.  The figs were merely cut and nothing else was done to them so they were a bit chewy in the salad but still rounded out the salad nicely and the walnuts were perfectly toasted bringing a nice crunch texture to the dish.  Simply put; job well done.

They properly timed the dishes coming out from the kitchen so that we were not bombarded with 2 dishes at the same time which keeps the table from getting clustered and confused.  However, they did not reset flatware or plates, a very common practice at tapas bars so as to not muddle one dish into the next. 

Cuban Cakes, sour cream, spicy guacamole.  $7.
Being based on the classic dish of Congris Cakes explained the extremely traditional approach to this dish.  A white rice and black bean cake breaded and fried.  They get served with a black bean sauce of sorts; I am willing to bet it is their Black Bean Soup.  Small dollops of sour cream accent the dish and little drops of spicy guacamole are placed on top of each cake.  Yes, “drops”, there was not very much, not enough to have a small taste with each bite.  Overall this dish is really good.  The cakes are nice and light and come out golden brown.  After eating about half of one they begin to get lost in themselves.  The guacamole does not have very much heat and the sauce has the same flavor profile as the cake.  This dish could use a little tweaking to take it to that next level, and those tweaks are nothing major.

As the server is clearing the table from the second course, we ask about a few more items and decide to get another with a strong possibility of a fourth and fifth.

Wild Mushroom and Chevre Terrine, crostini.  $9
Wild mushrooms and goat cheese brought together in a classic preparation of a terrine?  What is not to like?  First off, it is not a terrine, though it does not neccesarily need to be made in a terrine to be called a terrine, it most definetly needs to be set with aspic or gelatin, "chaud froid", or the fats used in the cooking process, rilletes.  It is sauteed or roasted mushrooms placed in a ring mold and topped with whipped goat cheese.  The mushrooms were disappointing.  First, they did not appear to be properly cooked, as if they had overcrowded the pan when cooking them causing them to boil and steam as opposed to get a nice carmelization to them and develop tons of flavors.  Second, they appeared and tasted as if they were merely button mushrooms, nothing wild about these, and if they were a nice wild mushroom, you would never have known because they were sliced so thin they were unrecognizable in both appearance and texture.  The crostnis did not impress either.  They were sliced much like the mushrooms, wafer thin, so they barely stood up to the application they were meant for.  Sadly it was a flavorless piece of notebook paper thin bread.  The flavors were all there in the dish, they just did not come together the way they should have been.

This is where service really faltered.  We had already decided what we wanted to try next, the BLT Quesadilla, but instead of asking us how we were doing and trying to up sell another dish, he just drops the check off before asking us if we were done and without engaging us as he left it.  Not only is this bad for the restaurant for multiple reasons, but it leaves a bad taste in the patrons mouth as if they did not want us there in the first place, like we were inconveniencing them by asking them to provide the service we are willing to pay for and that they are striving to provide.  Though this is not necessarily a universal problem with all the servers or even a daily practice of the one who served us, it can quickly cause universal problems for the restaurant.  The food coming out of the kitchen is enough to keep this place around, but bad service can close a restaurant quicker than it opened.  I personally vote to give it a second shot.  Because the next time I go, I am sure they can "Tapa That".

Tapa That on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mango Mango's

It was a beautiful weekend in Northeast Florida so my buddy, Tom, and I decided to find a place to eat outside at.  He felt like taking a quick trip to down to Saint Augustine for this dinner, coincidentally his vehicle just so happened to be in the shop.  Nevertheless, we peruse some menus and I drive us to a place called Mango Mango's.

A cozy little family restaurant located a block from Saint Augustine Beach that gives that feel good, relaxing weekend vibe, Mango Mango's brings the Caribbean to the shores of north Florida offering a variety of sandwiches, burgers, salads and island favorites.  

The first step in relaxing is finding the right drink to fit the weekend.  At Mango Mango's they have a nice variety of everything from soda to flavored teas.  But being a tropically themed place they also offer "Island Oasis" drinks, a frozen concoction with various tropical fruit flavors that can be made for a kid or an adult.  They also have a nice variety of wine by the glass, half bottle and bottle.  Unfortunately, they do not carry San Sebastian Winery wines which are made within ten miles of the restaurant.  However, they do have A Street Amber Ale, a beer brewed specially for them by Florida Beer Company, a beer light enough to have a couple while enjoying some fun in the sun and yet full bodied enough to satisfy a dark beer drinker.  The kicker, $3.25 a pint.
A Street Amber Ale, so named for the cross street Mango Mango's resides on

Coconut Crunchy Shrimp, mango colada sauce, $10.
Tom got this just because he likes shrimp that have been coated with something, even better if that something has a sweet flavor and is plunged into scorching hot fat.  Little did he know he was going to be getting six huge butterflied shrimp, dredged in a coconut batter, fried to GBD (Golden Brown and Delicious) perfection and served with an awesome mango and coconut cream sauce.  So awesome, he saved it in hopes of it being good on anything he decided to dunk in it later.

Mango Mango's Famous Corn Cakes, avocado, salsa verde, Santa Fe sauce, $9.
I did not really now what to expect when ordering this, corn cakes can be prepared in so many variations just between Florida and the Caribbean alone.  I was truly drawn to this by the description more than the main component.  Mango Mango's preparation happened to be two huge Johnny Cake style fritters loaded with fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese, a very unique and  well made salsa verde, fresh avocado and a spicy Santa Fe sauce.  The Santa Fe sauce, when mixed with the sour cream, is what brings this whole dish together, bringing the spicy and creamy together with the sweetness from the corn cake made for a wonderful starter.  My only complaint, it was not very hot when brought to the table.

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich, Hawaiian bread, provolone cheese, honey ham, grilled pineapple, $10.
A simple yet exotic sandwich.  The chicken is grilled and basted with pineapple, papaya, and mango juices, then it is all assembled and pressed.  For what is basically a Caribbean style chicken cordon bleu panini, it misses the mark with poor execution.  Though the flavors of the sandwich were very nice and worked well together, the bottom of the it was soggy which can only mean one of two things happened: 1) they prepared it to early and let it sit in the window long enough to let the pineapple and chicken seep juices onto the plate only to get soaked up by the bread or 2) they used canned pineapple which is notorious for never really drying out. Almost every entree on the menu is served with your choice of side item from fries to side salad. Tom ordered the fried plantains, a simple side dish that is hard to mess up, luckily they were golden and piping hot.  This is also where Tom found a something else that goes great with the aforementioned mango colada sauce.
The Ultimate Island Burger!, brown sugar Caribbean rub, apricot honey mustard, beer battered onion ring, seasoned bacon, pepper Jack cheese, $9.
As you can see from the description, this burger obviously has some other influences on it.  Apricots are not a Caribbean crop.  Beer battered onion rings, bacon, even mustard really give no reference to the islands.  Until you realize there was heavy colonization of the islands by many different nationalities, and colonization can easily leave its mark on the cuisine of a region.  This burger was a representation of just that.  It was moist, the onion ring and bacon crisp, the mustard sweet and spicy, and all perfectly seasoned.  When all the these ingredients were brought together, I am pretty sure I heard the bread sing with joy for being able to house such a palate pleaser.  My side dish was Mango's slaw, a fresh coleslaw with oranges, pineapple and papaya, not a bad dish.  The set back was it was tossed in a mayonnaise based dressing, which when mixed with all the fruits, became a wet bowl of coleslaw.

So the next time you go for a day out at the beach, instead of going through the pains of lugging coolers and grills, eating sandy food, and worrying about disposing of all your trash properly, look into the local places that are in the are.  Not only are the decisions of who should bring this and who forgot that gone; You just might find your own Mango Mango's.

Mango Mangos on Urbanspoon