By Cynthia McFarland • Photos By Caroline Johnson
When was the last time you discovered an unexpected surprise about someone or something you thought you knew everything about? Like the day you found out your mild-mannered and unassuming grandfather was a decorated paratrooper from WWII. Or that your eccentric, but very rich great aunt named you the main beneficiary in her will.
Okay, so learning that one of my absolute favorite lunch spots, Mango’s in downtown Ocala, is now open for dinner three nights a week isn’t going to increase my investment portfolio. But it certainly offers a great new option for dining out at a place I already know as a sure winner.
The good news is that all the delicious things you love about Mango’s for lunch are also available during the dinner hours. From the famous Mango’s Sunshine Salad to the popular Mango’s Specialty items, lo-carb dishes, and hearty subs, and more, I would be quite content to just order from the lunch selections.
Owners Juan and Pilar Bohorquez, who have been in the United States since 1995 and originally hail from Colombia, say selection is the key
“It’s all about choices,” Juan says. “The idea is to keep things healthy and give our loyal customers an opportunity to enjoy different options for dinner. Nothing is fried; everything’s either grilled or baked.”
Juan has a long history in all facets of the restaurant business. He and Aaron Hershberger, head cook and general manager, are excited about the chance to bring something different to the table.
A number of special dinner entrees are featured each evening, joining the already diverse lunch menu offerings. Portions are generous, so even though you can pat yourself on the back for eating healthy, you’re still bound to walk out feeling pleasantly full.
On the evening we visited, dinner specials included Stuffed Chicken Breast with Cheesy Herbs, which was seasoned just right with a secret mix of herbs blended into a mild cheese that is baked inside the tender breast.
Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa featured a large filet of the mild sweet white fish, topped with a summery-tasting fruit salsa. Grilled Pork Chops stuffed with Herbs offered a satisfying choice for hungry patrons craving a hearty portion of meat done just right. Additional dinner entrees will also include some South American specialties.
Unlike the lunch choices, all dinner specials come with a side salad and a heaping portion of slightly sweet coconut rice.
Some of Mango’s lunch selections are surely destined to become popular with dinner patrons. I couldn’t resist the Island Shrimp Brochette and proclaimed it one of my favorite dishes. These seriously jumbo shrimp are wrapped in a snug blanket of lean bacon glazed with mango barbeque sauce and then grilled. Delectable!
If you decide to start with an appetizer, opt for a cup of the Ajiaco soup, which is always the Soup of the Day on Thursdays. Creamy and satisfying, this unusual soup gets its distinctive South American flavor from a combination of shredded chicken, avocado, capers, corn, cilantro, and additional seasonings.
“It’s one of the best soups in Colombia,” says Juan. After just one taste, I totally agreed. I wanted to order an entire bowl, but knew I wouldn’t be able to finish my entrée if I did.
In addition to the main dishes, all soups, dressings, and sauces are made daily in Mango’s kitchen. All breads are also baked fresh each day and include their signature focaccia and herbed garlic bread twists. The focus on fresh is apparent with every order that is served, one of the reasons Mango’s has become such a popular downtown eatery.
A number of Mango’s regular patrons are vegetarians and Juan recognizes this fact. The menu already offers a good variety of meatless options, from specialty hot wraps to quesadillas, salads, subs, and hearty vegetarian burgers served on freshly baked white or wheat Kaiser rolls.
“What often happens is that when a vegetarian goes out for dinner with friends or family that aren’t vegetarians, they end up at a restaurant where they have no choice but to order a plain salad,” he notes. “Here, you can bring your friends who eat meat and it will be prepared in a healthy way, and the vegetarians in your group will also have plenty to choose from on the menu. That way everyone is happy!”
That attitude fits right in with Mango’s slogan: “Eat healthy, be happy, enjoy life!”
Okay, I confess. I never think dinner is complete without a bite of something sweet at the end. Fortunately, the folks at Mango’s feel the same way.
Their best-selling Volcano Fudge Cake is so incredible, there doesn’t have to be much competition on the dessert menu. This intensely chocolate mini cake is presented in a pool of warm fudge sauce, partnered with rich vanilla ice cream and dollops of whipped cream. Chocolate heaven! It’s perfect for sharing, unless you’re feeling slightly selfish, which in this case is perfectly understandable.
The New Orleans Bread Pudding also has many fans, and deservedly so. Served warm with an enticing bourbon sauce, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream, this old-fashioned tastes as good as grandma’s, if not better.
Top off the meal with a steaming cup of Cuban coffee, espresso, cappuccino, or a latte. They’re the ideal partner to either of the delicious house desserts, or on their own.
If you’re accustomed to coming to Mango’s for lunch, one of the dinner hour changes you’ll immediately notice is the acoustic guitar duo tucked into one of the restaurant’s front corners.
Musicians Steve Germany and Jordan Garno add a great deal to the evening’s ambiance. Their music truly provides a finishing touch and is never too loud to interfere with conversation. Don’t be surprised to find your toe tapping along to the rhythm as familiar, easy listening tunes accompany your meal. We found the music a most comfortable fit with Mango’s relaxed and breezy atmosphere and cozy tropical setting.
“Downtown is getting better and better all the time,” says Juan.
And dinner at Mango’s is definitely one of the reasons why.
20 Southwest Broadway Street, Ocala
Less than one block west of the Downtown Square
Dinner entrees served from 3:00pm, Thursday-Saturday