THE STORY BEHIND
IN 1992, CHARLOTTE MANSUR AND ERIC CONNORS OPENED MR. BONES BBQ ON ANNA MARIA, A TINY BARRIER ISLAND ALONG FLORIDA’S GULF COAST.
With two generations of restaurant background in the family, they could have relied on their own knowledge, but they wanted their place to incorporate the best of what southern cuisine has to offer. They sampled barbeque not just in the big towns like Austin, Texas, but in Barstow; not just in Memphis, Tennessee, but in Sweetwater; not just in Macon, Georgia, but in Helena; not just in Birmingham, Alabama, but in Greenville. They travelled from New Orleans to Richmond and points in between, and distilled their experiences into a handful of essential recipes reflecting the soul of the south.
They set about making Mr. Bones BBQ what they thought a good restaurant should be. And they started serving southern cooking and barbeque as they had seen it all over the south: comfort food in big portions, full-flavored and indulgent, crafted to leave their patrons well-fed, well-treated and content. A little peach juice in the candied yams, seafood stock in the Jambalaya, dressings made fresh.
AND THE BARBEQUE . . . WELL THERE’S A LOT TO IT. A BALANCE OF SWEET AND SAVORY, LIGHT AND SMOKY, CRUSTY AND SOFT. THE FIRE. THE MEATS. DRY RUB. SAUCE.
And the “sides” almost as important as the main event.
They had iced beers served from a coffin and a skeleton fountain. They hired the locals, each one seemingly more colorful than the last. 40 seats and a takeout counter. Fresh squeezed lemonade, good music, an unpainted cement floor scrubbed clean every night and, all over the walls, African masks and photos taken from around the world of customers wearing Mr. Bones T-shirts. And a steady stream of happy customers from the U.S. and abroad.
In the late 90’s, Charlotte and Eric had their two boys, Ben and Noah, who grew up in the restaurant surrounded by sous-chefs and prep cooks, ladles, plates and cutlery. Sometimes, one of the boys had to nurse in the storeroom with their mom sitting on a stack of beer boxes. Later, they did their homework at table 8 with people dining around them. They lived “hospitality” and still work in the restaurant today.
OVER THE YEARS THE FAMILY WORKED TOGETHER TO CREATE A STABLE OF SAUCES TO EXPAND ON THE ORIGINAL BARBEQUE SAUCE.
They now have Hot BBQ, Mongolian, Mandarin and Honey Glaze. Their dry rub, quickly christened “Magic Dust” became a constant, and is applied to all the meats before they are smoked.
For over 25 years, Mr. Bones BBQ has been doing the same thing: making good barbeque. There have been hurricanes, power outages, storm surges and economic downturns. The island has grown and changed, but each day, Eric and Charlotte, Noah and Ben show up to do what they love, make their barbeque available to their little part of the world, and contribute their piece to the southern experience.