Local Restaurant Week: Mango’z Restaurant
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 30, 2011 @ 11:16pm
As you head north on Elmwood Avenue nearing Buffalo State College, your restaurant selection dwindles. There’s Subway, Cole’s, J.P. Bullfeather’s, an avalanche of Greek restaurants and a few pizza joints, but there’s hardly any ethnic variety. Mango’z, a new Jamaican restaurant on 577 Forest, offers an intensely West Indian—and spicy—experience.
In the four weeks since its “soft” opening on Sept. 2, Mango’z perseverance and flexibility have allowed them to stay afloat. Just two weeks in, thieves broke into the building in the wee hours of the morning, shattering a window and damaging booths. Upon their arrival to work, co-owners Julie Ramroop and her husband Dennis quickly patched up the mess, and Mango’z opened as normal one hour later. That’s how you confront adversity.
“We want to give people a comfortable environment,” Julie Ramroop said. “We want them to relax—that’s why we have the big windows, the natural light from outside and the Jamaican music.” Hearing Sheryl Crow’s “First Cut is the Deepest” set to a tropical melody was absolutely an eye-opener.
Lovers of spicy food will rejoice when sampling Mango’z. Jamaican cuisine is heavy on spice, and many dishes boast a jerk rub or a curry sauce. While my mouth was enjoying a pleasant buzz for much of the meal, the sting died down quickly. It’s not painfully acidic like downing a dozen suicidal wings, but the Scotch Bonnet peppers do pack a punch.
“We don’t want our spices to overwhelm,” Ramroop said. “We want them to be flavorful and to do what they’re supposed to do.” She continued to explain that many spicy Jamaican entrees bolster the immune system, while curry helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Who knew?
Ordering food at Mango’z is a little non-traditional; the available entrees are presented cafeteria style. The customer walks up to the counter, surveys the options and can choose an entree, vegetables or stews.
“We like that the food options are visible,” Roy Persuada, Mango’z co-owner and owner of Johnny Rockets in the Galleria Mall said. “We like that people can see what they’re getting.” A humble and vivacious fellow, Persuada was more than willing to answer any questions in regard to cuisine—not a terrible idea if Mango’z is your first West Indian food experience. Also, Julie Ramroop was more than willing to let other patrons sample small portions of an entree if they were hesitant—I thought that was a sound practice.
The Jerk Chicken lunch special ($7.95) included a massive drumstick and a sizable breast—both seasoned for several hours before baking—and the result was a sensory overload. My housemate, Josh, chose the Orange Jerk Chicken ($7.95), a slightly-sweeter option that maintained the spicy jerk flavor. For the side dishes, rice and beans and curried sweet yams (my favorite) were my choices, while Jasmine rice and the yams were Josh’s. Both came with a few jerk-rubbed baked plantains, too.
Ginger beer and sorrel ginger juice were the authentic Jamaican drink options—Josh noted that the ginger beer was pretty potent, while the sorrel juice was a lot more tame.
Open seven days per week, Mango’z hours are written as 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., but don’t be surprised to see them open later on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays—Ramroop said that 1, 2 or even 4 a.m. have been the recent closing times. The slightly-stumbling Buffalo State crowd has wandered over to sample the fare, and Mango’z owners are excited to attract students.
The final, deal-sealing reason to go? Persauda, the Johnny Rockets owner who knows a thing or two about hamburgers, lauded Mango’z sandwich options—beef, chicken and pork—with a little rub to tack on Jamaican flair to an American staple.
The restaurant’s grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 15—stay tuned for further details.