Vol 6 No. 50 - September 6, 2006

MR. BONES: Rices and just a pretty rib

SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW

Mr. Bones, located at 3007 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, is casual enough for bathing suits and T-shirts but neat enough for tropical shirts and sandals.

By Liza Morrow
sun staff writer

The atmosphere at Mr. Bones is casual enough for bathing suits and T-shirts, and neat enough for unbuttoned Tommy Bahama shirts and sandals. It is a cheerful quirky place to come in from the heat. Its cheerful quirkiness is amplified by a coffin-shaped cooler of beer at the entrance, whimsical carved masks hanging on the walls and a skeleton and voodoo theme. Small wonder that the place bustles and hums even on a weeknight and that on Fridays and Saturdays it may be hard to get a table.

Prices are cheerful, too, as the average check works out to just $15 or so. This will buy you truckloads of food. The menu combinations are bold, the flavors never boring, with the surprise offerings of chicken with provolone cheese and Tibetan sauce, crawfish gumbo, vegetable burritos and baby back ribs with lively homemade barbeque sauce. It’ll be a couple bucks more if you order the baby backs, which a lot of folks must ,since Mr. Bones sells about 1,500 pounds of ribs a week. The first-rate ribs come with a mopping of one of the restaurant's namesake homemade sauces. The Mr. Bones sauce is an unusually clear-flavored blending of tamarind with a classic barbeque sauce base. You can order the ribs turbo charged and the sauce will be spiked with cayenne. Or you could choose the Mandarin ribs, which are braised in a Chinese orange ginger sauce with a slight tropical tang. The Mongolian ribs are braised in a faintly smoky and sweet plum sauce. All the ribs are smoked first and every sauce is simple and superb.

Mr. Bones has mastered a style that flatters diners who know something about food without making demands on their tolerance for the unusual. Vibrant, fresh ingredients, strong flavors and spice are the three entry requirements. Where they come from is less important. Like the soft jazz music floating from speakers, the food is top-20 hits in the mildest way. Drawing on the flavors and ingredients of the South, Asia, India and an occasional Tex-Mex influence, the menu has tone and color, without committing to anything in particular. Owner Charlotte Mansur put it simply: "We cook exactly as we like to eat and can’t find anywhere else. My husband, Eric Connors, and I bought this restaurant 15 years ago. It was our favorite place to eat and still is. We kept the original menu full of barbeque and smoked items and added some of my husbands dishes that he cooks at home. I was a vegetarian for over eight years so we have some wonderful veggie dishes. Hey, just because it is vegetarian doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious." Proof positive is the General Moe’s Watercress she served me for lunch.

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