In a world where many times the modern and austere overtake nostalgia and tradition, the bucolic perseveres in areas of the Florida Keys. Long-standing local favorite Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo embodies the rustic old Keys.
The sun’s rays filter through the large windows and into the bright, tropical-themed interior as Mrs. Mac’s new owner, Stephanie Figueroa, gazes around. There are palm trees and colorful walls, and lamps are wrapped with license plates contributed by visitors over the years. The atmosphere is pleasant and homey.
“I own several restaurants in southwest Florida which are local favorites; therefore I know the importance of emphasizing locals,” Figueroa said. Wearing a black top and black pants and her long blond hair flowing, Figueroa exudes business acumen and possesses the verve of a restaurateur. Figueroa has been a local in the Keys for close to a decade now.
“I had been visiting the Keys for many years before I bought a house eight years ago,” she muses. “Here in my little (Key Largo) neighborhood I have met some of the most amazing people. They’re just – (she pauses wistfully) – the best part of the second part of my life. I know that this was where I was meant to be from a personal perspective, too.”
Figueroa’s favorite activity in the Keys is boating. She owns a 25-foot dual console. “Just being on the water brings a level of peace and relaxation.”
Established in 1976 by Jeff Macfarland and named after his mother and featuring her fabulous recipes, Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen quickly became a local favorite. Macfarland hired a cook named Angie in 1987, and soon after, her sister Paula. By the next year, Angie had bought the restaurant and made it into the Key Largo icon it is today. In April 2023, Figueroa became the new owner of Mrs. Mac’s.
Figueroa said she doesn’t feel like she’s taking over Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, but rather she’s been entrusted with maintaining a legacy. That is just what she intends to do. Leaving the menu virtually intact, she knows she has room — and time — for expansion.
The eatery’s extensive menu pleases a variety of palates, especially its pies, of which the Key lime pie reigns supreme.
“We’ve had customers say they tried every single Key lime pie from Key West to Key Largo and ours is the one they love the most and choose to take home to their family and friends,” Figueroa said. “It’s also my favorite.”
With two locations conveniently located right off the highway, Mrs. Mac’s is a quick and easy destination for those who work and live in the Upper Keys, as well as for tourists on their way to Marathon and Key West. With its ample parking lots, the main location at MM 99.3, Mrs. Mac’s tropical décor fits right in with locals and visitors alike. As much as Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen restaurant appeals to visitors, its focus is on the locals.
Figueroa also owns and operates Fernandez the Bull, a Cuban grill at Tradewinds Plaza in Key Largo, just a few spaces away from Publix Supermarket. Her intention was to build a Fernandez the Bull here while continuing to manage her other restaurants in Naples. She never imagined she would be purchasing an icon such as Mrs. Mac’s — let alone two restaurants.
What won her over was the staff. Figueroa doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe her staff. They are some of the most experienced, knowledgeable, efficient and quality customer-focused staff around, she said. Staff works steadily with a focused pace. Everyone seemed in sync, and as Figueroa and I chatted, a few questions came our way. The way the employees communicated with their employer showed the respect and trust between them already.
“You cannot ask for a more dedicated, committed staff as this group of people,” Figueroa gushes. In a time when staff shortages are common, it looks like Figueroa knows the value of her employees and even more importantly, knows how to communicate this to them. She asks for their input in anything she does. Even though she’s more than qualified to run a restaurant business, she leads by example. Figueroa is right there in the trenches, so to speak, and is learning all aspects of this particular restaurant so she can jump in whenever needed.
As this restaurant gets shepherded into the next season of its life with a new, caring owner, it will continue to exemplify its motto: “Eat well, laugh often, live long.”
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen main location is located at 99336 Overseas Highway and open Mondays through Saturdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mrs. Mac’s II is located at 99020 Overseas Highway and open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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