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La Mariposa Mercedes Café closed its doors in Magnolia on Sunday:
Treasured Local Institution Moving From its Longtime Location to Summit

Lucius Lampton

Donuts on Cake

MERCEDES RICKS TOASTING A FULL HOUSE OF FAMILIAR FACES ON CLOSING DAY INSIDE HER ICONIC MAGNOLIA RESTAURANT--- The legendary businesswoman, alderwoman, chef, and bartender toasted the overflow crowd eating at her famous local restaurant last Sunday. Since her arrival in Magnolia, she has significantly contributed to the success and betterment of her city in countless ways. La Mariposa celebrated this April eighteen years of operation in downtown Magnolia. The business is moving to Summit later this month.

This last Sunday, June 2nd, after more than eighteen years of business, the iconic Magnolia restaurant La Mariposa closed its doors at 2 p.m., with a full house of familiar faces expressing both appreciation and sadness. In April 2006, the La Mariposa Mercedes Café opened on Magnolia’s “Main” Street (151 W. Railroad Avenue). Called “The ‘Cheers’ of the South Where Everyone Knows Your Name,” La Mariposa is owned by Mercedes Ricks, who moved permanently to Magnolia after Hurricane Katrina. Over nearly two decades, this Colombian native created a treasured local institution recognized by the surrounding community for its tasty food and hometown camaraderie. The eatery was open daily from Tuesday to Sunday, offering lunch and dinner menus and featuring indoor and even outdoor seating. Each year, its anniversaries were celebrated with well-attended fireworks displays in the park area in front of the restaurant. A documentary was filmed several years ago which focused on the specialness of the restaurant.

Located in the mid-point of West Railroad Avenue, across from the Depot and its park grounds, the downtown eatery was considered by many to be the heart of the city. Its front entrance was festooned with flags and banners complemented by dining tables and park benches shaded by large crepe myrtles. The interior featured what was once called the “Baptist Bar,” an enclosed private bar which over time opened up into a large sports bar facing a multitude of tables. The restaurant was filled most weekdays and weekends with a broad array of local folks from fifty miles around in all directions, who happily enjoyed the food and seeing nearby friends and neighbors.

Serving food with gusto on the final weekend was Mercedes, of course, wearing her white chef coat and a black beret, accompanied by her trusted servers David and Carlos Osorio. Guests ordered from the celebrated menu: a longstanding centerpiece of two styles of fried green tomatoes, along with countless other favorites, including a full menu of Mexican options (tasty burritos and tacos of all varieties), shrimp, catfish, and roast beef po-boys, angelhair pasta with Orleans sauce, stuffed Jalapeno peppers, tasty steaks, Eggplant Napoleon and eggplant fingers, shrimp and corn bisque, eighteen burger options dressed with hearty toppings, including fresh avocadoes and even fried eggs, and such assorted sides as onion rings, traditional fries, home-made chips, and sweet potatoes fries!

Many of its specialties were named after local citizens, which added a unique and sentimental flare to the menu. Such popular items were the Judge Thad Leggett III BLT, the Magnolia Gazette grilled chicken sandwich, the Bud Flowers Special (which includes a tostada, taco, enchilada, and tamale), the George Chadwick Special (a beef and cheese enchilada with chili), and the Christy Lampton Rushing Special (angel hair pasta served with fried green tomatoes). The restaurant was also known for its many cocktails, wines, beer, and mixed drinks, including the one and only Jimmy Mimosa, named for local legend Jimmy Harris. (Mercedes had once been the bartender at the renowned Sazerac Bar in New Orleans and can prepare a drink with extraordinary talent!) Her Sunday Brunch was a popular destination for champagne, mimosas, fresh blueberry margaritas, and Bloody Marys to go with omelets, Napoleon Benedict, Belgian waffles, and other breakfast/ brunch options.

Possessing an engaging personality, Mercedes leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets. She embodies the American dream. She came to the United States in 1983 from Colombia, first residing in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, she lost her car, home, and everything she owned. She came to Magnolia to begin a new life, first attending college and studying carpentry. On Thanksgiving Day in 2005, Mercedes remembers riding her bike along our city’s main street, West Railroad Avenue. Meeting with Magnolia’s innovative mayor Jim Storer that day, he handed her the keys to the building that would then become her beloved restaurant “La Mariposa.” With her carpentry skills and with the help of her friend Skipper, the restaurant La Mariposa was up and running four months later in April 2006. Mercedes was later elected to Magnolia’s City Board as Alderman-At-Large and as Mayor Pro Tem, serving from 2013-2017. Through her time serving her community, she pushed for many changes and improvements which are still remembered.

After much thought, Mercedes made a decision to relocate her important restaurant to Summit due to an attractive opportunity to occupy a restored building at 1014 Robb Street next to a soon-to-open bookstore. Mercedes originally planned to open before the end of June, but has not finalized the Summit open date, which should occur over the next month. Follow via her Facebook page. Mercedes and her staff will be taking a well-deserved break before opening at the new site in Summit. Her familiar portable restaurant, which she calls the La Mariposa Food Truck, will continue to serve the needs of Magnolia residents.

Magnolia residents feel like a family member is moving away. Most locals don’t agree with her decision to leave and wish she would reconsider. When asked will they continue to come to the restaurant in its new location, most say yes, since it is only ten miles away. However, most locals can’t imagine La Mariposa existing without its homeplace Magnolia, and most, especially the older residents, can’t imagine driving that longer distance as frequently as they do the short trip to W. Railroad Avenue. However, all of them express deep appreciation to Mercedes for the last eighteen years of love and hospitality they received from her artistic creation: La Mariposa! Brava dear Mercedes and blessings for the future!

LA MARIPOSA’S FAMOUS FRONT--- Located in the mid-point of its main street, West Railroad Avenue, across from the Depot and its park grounds, La Mariposa is Magnolia’s downtown gathering place, with an exterior festooned with flags and banners with outdoor dining tables and park benches shaded by crepe myrtles. Many in Magnolia are very sad the business is leaving and consider it the heart of Magnolia.

Donuts on Cake
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