If you like Papa J’s restaurant in Inverness, you are almost sure to like the new Mama J’s Market that opened five weeks ago right next door to the original, with a bounty of home-cooked meals for carry-out.
It’s Brad and Patty Gibbs’ newest dining adventure and both say the idea has “surpassed all our expectations.”
The couple began their tenure in Inverness at the Deco Cafe in the historic district and moved on to open Papa J’s three years ago in Colonial Plaza on State Road 44, just west of Inverness, serving a full menu of pleasing items.
Brad Gibbs said he got the idea for the new market during a trip to North Carolina where he visited a similar market that started as a hot dog stand a few years ago and soon expanded to a business that now encompasses a city block.
With that inspiration, he said, he proceeded to connect Papa J’s to a next-door building by sharing two large kitchens, one each in the diner and market, and both boasting the latest in kitchen appliances.
The merger facilitates cooking for the market, where Patty Gibbs is in charge of turning out amazing dishes with a part-time assistant cook and two bakers. Toya Robison is hostess for the market.
Seven days a week, the market display cases are filled with homemade entrées, sides, desserts, dips and more, all packaged for carry-out for those with busy schedules or who simply prefer not to cook.
The idea caught on rapidly, Brad Gibbs said, and now customers often call to see what is available on any given day and sometimes to reserve an item that strikes their fancy.
Patty Gibbs said there are a minimum of 10 entrée varieties daily and up to 20-plus recipes that are consulted for the display case.
“We have one couple who are just hooked on the shepherd’s pie, she said, and others “are heavy into the dips and appetizers. Another favorite is the tomato pie with Parmesan cheese in a flaky crust.”
The Gibbses emphasized “there is nice selection of full dinners, reasonably priced, with entrées ranging from $8 to $11.99.” Most of the entrées will serve two nicely — such as the full pound of barbecue baby back ribs.
Just some of the tempting choices include baby back ribs, beef tips and noodles, individual meatloafs, beef and chicken enchilada pies, stuffed peppers and cabbage, lasagna, stuffed shells, jambalaya, garlic roast pork, a variety of salads (chicken, egg and tuna, for example) and loaves of banana and carrot bread — different selections every day.
Many of the entrées — some with sides of mashed potatoes, rice, vegetables and more — are one-day meals.
Customers will also appreciate that two large kitchens, one each in the diner and market, and both boasting the latest in kitchen appliances.
“We also make our own salsa, Brad Gibbs noted, his own trademark brand, “Flipping Sweet Salsa Red.” And, he highly recommended the Jalapeño Vidalia Onion Relish and local jars of honey.
Want to top off your meal with something sweet? There is banana pudding every day, plus cakes, Key lime pie, pecan pie and a variety of cookies.
Papa J’s next door attracts patrons for breakfast, lunch and supper with a spacious, 55-seat dining area and counter seating.
The market has no seating, but the Gibbses said patrons often come for an early meal at Papa J’s and then carry-out another meal from the market for later dining.
The market also has an array of noncooked items for sale, including relishes, jams and jellies, nuts, candies and even some clothing items.
Brad Gibbs is an avid fisherman who first plunged into the restaurant business as yacht captain in Alaska, and later with a deli in Williston in Levy county. From there, he segued to the Inverness restaurant scene.
Brad Gibbs said he has “fished all over the world, from Maine to Mexico,” and honed his hobby and cooking skills during his upbringing in Key Largo. Patty Gibbs once owned a catering service and makes many of the dishes and desserts at Papa J’s, as well as for the market.
Papa J’s and Mama J’s Market are located in Colonial Plaza on State Road 44, just west of downtown Inverness. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 352-341-5169 for carry-out, catering and other information. Major credit cards accepted.
Here is a sneak peak at Mama J’s Banana Pudding:
MAMA J’S BANANA PUDDING
- 2 (4-ounce) vanilla instant pudding mixes
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 12 ounces whipped topping
- 6 bananas, sliced
- 1 (16-ounce) package Vanilla Wafers
Combine the pudding mix, milk and sour cream in a mixer bowl and beat well. Fold in the whipped topping.
Layer Vanilla Wafers, bananas and pudding mixture one-half at a time in a large bowl or 9- by 13-inch dish, reserving several wafers. Crush the reserved wafers and sprinkle over the top. Makes 15 servings.