On a busy street in Lefferts Gardens, amidst the hustle and bustle of Flatbush Avenue, lies a culinary gem. A representation of all of the cultures that surround it, Mangoseed is a culmination of everything good in the Caribbean- with an American twist.
While dollar vans rumble by outside and neighbors call out to one another, reminiscent of many Caribbean islands, the inside of Mangoseed with its dark wood, mellow music and cool but cozy atmosphere, is a haven for anyone looking for some affordable grub that reminds them of home. Yet this isn’t your average Caribbean restaurant. Mangoseed prides itself on dishing up sublime Caribbean-American fare with a side of excellent service.
Mangoseed first opened its doors on August 21, 2009 and is a creation of the four Burrowes brothers; Jermaine, Paul, Horace and Johan. They had always dreamed of opening a restaurant and three years ago, it became a reality.
“When this space became available, we emptied our bank accounts and the funny thing is, Horace is a contractor, Johan is an electrician and Paul and I do what we do. Putting everything together made us complete,” says Jermaine Burrowes, co-owner and manager of Mangoseed.
Just how complete they are is apparent in not only the food, but the architecture as well. Anyone who knows their style can see these brothers represented in the restaurant from the pictures on the wall right down to the pico de gallo sauce laid ever so gently over the salmon for brunch. Even their location, which is two blocks away from the house that they grew up in, speaks volumes of who these guys are and what they want for their business.
“We opened three years ago and as we progressed, so did the changes in the restaurant. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve, you can always get better,” says Burrowes.
It’s true that they’ve been getting better ever since they opened. The name “Mangoseed” comes from the concept that everything starts from a seed and works its way up and the same holds true for the restaurant. It has gone through a few different makeovers before building up to what is presently there. Even the menu is always changing to keep patrons from getting bored with the same old thing.
Changing the menu as often as they do may seem simple enough. However, a lot of hard work goes into creating the dishes that they serve. Their specific tastes and flavors are of their own creation.
“Paul and I came up with the cuisine and Paul made it better,” says Burrowes. “It’s not easy changing the menu but it works for us because we’re always creating new things.”
Still, even the closest business partners disagree from time to time and these brothers are no exception. But working with family changes the way they communicate with each other.
“My brothers and I are close in age, we grew up together, did everything together so we usually see eye to eye. But Paul is passionate about his work and when you criticize him, he goes off. I’m afraid for my life sometimes,” says Burrowes with a laugh.
Paul, as the executive chef is responsible for creating (for the most part) everything on the menu. He is consistently improving and changing the menu for the better.
Given the atmosphere and level of service provided, it’s a wonder that they can afford to charge such affordable prices. However, overcharging for their food and drinks was never a part of their plan.
“Starting out, there will always be a loss but people come back for the food. When you start with reasonable prices, customers will respect you once the food is good,” says Burrowes.
Everyone at Mangoseed is constantly hard at work. Jermaine can be seen manning the bar or serving customers as the sultry sounds of Adele waft through the speakers and the clinking of glass and silver serve as background music. Paul is always busy in the kitchen. Horace and Johan are harder to find but they’re present in every new change in the restaurant. These brothers have set a tone for the staff and their work ethic has carried over to them.
“I’ve been here for two years and I do a little bit of everything,” says Carlene Bastien, a general manager. “I believe in this restaurant a lot, which is the main reason I’m here.”
She isn’t the only one who believes in Mangoseed, as can be seen from the regulars that flock there every week.
“I love it here, they have good food at a decent price. No matter what time you come here they’re always here making sure everything runs smoothly. They’re good businessmen and they’re cool guys,” says a male patron.
He is just one of many who have fallen in love with this small Lefferts Gardens phenomenon. Though Mangoseed may seem to some like just another Caribbean restaurant on the strip of Flatbush Avenue, there are many who realize that it’s much more than that. It’s the fruit of four brothers who are bound by their mutual love of food and family.
“We definitely have something special in Mangoseed,” says Burrowes. “Whatever we do, we do it from the heart.”