Simply Sara’s restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida is closing abruptly

After 12 years of “love, laughter, blood, sweat and many tears”, Simply from Sara closes.

Located in the heart of Ortega, the restaurant was known for its authentic, hand-crafted Southern-style menu, using closely held family recipes for decades.

In a Facebook post shared on Thursday afternoon, owners James and Sally Mangham announced the closure.

“The weather over the past two years, as we all know, has been brutal,” the post read.

The announcement makes permanent the restaurant’s recent closure for a family medical emergency.

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“As many of you know, I am currently recovering from major emergency surgery and would be out of work for several months anyway,” Sally Mangham wrote.

The Manghams opened Simply Sara’s in 2011 in a small storefront in a nondescript retail strip in Murray Hill. There, everything on the menu was made from scratch, including the dressings, barbecue sauces, chili cheese and tomato sauce – which took more than nine hours to prepare, said James Mangham.

The restaurant was small and with no seating it only offered take out food.

But within two years, Simply Sara’s found a new home in Ortegain The Village Store, a nearly 100-year-old Colonial Revival building listed on the National Register of Historic Places — in a space large enough to seat 40 diners inside and another 16 outside.

With the move, the couple added a dozen staff members to help with the business they started from scratch and worked together to build.

The restaurant’s menu included a rotating selection of classic comfort food: chicken and meatballs, baked ham with sweet potato and apple casserole, chicken Alfredo on linguine, smothered pork chops with mashed potatoes, fried chicken and more again served with Southern staple knife-cut corn, sautéed squash and zucchini, fresh green beans, mixed greens and more.

Among Simply Sara's favorite desserts is the Milky Way Cake, made from a treasured family recipe that includes Milky Way candy bars.

The homemade desserts, including Sally Mangham’s crispy biscuits and the famous Milky Way cake, were customer favourites, the perfect end to a family meal or as a special treat on their own.

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During the pandemic, the restaurant returned to take-out, curbside and delivery-only service, offering a limited and rotating menu of favorites.

“We have shared so many memories over the years. To those of you who have wholeheartedly supported us over the years, my family and I thank you. This business is the hardest business to run,” the post continued.

“I hope when you think of your favorite cake, pie, cookie or food from us, a smile comes to your face. I know that every time I cook certain things I remember many of you, remembering that what I’m doing happens to be your favorite.”

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