For Mother’s Day weekend, Dodie and I went to the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Cancun and Hawaii.
A much needed trip, it was relaxing and offered us time to unwind. The pace there was irresistibly slow, but the service was top notch.
The best part of our islands adventure was that we only had to drive about 20 miles from home.
That’s right! Here in the beautiful Texas Hill Country between Comfort and Kerrville in Center Point, is a restaurant—No, scratch that out, it’s a destination— that evokes the good vibes and karma of a Caribbean island village. It’s Toucan Jim’s on State Highway 27, about 9 miles north of Comfort.
Jim Lackey and his business partner, Mike Blackledge were there to greet and make us feel extra special when we walked in.
In 2007, Lackey decided to bring the beach atmosphere he loved to his hometown. His restaurant and bar, Toucan Jim’s, evokes a Caribbean vacation with island-inspired architecture and décor. A dry-docked boat and nautical flags along the highway led us right up to the near one acre oasis.
By the look on our faces, Mike immediately welcomed us and told us to settle down “anywhere ya’ want, whatever looks good” amid a lushly landscaped tropically shaded outdoor area.
We had our choice to sit beneath 27 different palapas, each emblazoned with the name of an exotic locale like Oahu, Playa del Carmen, and St. Kitts.
We chose Kauai.
5814 SH 27, Center Point.
His own adventures to the beaches of Belize, Mexico, and the Florida Keys inspired Jim to open his restaurant in 2010.
“When I saw that blue water the very first time, it reeled me in,” he grinned. He and Mike can obviously tell when someone comes in for the very first time. With Dodie and me, our faces transformed from anticipation to “WOW” with an immediate sense of island time. A 40-minute professional massage couldn’t have done what instantaneously walking in there did.
A prompt sense of island time took hold, providing a place to relax and unwind.
“If it makes you feel that for five minutes, I’ve done my job,” Jim said on a recent Texas Bucketlist television travel show episode.
The grounds offer an assorted range of fun and amenities including covered dance floor and stage, an outdoor fire pit, a fake pillory for photo ops, a Bow-Wow watering station for dogs, and a Bimini ringtoss game.
From March through October, bands perform a variety of musical genres, including reggae, contemporary country, and oldies on indoor and outdoor stages every Saturday night.
When live music is not playing, Radio Margaritaville Siriusxm is, featuring Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Jimmy Buffett. (Note: Jim Lackey has been to 25 Buffett concerts. Look close and you may find a couple of pictures of him with Buffett hanging in the entry room).
Jim spent almost three years building his dream business. The main structure was his childhood home.
“After inheriting the property, he knocked down walls and transformed the building from the ground up: The former living room is now the kitchen, and what was once a bedroom currently serves as the women’s restroom,” read one account.
Partner Mike is a talented carpenter and cabinetmaker who helped construct the palapas, tiki bar, and brilliantly painted furnishings. Jim designed the splendid landscaping to transform St. Augustine grass into a tropical oasis complete with crushed granite paths that wind through oleanders, palm trees, and other flora.
One smiling patron, a regular, tells us that “every time I walk in I feel welcomed and relaxed like I’m on vacation. Ever’ body is just so damn friendly here all the time. They just can’t help it.”
They do have weekly specials, but we tried cheeseburgers (we were in paradise, after all), and sampled sweet potato fries and Toucan Toothpicks (fried jalapenos and onions).
Besides burgers, we also noticed tacos, brisket sandwiches, boneless wings, and pulled-pork sliders. Talking with the friendly staff and patrons, we learned Toucan Jim’s is known for its specialty drinks: piña coladas, daiquiris, and other concoctions that provide a taste of the tropics.
Because Center Point is a dry municipality, guests can only indulge in tasty alcohol beverages on the premises if they have a membership. Mike signed us up quick for free and now we are proud owners of membership cards. They are valid for 99 years so we are good to go until 2120.
Jim says their signature drink is rum punch.”
“We tried different drinks in the Florida Keys, Mexico, and Costa Rica, but we liked the one in Belize the best,” his straight face turned to laughter.
“We stretched our test tasting out five months longer than we needed to,” he grinned again.
When you go out to the deck, you’ll find “twenty-seven palapas, two stages, two bars, seating for three hundred and more palm trees and plants than we can count.”
Mike told us most people don’t just come in to eat and leave like in typical restaurants.
“They stay to relax, enjoy the scenery, listen to the island music and be at peace,” he explained. “It’s an experience.”
He was right. We stayed almost two hours. It was rejuvenating like a mini vacation should be–only it was close and far less expensive.
We told Jim and Mike they’d start seeing us around more often since we are bonafide members now.
Clever Journeys Ratings (1-10 scale) 9.28
Food & Drinks 8.7