Smooth Tony’s: Finding Buried Treasure in the Backyard

{Originally Published in The Island Guide, October 12, 2012}

One can easily forget, when strolling the streets of downtown Galveston, that the mainland is a mere three miles away. It seems entirely possible that there is some portal or wormhole positioned discreetly in the center of the causeway, and even though you may feel that you have only traveled minutes, you have actually traversed centuries and transcended a distinct, often-stereotyped Texas culture. This is perhaps why many Islanders view the link between Island and mainland as a menacing monstrosity to be utilized only when absolutely necessary.

And so it is fitting that Smooth Tony’s is the product of an Island native, for the nearly indescribable aura of this relatively undiscovered establishment provides, in true Galveston fashion, a complete and utter respite from daily life, and likewise can very easily provide a vacation within a vacation. The first time you visit Smooth Tony’s you will wonder how it is that you have never before been there. At the same time you may feel like you have been coming there your entire life.

Smooth Tony’s is simply the kind of place that beckons, with an atmosphere that draws you in and transports you to a world of tranquility, a world where the harmonies of jazz play into a peace that is contagious, a world that gives solace to those with family in the hospital as easily as it shares laughter with the locals. If these seem lofty words for a sandwich and smoothie joint, one trip to Smooth Tony’s Backyard will justify the claims entirely. In the Backyard it indeed feels that the steely architecture and stoic façade of the University of Texas Medical Branch is miles and miles away, instead of just across the street.

Tony Gonzales, the owner and namesake of this getaway, is also the author of its ambiance. Tony has an affinity for plants, artistic copper working, New Orleans style, and for transforming discarded antiques into treasures. The soothing sound of running water from various fountains about the outdoor area underscores a display of various foliage, metal works, and refurbished antiques, all lovingly made, grown, or re-made, by Tony. Even the large orange tree, the star of the Backyard, was grown from a seed of an orange used in one of the first smoothies Tony ever made. Included in the collection are a door from a house in New Orleans and an iron balcony from Bourbon Street, both of which surely feel right at home when local jazz musicians liven up a scene that could easily be mistaken for The Big Easy itself.

Smooth Tony’s also falls in step with the Island as a place of restoration and re-invention. This restaurant is yet another local business that offers proof of the circle of Island life that gracefully transforms history into a launching pad for the future. The building was originally constructed in 1890, and was home to a barber shop for forty years, from 1944 to 1984. It was then owned by an elderly resident, and Tony was contracted to repair the porch in 1995. When the resident passed away a few months later, the family contacted Tony. He agreed to purchase the building, and opened Smooth Tony’s in 1997 as a juice and smoothie bar. At the front of the building, nestled in the landscape, a red and white striped barber’s pole sits proudly and quietly to commemorate the journey and the progress rendered from the archives of Galveston history.

Soon after opening, Smooth Tony’s began to receive requests for sandwiches, burgers, and other lunch items. Tony decided that if was to expand, he “didn’t want just any burger, I wanted the best burger.” He remembered the best burger he had ever eaten, and tracked down the man whose hands had made the patty. That man was Chef Isias Amaya, who soon came on board and helped the kitchen respond to the demands and expand their menu to accommodate the burgeoning lunch interest. Thus the menu grew, as did the collection on the patio, and both are testaments to the patience and steadfastness with which Tony has slowly created and maintained the easy atmosphere and eclectic vibe. After sixteen years of business he still remarks, “This is just the beginning,” and Smooth Tony’s continues to grow, adapt, and thrive.

Occasionally Tony offers daily specials inspired by the recipes from his mother’s kitchen, but he consistently offers delicious wraps, handmade burgers, and nearly famous fish tacos. Known particularly for its lunch crowd which often forms a line out the front door and down to the sidewalk, Smooth Tony’s has extended their hours to accommodate evening crowds as well, on Thursday and Friday nights. They carry a full selection of wines and craft beers to enhance the live music, usually jazz or acoustic, and usually always in the Backyard.

A particular piece of advice may be offered to prospective diners, and that is that if you would like a quick lunch Smooth Tony’s can accommodate you, but if time is of the essence then happily eat your fare amid the rich, vintage wood and earthy feel of the dining room. If you go out to the Backyard, it is quite possible you will stay much longer than you intended.

Smooth Tony’s

415 9th St.

M-W 10:30-2:30, Th&Fr 10:30-9

www.smoothtonys.com

409.765.5200

Sandwiches, Wraps, Burgers, Beer & Wine

Backyard available for Private Parties

Dine-in and To-go .

Live Music every Thursday and Friday Night

 

How Feminism Has Backfired

The proof is obvious that society has progressed overall throughout history in their views and postulations on women’s rights. Even more obvious is the inherent shift in the male/female dynamic that has accompanied this emergence of independent ladies. But it is not as rosy and victorious as would appear from the surface, much like the nuances of racism are still all too recognizable fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement. A large facet of the entire identity of one half of our political party system is their stance to deny women the choice to decide whether or not having a baby is the right course of action for their life. And yet still others of that same group stand defiantly against her ability to protect herself from being in that situation in the first place. The other half ultimately promote paying women to have children: the less work she does and the more kids she has, the more the government supports her. From behind the smoke and mirrors of supposed equality an increased hostility is surfacing, and both the magicians and the women are to blame. Women are seemingly more empowered yet less respected overall, and they are still very much subject to the forces of discrimination.

The plain truth of the matter is that women were indeed, and still are in fact, more respected and cherished by men and other women when they keep their work to the confines of domestic endeavors. Single, hard-working women are often looked down upon or become emotional prey to the very men that seek them. Married mothers who keep a career often find their time away from home and their children is the brunt of accusations, rendering them responsible for the decline in attentive parenting and thus the rise of insubordinate, attention-deficit riddled children.

Throughout history some percentage of women have always worked, as servants, housekeepers,  ladies’ maids, governesses, teachers, and tutors. And their children were not viewed as neglected, certainly not any more than the children of nineteenth century high society women whose merits rested solely in their needlepoint skills or their aptitude at the pianoforte, hence spending much of their time at home, and who rarely attended their children, surrendering the brunt of the child-rearing to the governesses. In the working classes the children often were expected to work, sometimes the same grueling hours as their adult counterparts. The Donna Reed era came at a time after women were not only a viable commodity in the professional workforce, but had single-handedly filled every male shoe from the factory to the baseball field during World War II, and can be viewed as an obvious attempt to restore “order” to the family. It is the product of this generation that now comprise the majority of the authority figures in the United States.

Also consider the women today who do not work at all and rely on government subsidy and child support for their income. These women are theoretically all stay-at-home moms, and the presence of this demographic is entirely counterintuitive to the theories that working women are the reason for modern parenting woes.

It seems to be a modern stigma, then, that neglected children are the result of women who choose employment outside the home, a mindset that has come about only since the entrance of women into professions previously only open to men, and a journey that was thwarted when society seemed to say, “Whoa, slow down, ladies…” in the 1950s and early 1960s. Thus, the only difference in the attitudes towards modern women and their parenting skills can be extrapolated, albeit accurately when a close observation of societal progression has been made, to be the result of a subtle but powerful backlash against women’s rights instigated by inane societal standards that lack accurate definition, consistency, and credibility. Furthermore, it is often those who perpetuate and condone a lifestyle of living outside ones means who rail against families who quite simply must have two incomes in order to survive, when said survival is finitely contingent upon two vehicles, a mortgage for a house you hate but a school district you love, five cell phones, a 42 inch television, 895 cable channels, and $4/gallon gas.

Thus we have infused modern culture with two innately opposing ideas: it is acceptable for a woman to hold gainful employment, yet she is still encouraged in her “duty” to breed, and it is the clash of these two evident but ignored social stigmas that have actually made women themselves guilty of discriminate feminism. Many women and couples have children before they are truly ready because it is a socially acceptable notion, but then the wife and mother realizes years later she wants the career, she wants the income because it is her modern right as an empowered woman. Indeed it is, but it is now tinged with the reality of motherhood, which has the distinct capability of transforming either into resent or indifference.

Women mature faster than men, but they also mature longer and as a result become more complex beings much more capable and desirous of change. Thus amid the spectrum of married women battling the intricacies of modern feminism there are, as in most cases, two sides to the story, both equally resplendent in their contributions to a convoluted and confused sense of modern female identity. There are the conflicting standards set by the proverbial They*, and then there are the women that conform to them.

Returning now to the world of the single woman in the 21st century, the ramifications feminism has errantly doled out to this breed have intensified, and the edges of this sword cut deep because they too are cleverly disguised within the oxymoron of  several societal implications. In some regard, the attitudes toward single women have softened significantly, for it is indeed a quite recent phenomenon that choosing to remain single is viewed as an acceptable alternative to being unhappily married or checking the “divorced” box on your tax return. It is, but it isn’t. It is because the term “Old Maid” has been politically cor-rectified to “Cat Lady,” and because women are able to financially support themselves and not doomed to either surrender their fortunes to their spouse if they marry or die alone in their parents’ house if they don’t. It isn’t because despite this outward display of acceptance there is still a powerful undercurrent of disdain and disapproval that rages beneath the surface, and it is revealed, ironically, in attitudes, actions, and admonitions that have evolved out of the minds of single men and married women. But again, responsibility also lies with the women themselves, and whether or not they respect their independence and  thus respect themselves.

Feminism has made men lazy and filled them with a sense of entitlement. At first, because they have to, men seek the strength of a woman that supports herself and they respect her ambition. But then after the contempt of familiarity sets in it is almost as if they think to themselves, “Well if you’re so strong and tough and in control then you do all the work.” But this thought is cleverly translated as it makes the journey from a man’s brain to his mouth, and when he actually speaks these thoughts the words that come out are romantic trappings and empty promises and well-calculated seductions. And the women respond beautifully. They rearrange their schedules and go out of their way, they cater to the men and think they are reacting in a fashion suitable to the current male/female dynamic. It is acceptable for a woman to make the first move or buy a guy a drink. It is acceptable, because she is an empowered woman, to be open about her feelings and generous with her own finances, time, and attention. But the truth of the matter is this male reaction is a blatant retaliation against a feeling of a loss of masculinity,  not an acceptance of a societal shift.

By all accounts she is lured in with pretense that plays on the heartstrings of her own innate desires for love, acceptance, and family, and then when the woman does what she thinks the man wants by his apparent permission given her to proceed, his reaction is the same. He retaliates again, but this time with boredom. He is in his nature the aggressor, the victor, the conqueror, and when that role embedded in the primitive strands of his genetic code is usurped, he does not respond with increased strength as he ought, but rather gives in to his subconscious, though undeniably narcissistic, hatred of the current “system” and responds with indifference and apathy. This is his only course of revenge, because the innate views of the less evolved male are now archaic social prototypes tucked safely away in the volumes of Jane Austen novels. And it works, because actually women love Jane Austen novels and so are eager to be the own makers of their ideal instead of facing the agonizing wait for letters from a suitor, and this often leaves a woman pandering in the dust who had no need for the man in the first place.

When it comes to married women’s view of single women, there are most certainly exceptions to the following rule, including women who are indeed married to their true love who may or may not have children, women whose destiny it is indeed to have children and raise them, and married women, usually much older, who are too wise to care. But the married woman that sold out is the arch nemesis of the confidently single woman and has always been prominent in the social strata, but unfortunately in a world of mystique-weary men who choose the path of least resistance, this group is sufficiently expanding in its cruelty to the single lady.  At least in the nineteenth century when a woman sold out she was either having her honor rescued or her fortune increased, either way she was finally en route to obtaining at least a semblance of personal freedom, and at the very least it was an escape from her parents’ home. Today the majority of sell-out brides are entering into marriages from a place of lack. Instead of truly desiring a home, a commitment, a family, the strains of opposing feminist views confuse them and they take the matrimonial step because they don’t want to be lonely, they don’t want to pay all of the bills by themselves, they don’t want to be ostracized for being single. Then single women refer to them as sell-outs. And so is cleft a veritable divide between the female race that is nearly as inescapable as it is damaging.

Then flips the coin to the other side, the second edge of the sword, the other variety of single women, who have exploited the acceptance of public affection and cleavage, those who have taken an increased tolerance of sexual freedom and turned it into their absolute only basis for personal identity. Under the self-made guise of independence and detachment these women offer themselves and their bodies to men completely indiscriminately, and the problem is that the results are far from the progressive nature of those that propel a cause, or a people, forward. Namely, the result is a complete lack of respect, although the methods used to obtain them were born out of a movement that gave women the right to dress, act, think, or marry in whatever fashion they desire. Thus, this side of the problem rests not in the initiative, but in the women’s ability to carry out its purpose correctly. Ladies need no longer fret over the accidental revelation of their ankles, they are no longer required to wear a dress or high heels, they can talk openly with a male about the female body’s functions (if they so desire…), but just because it’s a woman’s right to dress like a whore and let men grab her ass and give it up too easy does not mean that  she is necessarily taking the most advantage of being an empowered, independent woman by doing so. In fact she is ultimately thwarting progress, because the seeds and the fruit of this behavior are both a low self esteem that perpetuate disrespect. There was a time when women were not even allowed into libraries. Instead of celebrating the rights of women with a mini skirt, a tube top, and a purse full of condoms, read a book.

The keys to true feminine power and progress lie in unity, solidarity, consistency of beliefs, and most importantly in the throws of self respect, for it is the responsibility of the individual woman to make choices in her life that speak to her and that move her, from a place of response and inspiration, not from the shallow grave of societal expectations, no matter which way they swing. A woman’s determination and dedication to her powers of intuition, compassion, and multi-tasking must be put to the use that She sees fit, in concordance with the One who made her to be no more a man and no less a woman than she already is.

When a woman demands equality she is in essence denying herself of the power inside her. Women are not men and they should not be treated like men, women are not merely capable of competing with men they are capable of beating them, and the ineffectiveness of this push for equality is evidenced by the growing yet cleverly disguised contempt for her efforts. A woman should first, and always, earn the utmost respect to which she is undeniably entitled, and then she will not have to concern herself with playing the game, because she will have already won.

 

 

 

*’They’ is the most quoted source for irrefutable fact in the entire course of human history. “Well you know what They say…” ‘They’ can also refer to the collective powers that be, whether natural or supernatural, that reportedly control the tides of modern existence. They want you to think a certain way (their way) or not think at all.

Seaside Bistro: A Hidden Gem

{This article originally published in The Island Guide, September 28, 2012}

Seaside Bistro

A Hidden Gem

By Kimber Fountain

 

Seaside Bistro has been in operation for several years, hidden away in the center of The Victorian Condo Hotel at 6300 Seawall Blvd. Despite its location inside a popular vacation rental spot it has always maintained a loyal local following, which has grown tremendously since the operation and management of the Bistro was taken over by Todd MacKenzie and Thomas Fiero in late January of 2012. These two men are true Galveston entrepreneurs, focused on bringing quality goods and services to the Island. Their resume currently includes Galveston Pack & Ship, a joint venture in Galveston Island Costumes, and Lucky Lounge, and they were the proprietors of Oysters Bar & Grill on Post Office, which was closed after Hurricane Ike.

Walking up through the hotel to the Bistro almost gives you that sensation of how it must have felt in Galveston during Prohibition, to know the secret route along the back alleys to the speak-easy. (Thankfully signs clearly mark the way from the parking lot so it isn’t too mysterious.) The Garden Room is surrounded by enormous picture windows that overlook the well-landscaped atrium below. They provide a wonderful natural light and open up the room tremendously to give the effect of private patio dining, without concern for the weather. This hidden gem is the first restaurant Todd and Thomas have operated since the loss of Oysters; when they heard the business was for sale it seemed to be a natural fit for two gentlemen who love Galveston and truly appreciate the history and character of the Island.

Todd, stoic and sophisticated, is focused primarily on the business side of the partnership and the restaurant, but he lavishly praises the passion, dedication, and enthusiasm of Thomas and the joy he derives from his work in the kitchen. Indeed a dining experience at Seaside Bistro is a subtle reflection of the complementary differences of the two owners. The atmosphere is simple, a bit reserved, almost subdued, but then the food hits the table and wow. At the very sight of the dish in front of you, your mouth begins to water, and you can taste the love that went in to its preparation before you even take the first bite.

Thomas grew up in a large Italian family, and the reputation of Italians and cooking is nearly as synonymous as Texas and oil. A few of his mother’s recipes are favorites on the menu, but he believes the secret is truly in the freshness. A simple club sandwich can be extraordinary when the ingredients are fresh, and the side of vegetables almost outshines the huge portion of chicken on an entrée, so bright and fresh is their appearance.

I also appreciate the variety in their menu; they give diners a wide range of choices, which is perfect for occasions when everyone in the group is in the mood for something different. Southern style Shrimp and Grits takes its place on the menu under an unmistakably Italian selection of Chicken Cotoletta, a breaded chicken breast topped with a Tasso cream sauce and diced ham. Stuffed Flounder, a New York Strip Steak, and even Meat Loaf Roulade are prepared fresh right along with pizza, Crab Cakes, and a Cobb Salad. Desserts change often, but Mom’s bread pudding is always available.

To Thomas and Todd the mission with Seaside Bistro is really about value, and it shows in the generous portion sizes and in the quality of the ingredients, together with an incredibly reasonable price range. The breakfast menu, served all day, ranges from $3 to $8 dollars, unless you splurge on the Steak and Eggs. Entrées range from $12 to $22, and are all served with your choice of soup or salad and two side dishes. A variety of appetizers and entrée salads are available, as well. Seaside Bistro offers a full bar and liquor or wine bottle service, available in the dining room, at the pool, or in your condo.

Seaside Bistro is happy to announce they will offer a plated, full-service Thanksgiving Dinner from the hours of 11am to 4pm on Thanksgiving Day. The holiday menu is a four course festivity, with a variety of delicious, homemade options for each course. Pumpkin Soup or Shrimp Bisque to start, followed by your choice of Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Citrus Shrimp Salad, or Field Greens. For the main course you have the option of the traditional fare, Fresh Roasted Turkey Breast with Cranberry Dressing, or for the more adventurous, a Spinach and basil Pesto Stuffed Pork Loin. Each entrée is served with four side dishes, an array of many different potatoes and vegetables are there for your choosing. You are spared your most difficult decision until the end, where you must choose between their homemade Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, or Chocolate Mousse. Thanksgiving Dinner at Seaside also includes a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage (soda, iced tea, or coffee); only $27.99 per person.

In keeping the proverbial best for last, perhaps the most valuable asset of the Seaside Bistro is its vast capabilities as a private dining establishment, aside from its main dining rooms and Garden Room that can be reserved for private events. The Victorian Condo Hotel has over 10,000 square feet of space divided into thirteen different venues able to accommodate groups of any size. Along with easy access from Seawall Boulevard and a fresh, quality catering menu from Thomas’ kitchen, Seaside Bistro is an ideal choice for fundraisers, receptions, reunions, showers, and corporate meetings.

In any capacity, breakfast, lunch, holiday, or private dining, Seaside Bistro is sure to please residents and visitors alike. This is a perfect hideaway for Island locals who love their hideaways, and it offers guests hotel dining and room service without the hotel dining prices. Most importantly, the quality of the food is exceptional and consistent. Whether you dine at Seaside once a year or once a week, you will always look forward to going back.

 

Seaside Bistro

6300 Seawall Blvd., Inside the Victorian Condo Hotel

Park at the rear of the building and follow the signs

To-Go, Room Service, Catering, and Private Dining available

409.744.1447

www.seaside-bistro.com

Open Seven Days a Week, 7am to 9pm

 

Leo’s Cajun Corner: We Don’t Cook Pretty, We Just Cook Good

{This article originally appeared in The Island Guide, published September 14, 2012}

Leo’s Cajun Corner

‘We Don’t Cook Pretty, We Just Cook Good’

By Kimber Fountain

The first word that comes to mind for Leo’s Cajun Corner is authentic, in every sense of the word. Cajun cuisine is often imitated, and many times dishes are deemed such because a chef merely threw a little extra spice on the plate. That is not at all the case with Leo’s simple yet savory menu: true ‘Looziana’ style and family tradition are cooked into every bite. From the gumbo to the jambalaya to the homemade sausage, the recipes and techniques used in their kitchen and on-site smokehouse originated over one hundred years ago in the deep woods of Louisiana. Their flavor has been passed down through five generations and traveled hundreds of miles to bring the best of Cajun cuisine to Galveston Island for more than twenty years.

Leo’s serves up breakfast starting at 7am, and their regular menu is a Cajun lover’s dream come true. Riblets that melt in your mouth and absolutely superb crawfish etouffee are rounded out with homemade banana pudding, bread pudding, and carrot cake. Pork, beef, and seafood are all offered on plates or in sandwiches with varying preparations, along with a wide variety of sides and fixings. The portions are generous but not nearly as large as the flavor. Many different types of sausage, boudin, and other meats are sold in bulk, as are crawfish tails and homemade jerky.

But even more appealing than the Zydeco zest in their food is the philosophy behind this bayou-bred business. It was built upon the notion that great food does not have to be expensive, and Leo’s is committed to providing only ingredients that are fresh and never frozen, which easily makes it one of the best values in town. A comfortable yet simple dining room and a friendly, down-to-earth staff perfectly complement the broad palate of tastes offered on their menu. Rest assured that the quality is not only high but consistent, and more often than not your plate will be prepared by one of the family.

That family is led by Leo and Susan Mercantel. Their son Jody proudly attests that Susan herself is responsible for close to eighty percent of the output of the kitchen. Jody, who marks the fifth generation, began learning the intricacies of the smokehouse when he was five years old. For all of them, their fondest childhood memories are of Sunday afternoons at their respective grandparents’ homes, where the smell of the Cajun cooking wafted all the way into the woods where they played. As with any true Louisiana native, the term ‘family’ also encompasses their closest friends and neighbors. Tales of their culinary origins include seasonal travel to others’ houses to help each prepare the meats of the animals bred and raised on their own land.

As an adult Leo Mercantel found work in Lafayette as a roofer, and he and Susan often came to Galveston to vacation with Jody and his three sisters. However his true calling began when he purchased a small grocery store in which he had worked as a teen. He added all of his homemade sausages and smokehouse products to the inventory of the store, and Leo fondly recounts how many Texas folk, including several from Galveston, would drive over and load up their station wagons full of his smoked meats, all the while remarking how they could not seem to find anything of such type or quality where they lived. That store was located on a main part of Highway 165, and when the Cachada Casino was built the state purchased their property in order to expand the highway into four lanes. In their neck of the woods, smokehouses and homemade sausage were like Starbucks in a big city, on every corner. So they decided to take their talents to Galveston. The Island was not only their favorite vacation destination, but it was also a place where their food and products would surely stand out.

That was more than two decades ago, in 1991. The family graciously acknowledges the Island community that has provided their unending support, and attributes to it their longevity and staying power. But Leo’s Cajun Corner has given as much as they have received. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, it was Leo’s that was actually the very first restaurant to reopen, several days before a well-known restaurant on the seawall that is usually accredited with that distinction. The demand for prepared food was high, and so the health department generously gave them permission to cook with propane burners until the gas lines were restored. In the week after the storm they served over three thousand patrons who would form a line from the front door that stretched clear across the parking lot. Even if a person could not pay for a meal, Leo’s still fed them.

That was back when their establishment was housed in a small, 24×24 wooden building that they rented from the nuns of the Ursuline Convent. After purchasing the land they built their current building which opened in January of 2009. Although this new structure, with its clean and spacious interior, is a representation of the steady growth Leo’s Cajun Corner has enjoyed over the years, the atmosphere, service, and flavor still distinctly embody their humble beginnings as a Louisiana family that doesn’t cook pretty, they just cook good.

Dash Beardsley’s Ghost Tours of Galveston Island: History and Heroics of a Haunted Island

{This article originally appeared in The Island Guide, published July 16, 2012}

Dash Beardsley’s Ghost Tours of Galveston Island

History and Heroics of a Haunted Island

by Kimber Fountain

              Dash Beardsley came to Galveston in 1998 because he was looking for a woman, but not just any woman… He wanted to meet Miss Bettie Brown herself, heiress, artist, and socialite of Galveston Island. Miss Bettie lived in Ashton Villa (2328 Broadway), she died in Ashton Villa, and according to many, has stayed at Ashton Villa. He spent three nights there, hoping for some contact with this rebellious, spunky, and fearless woman. But she stood him up.

So, Dash began to wander the streets of Galveston, broken-hearted and forlorn, and asked shop owners and employees the intriguing question, “Do you have a ghost story for me?” The thought of creating a ghost tour had not yet even entered his mind, he was merely curious. Well it didn’t take him too long until he had around fifteen or twenty ghost stories, and this intrigued him even more than the elusive lady with whom he had begun his quest.

Upon several attempts to research Galveston and her ghost stories, Dash found very little. And thus out of intrigue and curiosity, a tour was born. After he found little to no documentation whatsoever of Galveston’s hauntings, he did as any wise man would do and he cracked open the history books. He wanted to know why Galveston was so haunted, and even more mysterious, why no one was talking about them.

This is why every patron of Dash Beardsley’s Ghost Tours of Galveston concludes the tour with an astonished awe resulting from a candid, back-door view into Galveston’s history and mystery. His Original Ghost Tour reveals Galveston Island at its finest: heroic police officers, courageous schoolmarms, and fearless soldiers of the Civil War. All people who lived for Galveston in its heyday, who died with Galveston amid its tragedies, and who have stuck around, waiting to see if maybe, just maybe, we will be the generation that will make the Island grand again.

Shykatz Bakery & Deli: Feeding the Faith

{This article originally appeared in the Island Guide, published August 31, 2012}

ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery:

Feeding the Faith

By Kimber Fountain

As the terms deli and bakery together may suggest, ShyKatZ is that perfect balance of salty and sweet, both in form and in flavor. Much like the duality between the sandy, vibrant seawall and the lolling historic downtown of Galveston, their rich, savory breakfast, crisp salads, and superb sandwiches are distinctly coupled with decadent desserts and an array of sugary delights. And in the same way the welcoming, soul-filled ambiance of ShyKatZ has risen from the hearts of two women who have known adversity, and defeated it. From the story of its beginning, to the décor, to the food, ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery is distinct in its graceful representation of the spirit of the Island.

Kathryne Kearns and Shyra Leger (pronounced Le-jay) met in 2006 in the Woodlands, and soon after the dream of ShyKatZ was born out of a mutual love for cooking and a passionate desire to feed the hungry. Long before they ever opened their doors, the sign that now hangs over the entrance to their deli was once hanging on the living room wall. Originally they decided that Austin would be the best choice for their new venture, until a guy named Ike showed up on Galveston’s doorstep. The aftermath and destruction left by this unwanted visitor was enough to drive many people, families, and businesses, off of Galveston Island for good. Kat and Shy, however, are of the other variety, the people who see any challenge as an opportunity and all obstacles as reasons to believe. So, in 2010 they quit their jobs and moved to Galveston with nigh more than one big dream and two week’s pay.

Through a series of setbacks and struggles that would have made many cut and run, the two determined ladies kept their dream, and their faith, alive. They continued to cook and to bake with whatever supplies they could get their hands on, and after they fed themselves they would feed their friends and those less fortunate. To each gift of goodness they attached a business card and a promise to open soon. Their tenacity and refusal to give up manifested and as they will gladly testify, Providence provided and ShyKatZ opened its doors on May 26, 2010, with just over one dollar in its business bank account. Since that day this quaint and unique eatery has sustained itself, and Shy and Kat continue to fill bellies and feed souls.

ShyKatZ offers a wide variety of high quality, homemade dishes along with an atmosphere and service that give the feel of home or grandma’s house. Under Shy’s direction in the kitchen absolutely everything is made to order, nothing is par-cooked or pre-sautéed. Their sandwiches are made using only Boar’s Head meats and cheeses; try one on their French, wheat, or white bread that is baked daily in-house. If a craving for breakfast should strike at two in the afternoon, never fear. ShyKatZ serves breakfast all day long, and rumor has it that their “Biscuits-N-Gravy” is the best of its kind on the Island. And don’t forget to seriously consider the ever-changing dessert presentation, also made from scratch in-house by Kat herself.

Much of the menu is inspired by the people in their lives, and many of their dishes are named after fellow Islanders or family members. If you order Granny or Pawpaw’s breakfast you will enjoy the favorite morning meal of Shy’s grandparents; the Jeff Salad is a Chef Salad named in honor of the gentleman who eats it almost every day for lunch. JJ’z Junior Menu, “for our Little Angels under 10,” was inspired by Kat’s grandchildren, and the Johanna burger is a tribute to the story of their friend Johanna and the lengths she would go to get a burger.

Indeed the most difficult decisions when visiting ShyKatZ will be choosing what to order and how in the world you will manage to save room for dessert (because you must), but it will be easy to feel comfortable. The most alluring facet of this humble eatery tucked away on a neighborhood street is its embodiment of everything Islander. Down to the furniture and seasonal salt and pepper shakers, ShyKatZ is a quintessential Galveston small business that reflects the eclectic, diverse, and easy-going population of locals. Their staff is friendly and accommodating, offering each patron personalized service that goes the extra mile beyond the counter. They are even on Island time, as the hours posted on the front door unabashedly state that they open at 7-ish.

One of the many reasons why so many love Galveston, and why thousands flock to our salty shores year after year, is because of the unique opportunity to support locally owned businesses and to enjoy all of the variety they allow. Amid the onslaught of fast food, corporate chains, and cookie-cutter products so widely and easily available, perhaps it is wise to often tread off the well-worn path and find a place with personality and heart. Anyone can serve a hot meal, but few accomplish it with the warmth, charm, and inspiration of ShyKatZ.

ShyKatZ Deli & Bakery

Breakfast and Lunch served all day long

Monday-Saturday 7am-3pm

409.770.0500

1528 Avenue L

(Corner of 16th and Ave. L)

Street Parking

Daily Blue Plate Specials

Carry Out/Box Lunches/Custom Catering

www.ShyKatZ.com

Owners, Kathryne Kearns and Shyra Leger

How to Lose a Debate with a Liberal… On Purpose.

This will probably come as a huge shock to many who know me now, but I was once, not too terribly long ago, a hardcore conservative. The only channel I watched on TV, ever, was Fox News. I even had this little poster that said “Republican Girls Are Hotter.” Now to shock and amaze the people who knew me then, I am not a Conservative Republican anymore. But neither am I a Liberal Democrat. I’m not Independent, either. I Am Aware. Aware that the only purposes labels serve are to divide and cause dissension; aware that what goes on behind the closed doors in this country is much deeper and darker than the watered down propaganda that assaults us daily. I am aware that this country was founded by people who had the courage and tenacity to do something that had never been done before, yet I am all too aware that this legacy has been bastardized and we are now a country full of lemming-like people who only want to do what everyone else is doing, while simultaneously condemning those who do not uphold a standard of “normal,” which in essence does not even exist, except of course, as an arbitrary and unattainable standard.

So to the conservative front I ask, how is it that you can say you believe in small government, yet believe at the same time it is the right of the government to judge sexual preference and what women can do with their bodies? Morality, it seems, is simply a breeding ground for intolerance. And to the liberals I ask this. How is it that you can promote personal identity and far-reaching social ideals, yet believe that the government and the self-made rich have an obligation to help people who will not even help themselves? To everyone, I exhort the notion that our entire view of our country today is disillusioned, and we perpetuate the confusion by insisting on discussing the solution without even knowing what the problem is.

***** (Click here to learn about the problem)

I can teach you how to lose a debate with a liberal, it is simple. I can’t teach you how to lose to a conservative, because in their eyes there is no reason to debate, “that is how they were raised!” and they have no time to pretend like they are listening to you. But with the other side of the aisle, the policy-driven intellectual elitists (that’s a compliment, well, at least the last part is) are ready at a moment’s notice to dissect and analyze the logistics of the proposed “solutions” and how they make logical sense and are a good move for the country and the betterment of everyone. They also want to know what exactly it is within the law that induces your dislike for it, and that is why, and how, I lose. Every time. Because I don’t give a rat’s stinking ass what is in the policy, the only thing with which I choose to concern myself is what is behind the policy, and the implications and danger it suggests for the future of our country.

I would not even attempt to tell anyone which specific line and paragraph I do not like about certain policies, and I am not at all afraid to admit that I do not spend my time with my head buried in convoluted legislature and mind numbing newscasts.  I have a general distaste for the operations of the modern federal government as a whole, and I do not care to listen to the guy who gets paid by the guy paying the government to tell me what he thinks I need to know. I am unable to debate the merits or shortcomings of the law because I have no decisive, factual information and absolutely no desire to obtain it. This is not to say I do not have well thought-out arguments or opinions based on fact, my facts simply come from sources that retain a blanket view of the outside perspective, sources that are not always considered viable by those who choose to merely believe anything they are told instead of searching their own head for common sense analysis. Someone asked me why we have a certain inane and ridiculous traffic law that no one knows and much less abides by, and I replied “I dunno, they probably just have laws like that so they can pull over black people.”  My opinions and theories are just those, opinions and theories, but they are viewed and expressed from an unbiased, philosophical perspective of human life and our purposes, duties, and responsibilities as individuals, and those within the ranks that “govern” us, a perspective I have been cultivating and pursuing for over fifteen years. Perhaps it is also a result of having read way too many Nancy Drew novels as a child. The most famous literary female detective of all time always found her who by following the why.

Let me put it this way, in the light of our most recent policy crisis: As I see it, Obamacare is duct tape on the Titanic. It is not a long term solution; because it reeks of a desperate attempt to further enslave a country’s people to a system that is corrupt but profitable, and therefore now a modern American Institution. The problem is not that Americans need insurance to receive medical treatment, the problem is that Americans have to have insurance to receive medical treatment in the first place! There would be no need for insurance, except catastrophic perhaps, if the medical industry was regulated and not allowed to price gouge any more than a gas station during a hurricane evacuation. But we turn a blind eye to the fact that the Titanic is sinking, and rather prefer just to put a piece of duct tape on this hole that we found. And look how pretty the duct tape is, what’s your favorite part of the duct tape? What don’t you like about the duct tape? Who fucking cares?! It’s duct tape!!!

Furthermore, I believe the debates over this issue are meaningless and insubstantial because all they do is divide us as a people, pit one side against the other, red against blue, my opinion, your opinion, yada yada yada. All those “yada’s” do nothing more than serve as a veil over our eyes and as a car-wreck-like distraction which aligns our focus on the conflict, and not the solution… the ugly, deadly show, and not the beautiful wide road up ahead. The true and only solution will not arrive until we unite and open our eyes to the fact that the We the People are giving the American government way too much power over our lives and our destinies, and we have relinquished our cultural identity to its private interest pandering. Instead of fostering and perpetuating intelligence and free-thinking like it was designed to do, it has now become a horrified and paranoid wreck, thrown into a tumult by the possibility of unity among those who choose to see its decay, its demise, and its close-to-irreparable disintegration of the Individual. If we were all to cease with the labels and the dissent and the enraging need to be right, we could spend more time empowering ourselves and our minds and less time succumbing to the mass marketing, brainwashing consumerism, and fascination with financial debt. When you free yourself of that label of which you are so proud, when you refuse to succumb to the frenzied need to live up to an inane social standard, when you realize that the only two things you need to live a healthy and prosperous life can be found between your ears and growing in the ground, you will open your perspective and begin to see the motives behind what our government is doing. And when you cease to consume yourself with the logistics of their actions, when you stand up for yourself, as an individual, to live your why with an unrelenting determination that you have a specific purpose to fulfill with your life, more beauty unfolds: You realize that nothing “they” do really matters, anyway.