A Teague man is clearing land on Robinson Drive to create what he calls a unique dining experience that will include a view of a pond, crawfishing opportunities for youngsters, and Cajun and seafood dishes.
Joe Reid, 48, who owns a food truck that carries the name Te’Jun and bills himself as the Texas Cajun, said he hopes to open his establishment spread over several acres at 711 N. Robinson Drive by December or January 2016.
“There is nothing locally like this, I can assure you,” Reid said. He said he hopes to create a prototype that can be duplicated with his permission in other communities. Reid said he is considering a site in Plano.
Joe and his wife, Tammy, for several years have parked their $100,000 food truck in Mexia, Corsicana, Fairfield and Robinson on designated days. They sell plates of crawfish, snow crab and shrimp, as well as lobster tails and sausage.
Crowds in Robinson, where they served on the Brookshire’s parking lot, became so large and enthusiastic that they vowed to create a permanent presence in the community.
They acquired 2 acres, and now heavy equipment is clearing the land.
Joe Reid said he envisions erecting two buildings, one where customers can pick up to-go orders, and another with indoor seating for at least 120 people who would have a view of a small lake. It would have a casual feel, with a concrete floor and open rafters.
But Reid said he would not stop there. He plans to create a backyard setting at the rear of the restaurant where as many as 200 people could socialize as they enjoy meals, maybe pitching horseshoes or watching fish being fed in the small lake.
Special events would highlight life at the Te’Jun restaurant, which would host fish fries and fishing contests for kids.
“I want to take people to Louisiana, give them a feel of Cajun country,” Joe Reid said.
He balked at giving specific figures on how much he will invest in the project, saying only, “A lot.” He said he’s constantly encountering expenses he did not foresee, including spending $9,000 to remove asbestos from an old house he had to demolish.
But he said he’s determined to make this dream come true, with help from God, from whom he seeks guidance.
Tony Procopio, who manages the Brookshire’s at 100 Peplow Drive, said he believes the restaurant will go over well.
“He seems to have a pretty strong following now,” Procopio said. “When it hits 5 or 6 o’clock, and his truck is here, the line stretches from one end of my parking lot to the other. I have tried the food, and it is really good.”
Joe Reid said his decision to begin serving from a food truck in Robinson and then opening a restaurant there drips with irony.
Years ago, he said, he included Robinson in his circuit of cities where he would sell Cajun food. But inspectors from the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District “hassled” him so much about his operation that he vowed never to return.
That didn’t stop a few Robinson residents from constantly calling him and urging him to reconsider.
“I built a new food trailer, which cost me about $100,000, and that made me legal in the eyes of the health department,” said Reid, who made it back to Robinson about two years ago “as a test,” and has never regretted the decision.
“On my first three-day trip, I sold much more than I would sell in four days in Corsicana,” he said. “There is a continuous line when I’m in Robinson. I had my eyes opened, I guess you could say. God opened my eyes.”
As the crowds continued to grow, Reid said he knew he had found something special for the long haul.
From all over
“What he’s planning is wonderful, and it will bring people from all over Texas to Robinson, no doubt,” Robinson City Manager Bob Cervenka said. “We already have folks from Austin, Dallas and East Texas on the weekends he’s here.”
Cervenka said the Reids have not yet submitted a formal site plan, but Joe Reid has discussed his venture with city officials. Cervenka said he knows Te’Jun will attract a lot of traffic, and handling it will become a priority.
“I think it can be easily controlled, and I’m sure everything possible will be done to make it safe,” Cervenka said. “His engineers and architect will be working with our people. He’s a nice guy, and so far he’s been a pleasure to deal with.”
Joe Reid said he will continue to make his monthly runs to Corsicana, Fairfield and Mexia after his Robinson place is complete. He also owns an RV park in Crystal Beach and a 25 percent stake in a radio station, KNES-FM, Texas 99, in Fairfield.
But his passion remains feeding the masses with what he believes is the freshest and highest quality food to be found.
He will take that goal up a notch around the end of the year, “and I don’t think Waco will have seen anything like it.”
Diane Nowlin, who manages another local restaurant with a Cajun feel, Buzzard Billy’s Swamp Shack at Interstate 35 and Lake Brazos, said she believes Reid’s creation will capture the fancy of local diners — and she’s not complaining.
“I believe he will provide some healthy competition for us, but we’re not afraid of that,” she said, adding that Buzzard Billy’s is making plans to build a bar beneath the restaurant, right next to the water, with an opening sometime this fall.