Remembering Gerard Cace — A True East Texas Legend
Here I am again with childhood memories from my hometown Longview. This memory is of eating at the best and (fanciest in the day) restaurant in Longview, the famed Johnny Cace’s Seafood and Steakhouse on Marshal Avenue. Serving Longview and East Texas for 60 years with the best New Orleans-style Creole cuisine, this place has always been the real deal!
When my family went to Johnny Cace’s, it was definitely for a special occasion! Whether it was a special birthday, a wedding anniversary, family reunion or maybe my dad made a little extra money that week — we were gonna splurge!
There was just this magical feeling you got when you walked into Johnny Cace’s, you just knew you were in a fancy place because our mother dressed us four kids in our Sunday best.
The waiter would start us all out with the festive relish tray filled with pickled okra, green tomatoes, sweet pickles and olives. Then came the cheese spread for the toasted crouton bread. Hello!
So much fresh seafood, it was always hard to choose for my dad, but not for me. My favorite was the “shrimp in shorts” and “stuffed shrimp with crab!” Yummy.
Us kids would love to sneak into the bar and watch the guy behind the bar shucking oysters. We knew it was hard work, but these guys would go so fast they made it look like it was nothing!
It was at Johnny Cace’s where my parents met my husband, Doug. My parents knew our relationship was getting serious, so it was time they got to know Doug better. My parents knew Doug was divorced, so my dad started grilling him with questions about his past relationship. It got a bit tense. I gave my mother a look across the table and she didn’t know what to do either.
My Dad looked at Doug and said, “So, we don’t get divorces in this family, so you need make sure that you can live with her forever!”
At the time my Dad asked that question, Doug was enjoying the tasty cheese spread on the toasted crouton from the relish tray the waiter had placed on our table, and he almost choked! He finally managed to get out a “Yes sir, I understand.” WOW, talk about embarrassing.
When Johnny Cace passed away 10 years ago, his son, Gerard, stepped in to carry on his father’s legacy. Some say Gerard Cace did more than carry on his father’s legacy as a Creole restaurateur and civic promoter — he built on it. Cace, took over daily operations of the 62-year-old Longview restaurant in 1980 along with his wife, Cathy, though his father remained visibly active.
This past Wednesday, 59-year-old Gerard Cace suffered a fatal heart attack. Friends said Cace and his daughter, Chelsea, were returning from a father-daughter fishing trip in the Cace family’s native Mississippi Delta area of southern Louisiana when he suddenly died during a lunch stop.
John Ray, a friend of the family says that he didn’t know another person who cared about Longview any more than Gerard Cace. Here’s what he told the Longview News-Journal about Gerard:
“Gerard was intent on customers being completely satisfied. And he took that legacy his father left him and carried on with no hesitation. He was a proud father; he was a proud businessman. But he was so proud of being a citizen of Longview, Texas.”
Gerard and Cathy Cace were both officers in the Texas Restaurant Association. The association inducted Gerard into its Hall of Honor in June 2011.
“He comes from a strong family tradition of giving back to the community over decades. He carried forward the family legacy in taking over the restaurant after his dad passed away. He kept the family tradition of giving back to the community in so many ways. It’s a great family and a big loss for the community.”
The Cace restaurant also is known for the habit employees, particularly the wait staff, have of staying for decades in what is usually a high-turnover profession. Now that speaks volumes!
We will miss Gerard Cace and wish his family and friends our deepest condolences. East Texas and Longview has lost one of the good ones. God bless.