DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
BURNET — Liz Catlin laughed as she recalled the incident. A man stepped inside Texas Tea-Licious, the restaurant of her and her husband Trace. The man, who had regularly ridden his motorcycle from Lampasas to Burnet, stood just inside the door of the Main Street eatery looking around the restaurant.
“I asked, ‘Can I help you?'” Liz recalled. To that, the man looked around a moment longer and replied, “I can eat here now.”
Liz laughed. The man had decided after years of looking inside the previous Tea-Licious, seeing all the quilts and tea-room settings in it, that he just couldn’t eat there. Trace admitted the same apprehension in November 2012 when he and Liz came to Burnet via the Austin Steam Train.
“It was a tea room,” Trace said. “I didn’t want to come in here. But it was the only restaurant open, so it was either come in or go hungry.”
So he and Liz went in. And neither realized as they took a seat in Tea-Licious that it would end up changing their lives, and the restaurant.
Looking around the restaurant now, about nine months since the Catlins bought it, the eatery looks little like its previous version. The couple changed the name, a bit, by slapping Texas in front of Tea-Licious. But that’s just a touch of what the Houston couple have done. Inside, the decor looks little like the tea room that has been a courthouse square staple. Well, except for the tables.
“Yeah, we ‘manned’ it up a bit,” Liz said with a smile.
When the Catlins bought the restaurant in June 2013 from its previous owner, Sam McLeod, they had a plan going in on what they wanted the new Texas Tea-Licious to look and feel like.
Trace said their idea was to create a family-style restaurant on the square. Liz, who is a certified interior decorator, quickly went to work transforming the tea-room setting into one with a more Texas flare to it. The couple salvaged some wood from part of the renovation to build a barn door for the meeting room.
All around, it’s been a change — for the restaurant and the Catlins. You see, the couple came to Burnet in November 2012 after a year of business traveling just looking for a little break, not to buy a restaurant.
The Catlins own a market branding company that helps smaller food industry businesses, such as chefs with their own line of food, get more national exposure. It means spending a lot of time in airplanes crisscrossing the country. Trace said 2012 was a particularly busy year for him and Liz, so when November rolled around and the two could take a little break, a plane was the last thing they wanted to be in.
Trace learned about the Austin Steam Train Association and its regular runs from Austin to Burnet. So, he and Liz, after spending a couple of days at a friend’s in Fredericksburg, made the drive to Austin, where they boarded the train and headed to Burnet. It was during their fortuitous meal at Tea-Licious where they met McLeod.
“We were telling him that it was one of our dreams to retire to the Hill Country,” Liz said. Somewhere during the conversation, the idea of buying the restaurant came up, but only as a thought. But the seed must have taken root in both the Catlins and McLeod, because, a few months later, the Houston couple were the owners of the Burnet restaurant.
“We saw a tremendous amount of potential for this,” Trace said.
While the Catlins definitely infused their own ideas into Texas Tea-Licious, they held onto some of the things that made the restaurant special under its previous name. For one thing, they inherited most of the staff, including Miranda Johnson, their assistant manager.
“We couldn’t have done this without her,” Liz said.
While they expanded the menu, the Catlins kept all the items from the previous Tea-Licious. They knew a lot of people loved those items, and they didn’t want to disappoint those customers. But they did work on expanding the menu with burgers, steaks and lots of comfort food.
“We really just listened to the people,” Trace said. “We asked them what they wanted.”
The bulk of the new menu items come from Liz’s grandmother’s repertoire. Some recipes, well, they got a tweak or two.
The next big addition, the couple said, would walk through their door and be an answer to their prayers. After being released from another area restaurant while it underwent renovations, Matt Mendez was looking for work. So one day, he stepped into Texas Tea-Licious and inquired about a job.
“I tell him we prayed him through that door,” Liz said.
Mendez now leads the kitchen staff as the chef. The Catlins love how Mendez will sometimes create his own dishes. One day, he cooked up a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin.
“He just came up with it,” Liz said.
Along with the new atmosphere and menu items, the Catlins extended the hours to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Plus, they’ve added live music Tuesdays and Saturdays. Every Tuesday, people can enjoy john Arthur martinez while Saturday features a rotating list of musicians.
And it’s not just the restaurant the Catlins are looking to re-energize. The couple hopes by staying open later in the evenings, adding live music and doing a few other things, they can help rejuvenate the historic square. They’ve noticed that since they’ve been staying open later in the evenings, several other businesses also have decided to do the same.
“There’s a good chance of that happening,” Trace said. “There’s a lot of good things happening here on the square and in Burnet, and we’re glad to be a part of it.”
Go to www.txtealicious.com or call (512) 756-7636 for more information on Texas Tea-Licious. The restaurant is located at 216 S. Main St. in Burnet.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Texas Tea-Licious
WHERE: 216 S. Main St. on the courthouse square in Burnet
HOURS: Open until 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
FOR MORE: Go to www.txtealicious.com or call (512) 756-7636