There's a lot to do in downtown Lake Jackson, as the area is full of locally-owned restaurants, shops, and more.
CHAZ MILLER: So growing up around here, one thing that you learn very quickly is that if people don't know anything about Lake Jackson, Texas, they know about this intersection right here. That Way, This Way, This Way, That Way. One person who is from Lake Jackson is Greg Essington, of Blue Water Highway Band. And Greg, you're going to show us around your hometown today.
GREG ESSINGTON: I am. Absolutely. Welcome. Welcome.
CHAZ MILLER: Thank you. So we were talking off camera. You know my wife. She's from here. And so I've spent a lot of time in Lake Jackson. This downtown area that you're going to take us around, it's really cool and something that keeps growing and growing.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. It's really sprung up I think in the last 10, 15 years around here. Lots of great restaurants, great shops, just a great vibe for a small town.
CHAZ MILLER: So I'll let you take us around. Do we go this way or that way?
GREG ESSINGTON: Either way.
CHAZ MILLER: All the jokes.
GREG ESSINGTON: All the jokes.
CHAZ MILLER: Let's go. All right, Greg. For people who do not know Blue Water Highway Band, you guys have been around for almost a decade and you started here.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. The lead singer and I Zack Kibodeaux, grew up here in Lake Jackson, met in high school. And I ended up forming the band after we graduated from college. But yeah. Our roots were right here in Lake Jackson.
CHAZ MILLER: And you say roots. You guys are kind of rootsy Americana.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah, exactly. We have a four piece five piece band, kind of roots rock, Texas songwriting influences, and yeah.
Why, why, why? Why's it got to be so hard?
CHAZ MILLER: So growing up in Lake Jackson, you're here still all the time. Your parents live here. You're a touring musician. So one stop that you frequently find yourself making in downtown Lake Jackson is--
GREG ESSINGTON: The music store.
CHAZ MILLER: OK. Which makes sense.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. You always got to buy some strings. If you break strings on the road, you need some new equipment. So anywhere we go on tour, it's kind of like music store is the staple stop.
So yeah. This is Collin's Music Center here in downtown Lake Jackson. Always a stop when you need some new strings, some picks, you forget a tuner.
CHAZ MILLER: The little things.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. Little things.
LELIA LAMOUREUX: So the company was founded in 1957, I believe, in El Campo, Texas. And Randy our owner, Randy Collins, it was his dad who started it. And now he runs El Campo. We started this store in oh it was about six years ago. And then we also have one in Katy and Victoria. So we have a couple in the area. But we like to keep it local and try and help out the communities we're in.
CHAZ MILLER: Music is a big part of Lake Jackson. I know a lot of people that have been watching this "Selena" series on Netflix. Obviously part of it's set here. She grew up here for a little bit.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah, she was born here.
CHAZ MILLER: And we got you guys and people like Robert Ellis. There's a lot of musical talent in Lake Jackson.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it starts with all the great music teachers we have here I think. All the great programs in all the schools from elementary school all the way up to high school here, it produces just some great talent along with some of the private music teachers like my piano teacher growing up.
And I think it means a lot in the same way that you don't have to want to drive so far to go see some great entertainment or art. There is a lot down here between the Center for the Arts and Sciences, the Brazosport Symphony, the-- yeah. All the great church music programs.
LELIA LAMOUREUX: So our biggest advantage for the town at least is that they one, don't have to drive all the way to Houston to go to Guitar Center just for a pack of strings, or a strap, or something that breaks that night when you're playing right down the street at Grapevine or Brew N Bake or something like that. But we also help out with the schools in the area, we give lessons through the store, I know basically everybody who works here is a musician. So we can talk to you about what your issues are.
And now driving around, we have customers that come here all the time and tell us about what they're going to be playing and stuff. So we'll go out to Wine Review, Grapevine, all these different places that are now welcoming local artists which is amazing because you can see it's lit up all the way down the street, everybody is out having fun, and enjoying their community, and helping promote these amazing musicians, which it's kind of odd. Because this area seems to have a lot of musical talent compared to the areas around us. So it's really neat to see this little niche just bubble.
CHAZ MILLER: I lived in the Northeast for college, you lived in New York for a while. The thing I miss the most about living up there is how walkable it is. You don't get a lot of that down here.
GREG ESSINGTON: No.
CHAZ MILLER: But downtown Lake Jackson has done an incredible job of making this downtown area something where you can walk, you can eat, you can drink, you can hear music, and it's really a fun time.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah, absolutely. So many venues down here from the Fill Station, to Local, to all the great places to eat and drink. And yeah. It does add a lot of value to a community like this to have those places.
CHAZ MILLER: So we talked about walking and we talk about drinking. It's not quite time to eat yet.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. We're going to head over to check out some of the beverages right here in downtown.
CHAZ MILLER: Go. Lead us.
GREG ESSINGTON: All right.
CHAZ MILLER: We're on This Way, That Way somewhere. But This Way in Lake Jackson, it's like the Bourbon Street of Lake Jackson.
GREG ESSINGTON: For real, man.
CHAZ MILLER: Everywhere you look, there's somewhere to drink.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. We got The Wayside Pub down here, The Pour Haus, come have a beer. There's a couple blocks away some great places with whiskey bar and some wine places down here. So yeah. It's a great place to come down and have some beverages.
CHAZ MILLER: And one thing I like about it is it's very modern. These restaurants are modern. But there's also a very old fashioned feel about this downtown. They've done a really good job of renovating it but keeping the feeling of it the same.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah. They really have. And it kind of keeps the original design of Lake Jackson alive where all roads kind of lead to downtown. And it's a place to gather. And as long as you don't get confused by the This Way and That Way.
CHAZ MILLER: It can happen.
GREG ESSINGTON: It can happen.
CHAZ MILLER: So we're going to go That Way. I think that really might be that way.
GREG ESSINGTON: I think it might be.
CHAZ MILLER: But we're going to go to the Bodega. And you said that's a good place to grab a beer.
GREG ESSINGTON: Oh yeah. Great place. Great place. Got lots of craft beer and all the things that are good.
KENT DEVINE: Bodega is a New York style deli in small town Texas. We do beer, wine, have over 200 different types of wine, almost 300 different types of beer now. And then we specialize in creme brulees and some cold cut sandwiches and hot sandwiches.
CHAZ MILLER: In a cruel twist of fate, this is called the babe. It's a BLT. My dad lived here when I was a kid and we saw "Babe" at a movie theater over there. So I feel like I had to order this here.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yes. Absolutely.
CHAZ MILLER: And you've got a creme brulee over there as well.
GREG ESSINGTON: Oh yeah, man. That's what they got. One of the staples of this place is their creme brulee. So--
KENT DEVINE: Being that we're in an old gas station, I really like the idea of I said I wanted to take a really fancy dessert and serve it out of a gas station and make it be the best is what my goal was because I think the idea of telling people, the best creme brulee I ever had was out of this rundown gas station in Lake Jackson. Downtown when grown up, the only thing you could do is ride your bicycle over to the red tops to maybe grab a burger.
I mean, since I've moved back home, I think I've had almost a dozen different new restaurants and family owned bars get opened up. And it's exciting to see downtown change and giving people a reason that they don't have to go to Houston as much anymore. They can actually get all sorts of food and stuff just in their own town.
CHAZ MILLER: Well, this was a quick pit stop although for you it is. For me I got to eat this sandwich. We got one more stop. We've been to a store, we've been to a place and just kind of hang out and chill. But you say there's one restaurant in Lake Jackson that you really like. Not only that, but it played a key role in y'all's development as a band.
GREG ESSINGTON: Yeah, absolutely. The Local is one of our favorites here. And that's where really my musical career started and getting to play for people for the first time and really hone those live music skills. So yeah. It's a special place.
GAYE LINFORD: The Local is a restaurant in Lake Jackson, Texas. I wasn't born here but I've lived here a long time. And when we moved back here the second or third time, my husband and I said, if we're going to stay here, we need to create something this town does not have. And so we decided to create a restaurant that would be a gathering place. The name The Local is, where we got it from was typically over in Europe there's a local in every town. It's the place is known for the best food, ambience, and drink. And that's what we kind of set out to create.
GREG ESSINGTON: So when I was growing up here in high school and starting to play around as a musician, I think there was one coffee shop in town that I played at. It's like the mall. And it wasn't the greatest venue in the world. You can get the idea. But then The Local opened up. And we were like, oh. This is an awesome place to play. Gaye was super kind to us to get to have artists and live music on the weekends.
And so it just became the spot. And it became a great gathering place for all of our fans and everyone in the community. Great food, great atmosphere.
GAYE LINFORD: We do burgers, sandwiches, wraps, we have a bakery as well. And then that's daytime counter service. At nighttime, our dinner menu is table service and we have pasta, steak, seafood, fish tacos, mac and cheese, crab cakes, pretty much just created a menu of how we like to eat, our family. And that's kind of what we did.
GREG ESSINGTON: So my go to is definitely a burger. The burgers here are amazing. I would say number one, the bun is perfection here. This is the Big Tex, which is the jalapeno and cheddar burger. And excellent fries. I mean, juicy burger. You just can't get any better in my opinion.
And then of course, the all important sweeties.
GAYE LINFORD: A sweetie is a pink cookie that we have been making since the day we opened. It did exist before us. It's a pink cookie. It's a little bit sugar cookie with some almond flavoring. What makes it unique is that it is slightly crunchy on the outside but very soft on the inside. There were a few other businesses when I was growing up here in high school that made sweeties. But they were no longer around. And so there was about 10 years, no, maybe five years where sweetie's weren't available just to go by somewhere. People had to make them.
GREG ESSINGTON: The sweetie, it's a sugar cookie that's got this glaze on top. I don't know. It's unlike anything that I have had anywhere else in our travels as a band. It's a unique dessert.
CHAZ MILLER: As you guys have gone on and done big things and have toured the world playing music, what does it feel like to be back in this place years later?
GREG ESSINGTON: It's nostalgic. And it's kind of one of those things you don't realize what you have or what you had growing up until you visit other places. And you travel around, you see different cities, different towns across the country. And you really realize like, OK. This was a special place to grow up. There's a great community here, great support here. And it's just, yeah. You're just thankful for where you came from. So definitely always means a lot to come home.