Center Point – Summer is always on our minds, especially when it comes to quenching our thirst in the Texas heat! We found the perfect place to do just that, a tropical paradise in the middle of the state known as Toucan Jim’s.
Now Center Point, Texas isn’t exactly the center point of state, but its location on the banks of Guadalupe River make it a clandestine destination between Comfort and Kerrville. The truly hidden gem in this tiny town is a tropical oasis that sits behind a tired looking shack. Now this isn’t Saint Martin, Saint John or Saint Kitts, it’s not even Tulum or Trinidad, despite what the tables say. It’s simply a huge backyard that underwent an extensive decade long transition by Jim Lackey and Mike Blackledge. Together, they are Toucan Jim’s.
These beach bum buddies had a big idea back in the day. Instead of packing your bags, getting on a plane, flying to a far away destination, and finally making it to a resort in order to enjoy Havana like haven, why not bring that feeling just a few feet from home? “We can always tell a first-timer because their expression… their eyes light up and you can see them mouthing the word, ‘Wow,’” said Jim. “Yeah, and the longer you’re out here, the more that sets in,” added Mike. “We all love the Caribbean, we love Belize, Mexico. But for the people that can’t live there, we said, ‘Well, maybe you can come here and maybe for just a few minutes of your day make you think you’re someplace else.’” explained Jim. “After a while, you forget you’re even in Texas,” said Mike.
Now this is Jim’s old home, he grew up here and when he inherited it, he had this bright idea to bring the tropics to Texas. “There’s not a day goes by that we don’t have someone tell us, ‘Man, this reminds me of Cancun. This reminds me of Jamaica. This reminds me of Hawaii.’ And we really take that as a compliment,” said Jim. “We promise you it’s a lot cheaper than going to the Caribbean.” “And you can drive home in the evening!” said Mike. The transition from central Texas backyard to resort like relaxation took years to finish.
“You probably noticed our sign, that says, hey it’s a jungle out here and make sure your server knows we’re here,” said Jim. Not only is Jim co-owner of Toucan Jim’s, but he’s also the gardener of the group. “This is a Southern Magnolia here that my mom actually planted 45 to 50 years ago and I can remember when it was a stick. This is what started everything and everything else was really built around it,” he explained. Mike in the meantime makes all the tables, chairs, and palapas. “Jim and I put in a pretty good day, not uncommon for us to put in a 16 hour a day seven days a week…Not a whole lot of time sitting around sipping margaritas,” said Mike. But that’s exactly what they want you to do! “We have some excellent drinks. And we’ve sampled all of them,” said Jim.
“We’re known for our margaritas, piña coladas, the Barbados Surprise, and the rum punch is a big seller,” said Tonya Harding, the bartender at Toucan Jim’s. She was ready to take us on a tropical destination of island inspired drinks. “I think we should go with strong…Let’s do a margarita,” she said. The margarita is a house-made mix that takes you right to the shores of Mexico.
“We’ll do a piña colada [next].” Sampling the cocktails offered at Toucan Jim’s is like traveling with drinks. “Are you on your way to Aruba right now?” asked Tonya. So delicious and frothy.
“Well, how about I make your rum punch? That’s our number one seller,” she said. “We spent almost a year working on the rum punch recipe,” said Mike. It’s a pretty drink that tastes as deliciously fruity as it looks. The key to these tasty drinks is fresh juices. “We had tasted it down in Belize and we knew what we wanted and trying to find the proper fruits for it up here was real difficult,” Mike explained. “We experimented and experimented and experimented until we finally came up with the mix that works for us.” “And I’ll be the first to say that the experimental part of the rum punch was fun… I think we stretched that out a little bit longer than we should have stretched it out,” laughed Jim.
Finally, we finished things off with a Barbados surprise. “You have to stir it,” Tonya explained. It’s like a witch’s brew. Layers of red, blue, and white mix together with a stir of your straw, leaving you with a purple tented tropical treat. “There is alcohol in there. You got to be careful how many of those you drink,” added Tonya.
If you’re looking for a taste of the tropics right here in the Lone Star State, Toucan Jim’s is a terrific spot to sit back, sip a drink, and relax on The Texas Bucket List.
“We’re not just saying this, we promise that they’re really good drinks,” vouched Jim.