Dinner at Stevie Lew’s BBQ Kitchen, Rockport, Texas

February 19, 2020

Just off the bay bridge, headed south on Texas route 35 towards Rockport, a sign flashes “Stevie Lew’s BBQ Kitchen,” the words supported on a bed of animated flames. Next flash: “14 Meals for Under $7!” We turn into the parking lot, empty now because this evening the Kitchen is closed to the public. Stevie Lew comes hustling over to the Kitchen from his home, standing about 100 feet away to the right of the restaurant.

Stevie is stocky, wears a large, tan cowboy hat, has warm eyes and sports a dark brown vest and jeans. He booms out a “Welcome y’all – come right on in.” He stands at the entrance of the 80-seat capacity dining room greeting each guest, about 55 of us, with a “Hi – I’m Stevie Lew,” asking our names one by one.

Once everyone is settled into the dining room chairs and benches, Stevie perches on a table up front. He starts out saying that he notices things and he noticed that all the young guys are sitting together, and all the girls are seated separately. “And I think it didn’t just happen that way, I think there must have been a plan to do that.” Everyone laughs.

He goes on to welcome us all again, asks his daughter for a piece of chalk, goes over to a blackboard that describes eight kinds of “crafted sodas” available at the Kitchen, and writes the number 2016 on the board.

Next, he says, “Now, I know that you’re Amish and that you’d say I was English, is that right?” Somebody says, “I’d say you’re Texan” and Stevie says, “You stole my thunder!” More laughter. “I want you to know, especially you young people, that you have something very special in being Amish. That is, you have a culture that leads to life. Unfortunately, the English culture, with pornography, abortion, drug use and so forth can often lead to death. I’m sorry to say that, ‘cause I’m English, but that’s the way things are a lot of the time. You have the luxury of being born into a culture that leads to life, and many people have gone before you, working hard and sacrificing to preserve that gift for you.”

“I know that the Amish culture is not perfect. None of us are – we’re all forgiven sinners!” He says if you see something that you know is not right, like some bishop being crabby and not treating his people well, “there’s only one way to fix that, and that is with love. First, pray for the person, then find something you can do for him – do something for free. You’ll find that love melts the heart of the receiver, and that is the road to real change.” “Now, there was a time in my life, a bad time, when I was ‘walkabout.’ You know what that means? I think it’s something life rum…, rumspring…” Chuckles and many people say “rumspringa.” Stevie says that he lived through that, without giving any further details. Then he goes on to describe his business and the importance of family. He says they homeschooled their children because of all the corrosive influences in the English world. The business is entirely run by his family, which to their delight is growing by marriage. He continues, saying that life has taught him the importance of relationship, especially when you compare it to accumulating things.

That’s why he greeted each one by one as we arrived, because that’s the beginning of relationship. He recalls the early church, in the book of Acts. “What did they do? They worshipped together, prayed, broke bread. Things we’re doing tonight.” Then he explains the number 2016 he earlier wrote on the chalkboard. “That’s the number of Amish folks we’ve served here, just like tonight, since y’all have been coming to help after the hurricane [Harvey]. And that includes Mennonites, too. Do we have any Mennonites here tonight?” A few hands go up. “I guess that number goes up to 2060 or more after tonight. And I’ve greeted and welcomed them all. I do it just to say thank you for what you’ve done for our community, and up in Bloomington, too, where they were hit hard. Our government failed us after the hurricane. We had hundreds, maybe a thousand people who had their homes destroyed. FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] sent 33 trailers down here! We fed people at this restaurant for three months, every day for three months straight.”

“We had oil people who donated 5,000 gallons of gas, which we sorely needed. I guess horses and buggies would have been handy! We had people from all over the US donating brisket, which they had flown into the airport down the road. And when you folks started coming and kept coming, you brought something very important. You brought hope. I want to thank you for doing that. You don’t even have to say anything to people here about why you do it. They can tell by the people that you are.” “Hold on to what you have – it’s very precious, because it leads to life. Make sure you guard it, preserve it and pass it on to future generations. It will not happen unless you do it. Now that I’ve fed you spiritual food, let me tell you how we’re going to fill your belly tonight.”

He goes on to describe what would be served up. Stevie asks for six young ladies with servants’ hearts to serve up drinks of water or tea. He gets seven. “Seven, good! That’s a number God likes, seven. Now I want you to sashay over to the drinks counter, get an ice water in one hand and tea in the other, go to the tables and say “what would y’all like to drink? Water or tea?’” He then demonstrates the difference ‘tween sashaying and moseying, giving his best impression of each. The ladies do as he asked, giving a hearty Texan ‘y’all’ at each table. Likewise, he asks for six young men with servants’ hearts to come up to the food counter, grab a plate, not two plates, and start serving from the back of the room first.

“Seven again! Good! Remember to take only one plate at a time. I don’t want you taking two plates and end up flinging food across the dining room!” The gents need to practice their moseying, but they do a very respectable job of serving and y’all-ing, without a single flinging incident. The meal is great, matching the buildup it got from Stevie. After dinner, we sing a hymn as a ‘thank you.’ Stevie Lew tells us a couple of his favorite ‘gator stories, then we part, with filled spirits and nourished bodies. And guess who stands by the door, bidding us all ado. 

Doug Garrett