In a nondescript building on the northwest side of downtown, Louisiana gumbo simmers in a 40 gallon soup pot. The chef that stirs the savory stew has seen her share of sadness but she chooses instead to focus on the happy memories in this area of town that she calls “the mile of smiles”.
“My father in law, Johnny, came up with the phrase— the mile of smiles. He loved this area of town and he loved making customers happy with his family’s recipes. They were Croatian immigrants who settled in Buras, Louisiana near New Orleans. They had oyster beds and worked in oyster farming for years,” Cathy Painter Cace said.
“Then in the 1940s, Johnny and his family left the levies and moved to Shreveport. They opened a fish market called the Colonial Oyster Nook and Johnny would drive to the gulf to get the fresh oysters. Then came World War II and Johnny served our country and when he came back, he wanted to open his own restaurant. He looked around for the perfect place and decided on Longview. He opened Johnny Cace’s at the corner of Green and Tyler Streets in downtown Longview on March 10, 1949.”
“In those days, there weren’t a lot of Catholics but he went to church at St. Anthony’s and met my father, Paul Painter. Little did they know, but their children would marry 30 years later.”
Cathy and Gerard Cace tied the knot in 1982 and together they ran Johnny Cace’s Seafood & Steakhouse until it closed after Gerard’s death.
“Mainting the 13,000 square foot, 50-year-old building just became too much of a burden. Gerard did the work of three people and was irreplaceable.”
In 2016, Cathy and her daughter, Chelsea, opened The Cace Kitchen. They prepare the same delicious family recipes that they always have, but this time they are offered to go. Customers are happily taking home shrimp gumbo, crawfish etouffee, garlic croutons, cheese spread, pickled okra and much more.
“Our old customers have been pouring in and it’s just been wonderful. Seeing their happy faces when they take home the food that we’ve shared for decades is the best part. Gerard would be so pleased. I just know it.”