When Ernest Orozco Jr. started selling live and fresh seafood out of the back of his truck on the weekends, he never had visions that, one day, he would end up helping revitalize the downtown area of his hometown.
In less than two years, Orozco, and his wife, Kristen, have gone from selling bags of crawfish and shrimp out of the back of a truck to owning and operating Beeville’s newest restaurant, K&E Seafood Lounge.
Kristen and Ernest – the K and E in the restaurant’s name – opened to the public last month after nearly two months of cleaning and refreshing the old Dog & Bee Pub in downtown Beeville.
On any given evening Tuesday through Saturday, you will see a steady stream of famished folks flowing through the restaurant’s ornate entryway on North Washington Street.
Kristen said business has been steady and the feedback she’s received has been positive.
“The weekends are slammed,” she said. “Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays ... this whole place is full.”
The restaurant has become a full-time occupation for both Ernest and Kristen.
Ernest does a little bit of everything, including helping in the kitchen and assisting with deliveries from the restaurant’s various vendors, he said.
He’s also the restaurant’s resident social butterfly, Kristen added with a laugh.
“I do everything while he socializes,” she joked as her husband added that she handles the accounting and manages the finances.
Opening the doors to K&E has been the culmination of a journey that began around Valentine’s Day in 2019.
That’s when Ernest started selling seafood out of the back of his truck.
The more he sold, he said, the more he was asked when he was going to start offering fully-cooked meals.
That led to opening a small carry-out restaurant on the West Corpus Christi Street with limited seating.
“We had a lot of customers tell us that they wanted a bigger space to dine-in and enjoy our seafood,” Ernest said. “We had many regular customers who would come weekly and they really helped encourage us to take a leap of faith.”
So – with Ernest out of work after being laid off by Helmerich & Payne Inc. and despite an ongoing pandemic – the search began for a permanent home.
Finally, they settled on restoring what used to the Dog & Bee Pub downtown.
“The work that led to opening our doors was and still is endless,” Ernest said.
Kristen admitted opening a full-scale restaurant was a scary prospect.
“It’s a big jump,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility. It’s crazy.”
The couple opened their doors to the public at 3 p.m. on Oct. 27 with a staff of more than 30 employees on the roster.
The menu is dotted with some American pub favorites like burgers, steaks and wings, but the restaurant’s calling card is seafood.
“Our specialty is our fresh seafood made with our signature Cajun seasoning,” Ernest said.
It’s the type of restaurant, Kristen said, that she thinks Beeville has needed, which
“Beeville needed a seafood restaurant,” she said. “It’s something different for this town.
“We’ve just gained so many customers who have become friends and the word of mouth is just traveling. We’re just getting busier and busier.”
“I did this for Beeville,” Ernest said. “Any time you wanted to go get fresh seafood, you had to go to Corpus, Rockport, Port (Aransas), Aransas Pass, San Antonio, Victoria. Why not just have it here in Beeville?
K&E Seafood Lounge is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.