The Schooner Returns to Main Street

The iconic Schooner sign is back. Owner Gary "Tex" Young is proud to be restoring the Schooner to its familiar name. (Photo by Lura Jackson) (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

For the past several decades, if you said to someone in the St. Croix Valley that you were headed “to the Schooner” in Calais, they’d know where you meant. That familiarity began to wane in recent years after Gary “Tex” Young purchased the establishment and rebranded the restaurant to Just South of the Border. While the Tex-Mex food proved popular with customers, Young felt that it was time to return the eatery back to its roots, and, subsequently, the Schooner has returned.

“Everybody likes ‘the Schooner’ pub,” Young said, describing how he and his wife were joined by customers in clamoring for the return of the long-famous name. “It’s been an icon here for years, and it’s time to bring it back. We’re trying to go back to the old ways.”

Along with the name change, Young first considered doing a full overhaul of the menu. Regular customers, however, protested the removal of their favorite southwest dishes, and many of the highly popular meals remain. Fajitas, quesadillas, burritos, and nacho supreme are among the enduring dishes, and Young reports that his chili continues to sell “like crazy”. In one week, he made a five-quart pot of chili four separate times to keep up with demand.

New items have been added to the menu, and more are on the way. Honey-fried chicken is now featured, as are desserts, including cannoli, apple streusel sticks, devil’s food cake, fudge brownie, and crunchy peanut butter cookies, some of which can be enjoyed with optional ice cream. Every day will have a soup or salad special, and there will be daily specials throughout the week, including an 8-ounce steak, baked stuffed haddock, spaghetti plate, or American chop suey. The American chop suey – or Hungarian Goulash, as Young and others know it – is another incredibly popular dish. “Whenever I make that, it sells out,” Young said. “If I have it ready for noon, it’s gone by the afternoon.”

Now that Young has returned to managing the restaurant himself, deliveries to the community have resumed as well. Young said that drivers will be available to bring food to anywhere in the extended Calais area, and larger deliveries can be brought further.

The Schooner has long been a hotbed of evening entertainment, and Young is aiming to continue that trend. Wednesday nights are Ladies’ Nights, with drink and food specials and a DJ, Thursdays are karaoke nights, and Fridays and Saturdays will have either a DJ or a live band playing. Young hopes to increase the live band frequency to once a week as the warmer weather approaches, and to continue adding larger events that attract multiple bands to the schedule. The next major musical event is Februrary 3rd, when Chaos Machine, Conscious Cadaver, Wolves Among Sleep, Concubine, and War Criminal will be playing, beginning at 9:00 p.m.

As a veteran himself, Young holds a special regard for veterans, and, appropriately, he is taking several steps to accommodate former service men and women. On the last Monday of each month, the Schooner holds a Veterans Meet and Greet, during which a platter of finger foods is offered at no cost to veterans. Young also plans to turn the second floor of the McAllister building – formerly the Over and Under pub – into a veterans’ meeting area. “The veterans need a place to go, meet and greet, and enjoy themselves,” Young said. “I can’t believe how badly I miss the American Legion every Thursday.” Volunteers have been coming forward to run the proposed club, but in the meantime, Young is doing what he can to reach out to veterans. “We’re hiring any veterans that come along that we can use,” Young said. “I find they’re the best workers.”

While the Schooner currently is operating at reduced hours, opening at 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday, Young said that the situation is only temporary and lunchtime hours will be restored to those days soon. To reach the Schooner, call 454-0688.

 

The Schooner eatery, as seen in the 1990s. 

 

(Photo courtesy of St. Croix Historical Society)