Review: Tuffy’s Restaurant returns to Mauriceville with Van Choate family

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

By Anne Payne

The Orange Leader

Re-opened since May 16, 2017, Tuffy’s has re-vamped the long-time vacant building at the intersection of State Hwy. 12 and 62 in Mauriceville to re-create an even better Tuffy’s.

New owners Van and wife Josette Ragusa Choate said they received help from the owner of Robert’s Restaurant in Orange with the donation of many used tables and chairs, as well as other donations of larger tables and kitchen supplies from area businesses and churches. The Choates also own Hushpuppy Seafood Restaurant in Vidor and Hushpuppy Catering Co. in Port Arthur.

Tuffy’s originally opened in 1985 under Janet and James Linscomb, and the namesake of Tuffy’s was Manager Donald Bishop, nephew of the Linscombs. “Tuffy” was Bishop’s nickname. They sold the restaurant in 1990 to Mike Hamilton, now former Texas State Representative. Hamilton sold the business to the Choate couple in 2005.

Tuffy’s was owned from 2010-2012 during a period by two local invetsors, but closed its doors in 2012, leaving a vacant eatery for five years.

Van Choate’s first eating establishment was the Cajun Cookery in Orange, off Interstate 10, but it was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Rita.

Van and Josette moved to Arkansas near Little Rock for about 18 months in 2010 with their blended family of yours, mine, and ours. It was there they continued their catering business.

Missing the Orange area, they moved to the Bridge City area, off farm to Market Road 1442, where the kids still in school attended Orangefield ISD. Their daughter, Cameron, is currently attending Orangefield High School, and she is working this summer at her parents’ restaurant, along with two of her sisters.

The menu still includes Tuffy’s famous melt-in-your mouth rolls, mile-high meringue pies, and yummy-to-the-tummy cakes. According to the Choates, the same baker is still making the rolls, pies, and cakes. Chicken fried steak, gumbo, etouffee, barbecue crabs, fried and grilled catfish and shrimp, and even fried pickles are still on the menu. They even oblige the few customers whose digestive systems do not take to spices very well by eliminating spices, if requested.

This writer is one of those who does not care much for spices, and they were very accommodating. This writer’s husband went full speed ahead with all the spices. The grilled catfish was the fare for the evening for this lady, and her gentleman dined on the traditional spicy grilled catfish. Lemon meringue pie and coconut cream pie were the mile-highs chosen. Much was taken home due to feasting like rabid dogs on the buttery, warm, soft rolls.

Van and Josette Choate surely know what they are doing. The service, the food, and the personal attention were A plus. Van, a native of Orange and LC-M high school graduate, walked to each table himself to ensure that all customers were happy, even going upstairs, and to the back dining areas. On this particular Saturday night, there was a fellow playing nice tunes on his guitar while singing softly.

Take note of the gift shop in front of the dining area. The shop includes colorful t-shirts, beach items, knick-knacks, wall hangings, children’s clothing such as cheer outfits, and house décor.

Also, notice the Del Bates’ paintings that fill all the walls. Bates, a renowned Orange artist, placed his paintings on Tuffy’s walls, realizing that the walls were missing something. A trip out to Mauriceville to Tuffy’s Restaurant is definitely advised. They are only closed on Mondays, and Sundays they close at 2 p.m.