We’ve all been in a Cajun restaurant. We walk in and think Bourbon Street and New Orleans. Our imagination smells the gumbo, the étouffée, and the blackened fish. We actually feel the sense of celebration that comes with New Orleans, including the contagious beat of foot-moving Cajun/Zydeka music.
Our food comes, and we deflate like a pricked balloon as soon as we taste it. It’s coated in cayenne pepper; so hot we want to raise a white flag of surrender. And we can’t even remember what that blackened lump was before it was blackened. Fish? Chicken?
None of that disappointment is part of the experience waiting for diners at Mrs. Lively’s Cajun Konnection in Lake Dallas. The first difference is you won’t see Mrs. Lively’s by accident, which is why owner Kevin Lively refers to it as a “destination restaurant.”
“Very few people just ‘happen’ to find us,” he says. “We’re completely off the beaten path, which means you get driving directions and then you intentionally seek us out.”
Mrs. Lively’s is 24/7/365 Mardi Gras, in spirit and in decor. And the food? The food is mouth-watering, belly-filling, country Cajun. Crisp okra. Red beans, simmered and seasoned, with rice. The grits are to die for, as is the beautiful, golden catfish.
Anything and everything “food” comes under Kevin’s passionate obsession with the focus on quality, freshness, authenticity, and total customer satisfaction.
Kevin, with his grandmother, Edith Lively, began “cooking” when he was three years old. It was in a tiny kitchen in a modest trailer in Vidalia, Louisiana, where he, his grandmother and his mom, Judy, all lived. The dishes that came off the stove and out of the oven were Edith’s recipes, and Kevin still uses many of them today.
“Listen,” says Kevin, “we were about as poor as snakes. My mother was widowed young, and we were responsible for ourselves. I mowed lawns and had other odd jobs until I went to work for Burger King at 15.”
He moved up the BK hierarchy, relocating with the company to DFW in 1998 and switching to Tom Thumb a short while later. It was always about food for Kevin, always stoking the thirsty fire Edith lit in him years ago.
Kevin launched a traveling concession business before opening the doors to Mrs. Lively’s. He concentrates on festivals/special events across the country, such as the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. Dubbed Mrs. Lively’s Southern Cuisine, Kevin holds his “traveling food” to the same standards as the restaurant.
“People experience our unique tastes at the fairs and always ask where is our restaurant. Mother wanted me to have a restaurant but things didn’t line up until 2 ½-years ago when this place came up for lease.”
The location was occupied for many years by Neal’s Italian Restaurant. A rapid succession of several turnovers followed Neal’s. Mrs. Lively’s will mark its three-year anniversary May 8, 2021, longer than anyone except Neal’s.
Mrs. Lively’s did not escape COVID-19 but, as Kevin describes it, “It was hard on the kitchen but great for the cash register.
“It’s impossible to describe how our customers rallied to support us. They put out the call on social media and word of mouth. They were very vocal. They came in their pickups with tables and chairs in the back. I put up a canopy with tables and chairs, but they did it first. I also got music to the outside. They celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. Sometimes they even put cloths and flowers on the tables.
“Our kitchen is small. We had to figure out a new way to physically operate. It’s incredible how much space is needed for a row of 9×9 boxes with lids. That part was hard.”
Kevin still has the concession business, and three or four towns/cities are after him to open a Mrs. Lively’s. He hasn’t decided but, “My customers have proven to me that our food is worthy.” Pictures of grandmother Edith and mother Judy hang in the foyer of Mrs. Lively’s, and Kevin is represented by the “K” in Konnection. It’s all about family.
The made-from-scratch cooking, the home-blended spices and the stringent quality control are strong drawing cards for Mrs. Lively’s. If the kitchen gets super busy, you may wait a bit longer than usual for your food. “I’ll feed a trash can before I serve something that’s not fresh or is below par in quality,” Kevin says.
His other drawing card is Judy Lively, referred to as “Mama” by the guests. She’s a gracious, straight-walkin, Louisiana-talkin woman who’s very,
very proud of her son. Together, they’re the perfect host and hostess for their delicious bayou experience.
940.279.4299 | 721 E. Hundley Dr. • Lake Dallas, TX 75065