It’s Not Just Coffee at Lily’s Java Pad
Retired New York City Police Detective Tracy Beniquez moved to Canyon Lake after a fellow officer told her how great San Antonio was.
She flew down in 2006 to check out the area and bought a lot in Mystic Shores 10 days later. Gradually, she and husband Paul Squillini built a house and moved to the area fulltime. Her parents followed, buying a lot then building a home of their own just down the street. Daughter Anyssa Squillini attended Mountain Valley Middle School before graduating from Canyon Lake High School. Beniquez’s brother and his family are expected to move soon.
But Beniquez, whose passion is cooking, grew bored. When Cup of Joe came on the market she had an idea.
“I love to cook, I love to bake,” she said. Two weeks ago, Lily’s Java Pad at the Lake opened, tucked into what some local describes as the only strip mall this side of Canyon Lake at 18100 FM 306.
“I want it to be about fun,” Beniquez said. “At least 90-percent of everything here is homemade by us.”
“Us” is daughter-in-law Mariah Curtis, who works the counter. Son Michael Curtis runs the kitchen. Anyssa Squillini helps out, too. Husband Paul Squillini is master of the Espresso. (“He and I have chemistry here. He’ll make all of the shots.”)
“It” is a little harder to pin down.
Lily’s, which is actually Beniquez’s nickname, isn’t a restaurant. It’s hardly just a coffee shop. Not only a bakery. Breakfast sandwiches are available but not breakfast plates — although Belgian waffles hit the menu this Sunday. Chicken parmigiana and meatballs sandwiches sell well, along with kolaches, turkey sandwiches, beignets, smoothies, “cake in a coffee cup,” French toast, BLTs and paninis (all three kinds).
“I like baking,” she said. “I don’t like being committed. I used to make cakes. And when it was for fun, I did my best. When it became a commitment, it was a chore. And I don’t want that. I want it to be about fun.”
The Bronx native said customer preferences, budgets and her own innate creativity will carry the day at Lily’s Java Pad, which she hopes will become popular with those who just want to hang out and visit.
“I want people to sit down and talk, to choose to meet here,” she said. “I’m changing the vibe in here. I want it to be a place of gathering.”
High school students are welcome to sit and study or pick up a strong work ethic from a woman whose Puerto Rican father worked three jobs to keep the family going.
“I go with what is in demand,” she said. “I made a pumpkin-cheese muffin. I had to make four batches of them. People were coming in and buying boxes of them. I made chocolate-cheese, they’re gone. Yesterday was just my palate. I was hungry — and my best is when I’m hungry — because my mind is going everywhere and all of the flavors are in my mind.”
“Running out of stuff doesn’t go over well with people. I ran to the back and I started making a devil’s food chocolate cake. And I said, you know what? We’re going to make it s’mores today. I grabbed all my cookies, the graham crackers, got my marshmallows — we’re going to make this work. So I have them in the oven. Right before they’re done, I split my graham crackers right in the middle and start decorating with my marshmallows. And as it came out, I started drizzling my chocolate.”
Her creation sold out almost immediately.
Kolache sales are booming. Although she makes jalapenos and cheese, she was surprised to discover her homemade applewood sausage-and-cheese ones sold best.
“I don’t want to go with someone else’s dough,” Beniquez said. “I want to know the ingredients I’m putting in, and whose hands are toughing it.”
But back to Sunday. In addition to serving waffles, she plans to make white-chocolate bread pudding and beignets. And because she’s a New Yorker, Beniquez fondly will offer the “garbage” sandwiches she once tucked into her police vest until she had time for breakfast. Son Michael Curtis whips them up for customers, filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, ground sausage, peppers, onion and cheese.
Beniquez said Canyon Lake teachers have kind of the same problem, arriving at school as early as 6 a.m. with no chance of leaving until the end of the day.
Next year, she plans to deliver to Canyon Lake High School and Rebecca Creek Elementary. The rest of Canyon Lake can stand in line — or place a special order to pick up.
Lily’s Java Pad at the Lake is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.
Lily’s Java Pad
18100 FM 306
Canyon Lake, Texas 78133