The small town of Dumas has a population of just over 4,000 people. Though the town’s population is small, any one of its inhabitants could readily point you in the direction of the best steakhouse for miles around.
Taylor’s Steakhouse is run by Pam and Chuck Taylor. Pam runs the front of the store, while her husband Chuck works in the back.
The Taylors opened Taylor’s Grocery in 1954 in Mississippi, according to Kat Robinson, noted Arkansas foodie and author of Tie Dye Travels. The original building was small but functioned like a traditional country store. Folks would come in to buy dry goods and foods, as well as chat about the weather.
In 1961, the Taylor family moved their business closer to town and into a larger building. They sold that store in the 1970s and opened up a third spot. Finally, in 1983, the Taylor family moved to the current location, just outside of Dumas.
Chuck Taylor explained the evolution of the family business.
“In the ‘90s, grocery business started going away from country stores, and we started cooking instead,” he said. “My mother has always made barbecue. We branched out and bought equipment. In 1996, we put in a lunch menu with hamburgers and fish and po’boys and cheese dip and bread pudding.”
The lunch menu also included a large burger called the “Double Bertha” that guests would try to eat in one sitting. Taylor’s cheese dip grew so popular that guests would come to pick it up on their way in and out of town.
But the Taylors wanted to do more. Pam Taylor explained that lunch got smaller and smaller over time.
“We’re out off the beaten path, three miles west of Dumas. We had been thinking about doing away with lunch and replacing it with steak dinners. In 2012, we did just that.”
Pam explained that Chuck had started cooking at nearby duck lodges in the winter time, gaining valuable information about dry aging beef. As his knowledge of beef grew wider, the Taylors’ youngest daughter grew up.
“In 2012, our youngest daughter was a senior in high school,” Chuck recalled. “When she went off to college, we decided to transition to dinner service to focus on the steakhouse.”
The Taylor family completely remodeled the insides and connected them. The process took several years. Since that time, the aged steaks at Taylor’s have quickly grown popular for their flavor and size.
Kansas City bone-in ribeyes and T-bone steaks run 25-28 ounces. There’s also a 31 ounce Porterhouse steak for two. Once the day’s supply is gone, they’re out. The Taylors serve other great dishes, pulled from the family cookbooks and the previous lunchtime menu. Some of those classics include the crawfish enchilada plate, bread pudding and a chocolate bread pudding.
Word of mouth has been a powerful tool for Taylor’s Steakhouse. Folks from as far as Fayetteville and Pine Bluff will stop in for a bite. And the next time they stop by, they bring friends.
Pam Taylor said that being a mile away from the Dumas airport has helped business over the years, especially during the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We get people from all over the state and from out of the state. I have a guest registry; we’ve had customers from South Africa and a guy from Japan. I have a good customer from Texas, too.”
She said the first weekend during the pandemic, the Taylor’s dining room was closed. She was shocked to step outside and find cars full of customers, waiting to place an order, silverware ready in their passenger seats.
Notably, as things begin to return to normal, the Taylors find many recognizable faces from state politics, law and business in her dining room.
“One of our frequent customers is Rep. Les Eaves from Searcy. He usually brings a group of political friends with him to discuss and do business,” Pam Taylor said.
A host of other state representatives, members of the Arkansas Department of Transportation and other business professionals stop by to eat and do business. At any given time outside of Taylor’s, you might see a pickup truck parked next to a limousine.
Pam offered a few reasons why she thinks that professionals and small-town families alike are drawn to the place.
“It’s the food. That’s the bottom line. If we did not serve a wonderful product, people wouldn’t come by. Chuck is very particular about his meat. People leave satisfied and feel the need to come back.”
For his part, Chuck Taylor credits the ambiance.
“We have a very laid-back atmosphere, and we love it,” he said. “You’re not piled up on top of each other in our place. Our tables were already spread apart when COVID allowed us to reopen. Our atmosphere is very laid back. When you come out to the country, you don’t need to be in a hurry. This environment makes politicians and lawyers and lawmakers more efficient. I think having a good meal and an at-home atmosphere makes them better public servants.”