No. 14: Taylors’ Made Cafe
283 Highway 365
9 percent finished with reviews of Conway restaurants based on current list
She Said: I’ve been looking for a karaoke venue where we can inflict our sound stylings on unsuspecting central Arkansans, and I happened to notice that Taylors’ Made has lots of activities weekly, such as Monday movies and Wednesday karaoke. I wasn’t familiar with the restaurant, so I wanted to try it, as one of the reasons we started this multi-year journey of reviewing every restaurant in Conway was to break us out of our comfortable five go-to-restaurants. I realized I’d been here once before when it was a former iteration. I wasn’t teaching yoga, like I usually do on Wednesdays, and I was feeding a pre-cold so as not to get a cold. This place was just the ticket for a mid-week, high-calorie date night!
He Said: I had my doubts about the legitimacy of this restaurant for this project, it being three and a half miles south of town on Highway 365. But the address is technically “Conway” according to their Website, so with some skepticism I allowed myself to leave the secure city limits and wander off into the barren wilderness toward towns with exotic names like “Mayflower.”
She Said: I like this place! It reminds me of South Dakota or Wisconsin supper clubs, not posh, but comfortable, and easy going, but still pleasant and appealing in a down-home, small-town, unpretentious way. There is a larger dining room, where we were invited to sit wherever we liked by the smiling and welcoming waitress. There’s interesting and attractive art on the paneled walls, and there is a full bar, with tables as well, to the left of the entrance. Beyond that is the Parachute Patio, which is an ample deck with a large stage for live music, a big permanent screen for movies and the set up for karaoke!
He Said: Well, the dining room was a little Spartan, I thought, despite the art, which was nice but sparse. I did enjoy the Parachute Patio, which seemed particularly comfortable in a casual way, though not necessarily where you’d want to go in an Arkansas summer.
She Said: Yeah, Ruud, we lucked into a semi-decent-weather night to try out the patio. But, Taylors’ Made is a big-old winner in my book inside or outside, because the cosmopolitan I ordered is perhaps the best I’ve had in Conway, or its outer reaches. It was perfectly “grown-up” whilst also being light and fruity for summer. It’s apparently not easy to make a cosmo as well as my brother Chuck taught me how to make at home, and the bartender at Taylors’ Made gets it. Total cosmo-awesomeness in a glass! This was a little surprising to me because in similar establishments in Wisconsin, I’ve been asked if I wanted my cabernet “on the rocks.”
He Said: I can see we’ll be returning here, if only for the cosmos. Me, I had a Coke. I got a free refill. There was lots of ice.
She Said: As I perused the menu upon sitting down to our table, I figured you’d be working hard to find something you can eat, Ruud, but I was pretty excited about the comfort-food extravaganza listed before me. Fried is the order of the day, because, of course, fried food is delicious. Of course, there were specials that weren’t fried, salmon and an ahi tuna offering, as well. A lot of dishes tempted me, fried chicken, fried shrimp, burgers, etc., but too much frying and my delicate-flower constitution don’t always get along. Given my carb-loading efforts, I was a little disappointed with the lack of pasta offerings, but I finally settled on a burger.
The Eat It, Conway! project has changed this for me, but, for the past several years, I’ve limited my burger intake to about one a quarter because I’m not that comfortable eating beef for health and humane reasons, but a great burger is one of my top-five favorite foods. It’s also a lot of calories in a fatty-carby package, which was just what the doctor ordered. I’d heard that the onion rings here are stellar, so I did something I almost never do: I sacrificed my beloved French fries to substitute onion rings. I’m so glad I did. The burger came just as I ordered, which was a nice change from the forced-cheeseburger-fun-march of Sonic recently, with lettuce, pickles, onions and mayo only. They didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked, and it may have been a little north of the medium I usually prefer, but I didn’t mind at all. It was perfectly satisfying in a way fast-food burgers never are. And those onion rings were mighty fine, the carby-coating was tasty without being greasy. It was really a great burger meal, and I actually felt some dread knowing I would have irresistible cravings for just this meal in the very near future.
He Said: This menu was quite challenging for someone looking for low-fat options. I believe every one of the appetizers was fried, and just about all of the sandwiches. There was a grilled chicken sandwich, but there was also a grilled chicken dinner, so I went for that. I was tempted by the salmon special, but the fact is I learned a lesson a long time ago that most of these kinds of “down-home” restaurants that do not have salmon as a regular item on the menu will inevitably overcook it, and if you’ve overcooked salmon—if you cook it beyond “medium”—you’ve ruined it. So I went with the grilled chicken, which came with a choice of two sides, the least fatty of which appeared to be the rice pilaf and the green beans. For less than two bucks extra, I could add a dinner salad, so I did.
The salad was actually really good—just lettuce with some grated cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and croutons, and some low-fat ranch dressing. I was quite happy with it. The rice pilaf was also very tasty, and the meal came with a dinner roll which, after I asked for butter, was very flavorful. The green beans were not bad—they pretty obviously came from a can, but they did have some bacon in them, which I needed to eat around, since bacon is anathema to the pancreas. The chicken, however, was a disappointment. I suppose it’s true of most grilled chicken breasts, but there was nothing there but the chicken breast—no kind of sauce or spice to dress it up a little. So it was basically dry and not particularly tender. I ate some of the rice with each mouthful, which made it more palatable.
She Said: Everyone here was very, very friendly, casual, laid-back and hospitable. The waitress checked on us without being omnipresent, and when we moved to the patio for karaoke, where we saw more than one table enjoying something that seemed to be a bucket of bottled beers, another waitress made sure we had eaten and didn’t need anything. The service was a big part of the easy-going, fun-night-out vibe I had here.
He Said: The friendliness was there for sure, and they were very accommodating about our moving to the patio. I suppose it’s part of their “thing” to have the waitress not write down the order, but that always annoys me a little, since unless the server has a perfect memory, s/he often either gets something wrong or has to come back and clarify something. So I was glad when the waitress came back and asked about my side dishes again, since otherwise I’d have ended up with mashed potatoes instead of rice, and there’d have been hell to pay! Well, probably not, but it was better than bringing the wrong item. And she did bring me butter for the roll right away when I asked. But my main advice: let your servers write down the friggin’ order! Who cares if they have good memories? Isn’t getting the order right our goal here?
What We Got and What We Paid: Hamburger with onion rings (substituted for the fries), grilled chicken breast with rice pilaf, green beans and a roll, a side salad, a soda, a stellar cosmopolitan and a glass of red wine for $33.07.
She Said: I had a great time (and I’m sure everyone who heard our rendition of “Jackson” did too)! The comfort food was on point, and the karaoke was a fun addition. I’ll be back, maybe in my yoga clothes after teaching gentle basics.
He Said: I imagine we’ll be back for cosmos and karaoke, and maybe I’ll treat everyone with my personal signature karaoke number, “Born to be Wild”! (“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway!”). But I’ll see if there’s something else I can order next time.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a great vibe, tasty comfort food and Parachute-Patio fun. But you’ll have a tough time eating healthy.