When his previous career took a turn in a different direction, Terry Taylor drove his passion for cooking delicious food “on the road,” so to speak, with the Gourmet Grillers food truck you may see from time to time.
But now, Taylor’s ability to creative great food has been brought “underground” as the new owner of the Hernando Underground Cafe at 2476 Memphis Street and Commerce near the courthouse in Hernando.
He has spent much of his time involved in electronics, but with the changing face of the industry, Taylor chose to head off and follow his cooking passions.
“I went into business with my father when I got out of high school and we did that for about 39 years,” Taylor said. “I could see my area of electronics moving away and I was going to have to move my store to a different location to keep the business going with cell phones and satellite radio and stuff like that taking over my business.”
It was a visit to a culinary school in Memphis to get information that took him on a new career path, Taylor said.
“I went over to L’Ecole Culinaire just to kind of check out their program and when I left, I was enrolled,” said Taylor. “I went through their three-year course and got a culinary degree, trained in Italy for a little while, came back and was offered the ownership of the Marianna Country Club operation in Arkansas.”
Taylor operated the restaurant there for awhile until the commute and time away became too much and he chose to get closer to home with the start of Gourmet Grillers food truck, which led to the purchase of the restaurant earlier this year.
“When we took over this restaurant, I added a few more sandwiches and we incorporated the reuben sandwich that they already had here, but we use my recipe for the corn beef and everything,” Taylor said, adding he smokes his own meat to control the flavors and quality.
“Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, we have as good a steak as any steakhouse, along with our other menu items,” Taylor said. “We have Delmonico rib eye, New York strips and on Friday and Saturday nights, we have fresh prime ribs. That seems to have gone over real well.”
Taylor admits the location basically in the basement of a historic downtown building brings its challenges, but added the search is worth it when people come.
“There’s a lot you can’t do with the building, because it’s a historical landmark that was built in 1915,” said Taylor. “We’ve been working the whole time in doing improvements, with new restaurant equipment to keep up with the business increase that we’ve had. We’re looking to get more seating because it’s busy here Friday nights.”
Taylor adds he gets great support from his staff, including general manager Dean Meucci and night and weekend manager Taylor Toombs.
“I want to make sure all of my customers are seated and waited on in a timely fashion, said Taylor. “We always have two servers at lunch and three servers and a hostess on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday lunch.”
The restaurant’s decor are all local photos of Hernando done by Taylor’s daughter, a photographic hobbyist.
“The biggest satisfaction I get is the look on people’s faces when they taste the food and in creating a good dish that’s sometimes unusual and different from something they’ve had before,” Taylor said.
More information on the Hernando Underground Cafe is found on its Facebook page, or by calling 662-298-3135. Reservations are taken and the restaurant is available for private parties.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.