Where more than steak is on the menu
By RAY LINVILLE » Photos by Don McKenzie
672 SW Broad St.
Southern Pines, NC
“If you love the customers and the employees as well as the food, why not buy the restaurant?” might have been a question posed to Tammy Waterbury, who began working at Beefeaters in downtown Southern Pines in 1994.
The restaurant’s owner and operator since 2011, she is its heart and soul.
“I enjoy the people the most,” she says about the best part of now being the owner. “I have a lot of long-term customers, particularly from the time when I was on the floor and behind the bar. And I have a lot of long-term employees. Almost everybody has been here quite a while from the kitchen to the front of the house.”
What about the food? “Salmon and ribeye are my favorites,” she admits. Yes, Beefeaters is known as much for its “surf” entrees —salmon, shrimp, catfish, lobster tail, cod, flounder, scallops, crab — as for its “turf” — prime rib, ribeye, New York strip, porterhouse, filet mignon.
A regular cut is 12 ounces for a prime rib, ribeye, and New York strip. A large cut is 14 ounces. For a filet mignon, the sizes are six and eight ounces for petite and regular cuts respectively. For ambitious appetites, a cowboy steak — a 16-ounce bone-in ribeye — is alluring as is a porterhouse that weighs in at 24 ounces.
“The best seller is prime rib, closely followed by the ribeye,” Waterbury says. Other specialties include chicken, baby back ribs, frog legs, pork chop and pork loin.
Specialty toppings — house-made coffee rub, black and blue, buffalo and blue, Oscar, blackened or seasoned salt rub, or a mixture of grilled mushrooms, onions and cheese — can be added to enhance the flavors of steak, seafood, and chicken. “Coffee rub is my favorite. I love it on a ribeye,” she adds.
Entrees include a choice of potato (baked, mashed, sweet, or fries), steamed vegetables, or rice. “We prepare a lot of baked sweet potatoes. We cook them in a really hot oven and wait until they’re delicious before taking them out. Customers tell us that they can’t make them that way at home,” Waterbury says.
Entrees also include a trip to the most generously stocked make-it-yourself salad bar in the Sandhills. It’s a local favorite where everyone goes after placing their orders. (My wife loves the watermelon pickles.)
The full selection of appetizers is also tempting. (My favorites are potato skins with bacon and cheddar cheese.) A special menu is available for children 12 and younger. Yes, it includes prime rib and ribeye, which makes Beefeaters popular with every member of the family. In the lounge, a special menu of sandwiches and burgers is also available as is the full menu.
Each Tuesday, Waterbury also develops specials, which are listed on a large blackboard at the restaurant’s foyer, for the staff to execute throughout the week. When I visited, coconut lime shrimp was the entrée special. The appetizer was Reuben potato skins, and the dessert was a cookie jar bread pudding.
Although the dessert special is appealing, most locals find their favorites on the regular dessert menu. “The featured dessert is always popular, but the best seller is the coconut cream pie,” she adds.
Beefeaters is also a destination for special events such as “birthdays, large golf groups, anniversaries, business functions for customers and staffs,” Waterbury says. “For banquets, we can accommodate up to 100 people. In fact, the next group will be 50 people attending a surprise birthday party — this is not uncommon.
“Typically a year in advance, we book holiday parties — from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day — and we also host a couple of events in early January. Some groups book for the next year when they hold a party to reserve the specific night that they want.”
What’s Beefeaters’ secret to longevity? “We’re friendly and we don’t try to be too fancy. We offer good quality food, prepared simply, at a fair price,” she explains.
As locally owned restaurants come and go and struggle to compete against an increasing number of chain franchises, Beefeaters has clearly carved a successful niche in the Sandhills. Perhaps one reason is that the location has been a “go to” place for local dining for decades.
“There’s been a restaurant on the site for almost 75 years. The first was Dante’s Italian restaurant,” Waterbury says. By searching online newspaper archives, I found an ad in 1948 for it that lists steaks, chicken, and spaghetti as its top choices as well as an article announcing its opening on Columbus Day in 1947. Dante Montesanti, the original owner, claimed it to be the only Italian restaurant between Washington, DC, and Atlanta.
“I actually have several older patrons who remember Dante’s,” she adds.
Dante’s soon learned how popular steaks are. “The restaurant later became The Peddler before changing its name to Beefeaters,” Waterbury says.
Although it has won just about every restaurant category locally, including best steak in Moore County since 1999, one of its prized awards is from the N.C. Cattlemen’s Beef Council, which represents the state’s 19,000 cattle producers. The council proclaimed Beefeaters as a “state winner for outstanding and continuing innovation in menuing beef.” Its “Best Steak in North Carolina” award, given only once a year by the cattlemen, is truly a mark of distinction for Beefeaters.
With such a legacy, it’s easy to understand why Beefeaters is so popular – and why Waterbury bought the restaurant.