Aside from the aroma of a sizzling steak, one thing that’s evident when people walk into the Side Porch Steak House in Bartlett is that this place has won a lot of awards. Framed certificates from year after year of wins in the Bartlett Express Readers’ Choice Awards are testimony to the business’s popularity.
This year is no exception. In the 2017 voting, the Side Porch won as Best Overall Restaurant, Best Fine Dining, and Best Steaks. Tim Teel, who’s owned the Side Porch for the past nine years, explained why his restaurant remains a perennial winner.
“Our whole mission is to provide a quality, generous meal in a pleasant, friendly atmosphere with good service,” he said. “And we strive to do that, and I think we pretty well do it.”
That feeling of being a local gathering spot is important to him. “It’s very much a place where you sit there and a customer takes 10 minutes to leave because they’re stopping to talk to people at other tables that they know. So it’s very much a neighborhood-oriented place. Everybody that comes in I treat them like I would my neighbors.”
He instills that point of view in his employees, emphasizing that he and they are there for the customers. Previously, when something was wrong with an order the server had to get a manager to come fix it. Teel changed that practice immediately.
“I enabled them,” he said. “If the customer isn’t happy, you fix it. And we’ll talk later about what went wrong and fix it for next time.”
Side Porch prioritizes getting stuff done, he said. People have told him they’ve never seen another restaurant where the bus person was that quick to get to a table and clear it. Teel’s response is that his employees know that the next customers are waiting for that table. Teel likes to see that customer-focused attitude in all his staff.
“We’re all on top of getting stuff done,” he said.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, and on Saturdays when the doors unlock, Side Porch quickly fills up. Business is good with customers from Bartlett and farther afield. Some come all the way from Mario, Ark., at least twice a month.
“We get busier every year, and that’s what’s supposed to happen,” Teel said. “We just make sure we have quality food, good service and we go from there.”
Side Porch seats 100 and may serve 120 people over a weeknight or 250-300 on the busier weekends, Teel said. Last week, Side Porch served 131 on Tuesday, 100 on Wednesday and 142 on Thursday.
On Fridays, his waitlist usually starts before 5 p.m. On Saturdays, it begins even earlier, usually around 4:40 p.m.
“When we unlock the door on Saturday, they’re standing outside,” he said.
But even at its busiest, the restaurant’s wait times generally don’t exceed 45 minutes. Side Porch is open five days a week, with Sunday and Monday open only for private parties of 25 or more. Teel said he usually books three to four private parties a month.
“During the holidays, I have people booking their Christmas parties as soon as they finish this year’s,” he said.
The restaurant has existed in its current location for 41 years. It was built in 1936 as a home and served as just that until about 1971. Teel has no plans for expansion or moving.
“I have seen way too many businesses try to expand their building or move to a larger location and lose the ambiance, the feel,” he said. “And I don’t want to do that. I’ve had people tell me, ‘It’s like coming to my grandmother’s house.’”
For more information, including the menu and customers’ reviews, see the restaurant’s website at .
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.