By Denise DuBois
Gil Dyer and Rusty Gorman saw a need for a local restaurant that didn’t compete with barbecue, fast food or Mexican food and the duo decided to deliver. T-Bones Steakhouse opened Aug. 21 in Ladonia after converting a Piggly Wiggly store into a bonafide restaurant complete with event and party rooms, a full bar and seating for diners.
“The property became available when the Milligans decided to close this Piggly Wiggly,” Dyer said. “Our family bought the property, and we decided that due to the size of the space, it would be great to fill it with a sit-down restaurant out here.”
Dyer said he and Gorman have been friends for several years. The two share a similar work ethic and have experiences with their own businesses, so this became a perfect fit. For 32 years, Dyer has owned and operated Gil’s Auto Sales in Phenix City, Columbus and Opelika. Gorman opened Custom Jewelers 30 years ago and caters events like weddings and feeds the Central High School football team before Friday night games.
“We decided to go in together and open a restaurant,” Dyer said. “It has been absolutely fabulous as to the response that we’re getting. People love the atmosphere and the food. We’re trying to figure out and cater to the wants and needs of the people who decide to stay on this side of the river and eat.”
T-Bones offers five different cuts of steaks. While Dyer enjoys a good steak, he said his favorite dish is the bone in grilled pork chops because it’s enough to share with his wife.
“I have found that it really suits my tastes. Most people bypass it on the menu, but it is really flavorful,” he said.
In addition to great steaks, chicken and pork are also on the menu along with sides. But what really gets your mouth watering is the display of desserts when you walk through the dining room doors.
“We’re very proud of the desserts. We have different cheesecakes, a chocolate cake that’s to die for and cobblers with ice cream,” Dyer said. And on your birthday, there’s a brownie with ice cream waiting for you. Dyer also added that coffee is free with any dessert purchase.
The restaurant is open for dinner, but Dyer wanted to make sure people had a great place to visit for lunch, too.
“We have different lunch specials that we rotate. You can eat lunch for $10 and that includes your meal, your drink and your sales tax. That’s hard to do these days. Most people spend $10 on something in a paper bag to take back to work. We know we’re a blue-collar community. Working people want a eat a nice lunch,” he said.
The two wanted to make sure there was enough space for meetings and events at T-Bones. Party rooms were a must.
“We have already had 70-plus people at a meeting here and had various large birthday gatherings. Toward the holidays, people are already planning their parties, and the calendar is filling up very fast,” Dyer said.
When the restaurant opened, Dyer expected to serve 300 people in a single day. Instead, they began serving more than 500 people daily. He said there were a lot of growing pains to overcome.
“Learning how to accept that type of capacity has been a challenge, but we feel like we’ve made great progress. If you see the parking lot full, you can still come on in and get a table in a timely manner,” he said.
Dyer said he gets asked all the time when he’s going to retire. Between the car business, the tire and auto shop he opened a few years ago, being involved in the local school system and now the restaurant, there’s a lot on his plate. But he doesn’t see any need to retire any time soon. In fact, because he enjoys what he does on a daily basis, he feels like he’s already retired. After all, retirement is all about doing what you enjoy. He just hopes the community will give T-Bones a try and support local businesses.
T-Bones is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. The restaurant closes Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.