Trusting in Timing

Posted: May 1, 2021 at 2:13 pm

The Taylor’s spontaneous move to Malta leads to running a restaurant

Story and photos by Dianna Troyer

Instead of testing the waters when making major life changes, Dan and Holly Taylor plunge in headfirst. They have always had faith their spontaneous, why-not decisions will work out.

They randomly chose to live in Malta in 2018, even though they had no jobs and knew no one there. Next, they launched a business with no experience, running Black Pine Steakhouse.

Dan Taylor shows off Black Pine Steakhouse french fries. He and his wife, Holly, learned the secret to fries with a lasting crunch.
Dan Taylor shows off Black Pine Steakhouse french fries. He and his wife, Holly, learned the secret to fries with a lasting crunch.

“It’s been a whole new world for us, learning what goes on behind the scenes to run a restaurant: controlling inventory, taxes, unemployment insurance, and maintenance issues,” Holly says. “Cooking
is the fun part, and talking to customers.”

The Taylors opened the popular restaurant in November after two months of remodeling. It had been closed for about nine months after the previous manager was diagnosed with cancer and could no
longer run it.

“The steakhouse has always been more than a restaurant to the community,” Dan says. “With our banquet room, it’s a place to come to for meetings or family celebrations. We want to keep it that way.”

“We want it to be a family-friendly place where people feel comfortable to linger,” Holly says. “We welcome sports teams and fans to stop by after a game to have a milkshake or our signature dessert: hot
skillet cookies with ice cream.”

Customers are grateful the restaurant is open again.

“It’s nice to have a place to come to,” says Jim Freideman, who orders a pulled pork sandwich lunch special. “Whatever they make is good.”

His wife, Karen, says it’s a comforting, cheerful place.

Through word of mouth, the Taylors learned their neighbor bought the steakhouse and needed someone to run it.

“We wanted to give it a try even though we didn’t have restaurant experience,” Holly says.

They asked for advice from Tracy Morey, who originally opened the steakhouse and runs a restaurant in Burley.

“He taught us to live by a budget, a scale and a timer,” Dan says. “You need precise proportions and specific times for food on the grill and in the fryer.”

Tracy taught them culinary trade secrets.

How do they keep their trademark french fries crisp?

“Blanche them two minutes in the fryer, then put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until they’re ordered,” Dan says, as he drop a basket of fries in sizzling oil and sets a timer. “When we get an order, we drop them in again for two minutes.”

What is the key to juicy burgers?

“After we grill them, they marinate in a pan of hot au jus sauce,” Holly says.

While learning to cook, the Taylors painted walls and upholstered seating. For décor, they accepted an offer from taxidermist Sara VanMeter to display wildlife. A fox, badger, antelope and deer
greet diners.

Satisfied with the spruced-up interior, they turned their attention to the menu: steak, seafood, pasta, sandwiches and local favorites, such as the Tom Hitt Cheeseburger, a double burger drenched
in gravy.

They added their own touch with the Mountain Man Cheesesteak sandwich and a Saturday special called Caveman Stew.

“It has a lot of meat: chicken, steak, bacon,” Holly says.

They seek customer input on the Black Pine Steakhouse Facebook page, recently asking for a vote on the next sandwich: prime rib, tri-tip or ribeye.

“The prime rib won, with ribeye a close second,” Dan says.

Holly says they like customer feedback.

“We love talking to people,” Holly says. “It’s one of the things we noticed when we came to look at property here. Drivers in pickups stop along the road and visit. Neighbors take time for each other. In
cities, people are busy and aren’t interested in getting to know others.”

The Taylors moved from Boise because they wanted to escape urban congestion.

“The kids I taught in Sunday school from southeastern Idaho were down-to-earth, accepting and caring,” Dan recalls. “We thought we’d start looking in that region.”

Living in a small town appealed to Dan, who grew up in Harpster, a town of 85 near Clearwater in northern Idaho.

“I’ve always liked the lifestyle in small towns,” he says.

Looking online, they found a house on a 1.25-acre lot in downtown Malta, a town they had never heard of.

“It was a fixer-upper that needed a lot of work to be comfortable for us and our seven kids,” Holly says. “We loved the size of the lot and the beautiful poppies and other flowers there. As soon as we saw it in person, we knew it was home. We liked the sense of community, too.”

Formerly a Citibank call center employee in Boise, Dan switched careers when they moved to Malta. He found a carpentry job until the restaurant opportunity arose. Along with the construction income, they relied on sales from his fantasy book series, “Legends of Pangea,” available at the steakhouse.

“We know we made the right move coming here and running the steakhouse, too,” Dan says. “We’ve never looked back and are here to stay.”

Holly Taylor, part of the Black Pine team
Holly Taylor, part of the Black Pine team
The Taylors' daughter, Natalie, part of the Black Pine team
The Taylors’ daughter, Natalie, part of the Black Pine team
Cameron Briggs, part of the Black Pine team
Cameron Briggs, part of the Black Pine team