By Brandi Perry
Located just a few miles off Highway 61, Doe’s Eat Place has called Greenville home for more than 80 years. Snuggled along the muddy bluffs of the Mississippi River, this iconic restaurant has a history that is nearly as thick as its porterhouse.
Dominick “Doe” Signa and his wife, Mamie, opened the famous restaurant in 1941, but this was far from where the history started at this Nelson Street location. Doe’s father had moved to the Mississippi Delta in 1903 and opened a grocery store in what is now the restaurant. The store was a huge success, and the family lived in a house just behind the building. However, the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 dramatically changed the lives of all the residents of Greenville.
Two levees threatened to breach in the immediate Greenville area, and the residents here had prepared as best they could for the flood—they all knew it was just a matter of time. The prearranged signal, a fire whistle, sounded on the morning of April 21, 1927. After several years of making ends meet, Signa decided he would open up a honkytonk in the front of the old grocery store, and it was just for local African-Americans to enjoy. Around the same time, Mamie received a partial recipe for hot tamales, and after trying to perfect the recipe, she began selling them out the back door of the building. The Mississippi Delta is known for hot tamales, and many restaurants try to recreate the flavor of what Mamie developed many years ago, but none have been able to replicate it yet. Even at this point, the Signa’s had no idea their cooking was about to put them on the culinary map in Mississippi.
A local doctor stopped by once to get something to eat between calls. Big Doe threw a steak on the grill for him, and the doctor enjoyed it so much he began to make regular trips. It was not long before he started bringing others with him as well. Signa knew that word was spreading about his steaks and Mamie’s hot tamales, so it was time to make a decision. Little did he know this decision would take Mississippi’s culinary world by storm, and people would drive up to four hours a night for one of his steaks.
Big Doe Signa knew that he could not make this restaurant successful on his own, so after calling his family and in-laws, he shut down the honkytonk, and his restaurant quickly became the talk of the town. Even though Big Doe retired in 1974 and passed the family busy on to his sons, they kept everything as he had originally had it. Guests still enter the front kitchen and pass that grill with steak stacked high and enter the main dining with walls adorned with pictures from Doe’s early years, vintage signage and photographs with signatures marking the visit of professional athletes and movie stars throughout the years.
In addition to their hot tamales and chili, Doe’s Eat Place also serves fried and boiled shrimp. However, their steaks are the star of the show. Their menu is small, but the taste of their cuts of beef is gigantic. The ribeye is a traditional favorite, while the filet mignon is the most tender steak on their menu. However, their porterhouse and sirloin are the stars of this show. The porterhouse includes a T-bone and is fresh cut from choice short loins right there in the store. Their sirloin is also fresh-cut and is big enough to serve three or four people. The house salad is something you have not experienced before. They use the perfect blend of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to create the perfect dressing for their house salad, and it leaves no need for additional dressing.
Visitors to Doe’s Eat Place have been sharing all the delicious details about this place for more than 80 years, so it is no wonder that steak lovers outside of the south have come to notice this special place. The porterhouse steak was ranked “1 in 100 Best Things to Eat in America” by Men’s Journal. Southern Living Magazine went as far as to say that Doe’s Eat Place is one of the South’s Best Road Foods in May 2011, while Food Network’s Bon Appetit Magazine called the steaks here “one of the best steaks in America.” All these tremendous praises cannot be wrong but one of the most spectacular awards this location has garnered was the 2007 James Beard American Classic Award, which puts it on a map of which very few restaurants ever get to be a part.
Doe’s Eat Place started expanding through several wonderful franchises throughout the south and now boasts fourteen locations in seven states. If you are interested in taking the name of Mississippi’s most notable steak restaurant to another level, the information you need can be found on their website.
If you are ready to make the journey to Greenville, Mississippi, and sink your teeth in one of the best steaks you will ever have, they are open Monday through Saturday, 5 pm to 9 pm. If you have any questions or want to study the menu before visiting, please call (662) 334-3315 or go to their website at doeseatplace.com.
A trip to Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville should be on the culinary bucket list of everyone that considers themselves a foodie or a steak connoisseur. It is suggested that you make a reservation because getting into Doe’s is often a challenge. The outside of the restaurant could indeed use some work but it just adds to the character of the historic restaurant. From experience, it seems as though restaurants with this type of character offer far better foods than those newer, well-built establishments. There is one thing for sure: you will not regret your dining experience at the original Doe’s Eat Place in Greenwood.