Doe’s Eat Place and Big Mamma’s Fine Foods in Monroe are opposite ends of delicious spectrum
I will never forget my first experience with Doe’s Eat Place. It was the spring of 2000. I worked as a regional freelancer for Time magazine, and the editorial board had assembled a group of senior editors to travel via a chartered yacht down the length of the Mississippi River, making stops to investigate port cities along the way. I was based in New Orleans and had connections in Greenville, Mississippi, so I was charged with planning events for the senior staff at those ports of call. I called on Bern and Franke Keating to help me navigate the plans for the Greenville fete. Both were internationally celebrated for their skills as a writer (he) and photographer (she) and they had circled the globe no less than three times documenting their findings for numerous publications. The Keatings were brilliant, talented, elegant, witty and, best of all, well connected.
Franke seized upon that Time Inc., expense account with great fervor and wasted no time in calling on every person of significance within the art, music, and academic worlds throughout Mississippi to gather at her Greenville home for a grand early evening garden party to greet the arriving press. Following the cocktail party the Keatings and the core members of the group decamped for dinner at the original Doe’s Eat Place. To reach our destination, after parking we walked through a neighborhood where drug dealers brazenly peddled their wares from the sidewalk and passersby glared at us with open hostility. When we reached Doe’s, open since 1941 and showing every year, nattily attired patrons sat on the steps passing bottles of wine and brown liquor “disguised” in brown bags as they awaited their tables. Inside, the floors leaned, and nary a secret was kept from within the open kitchen in the middle of the room. People crushed together around checkered, oil cloth-covered tables, which they were obliged to occupy with near and total strangers if need be. It was worth it for the obscenely large Porterhouse and T-bone steaks that took on unimaginable flavor and a brilliant char over the well-worn blazing broilers.
The other big draws were gigantic broiled shrimp, crisp matchstick fries, and deliciously meaty, greasy tamales.
Over the years the Signa family has opened Doe’s outposts around the South, including one in Monroe in 2014. The vibe here is quite different from the experience to be had in Greenville. Here, diners will find all of the comfort and polish they expect at a steakhouse offering the top-notch cuts of beef, fresh seafood, those greasy-good tamales, and indulgent sides and desserts. There are also extensive wine and whiskey lists so you can leave that brown bag at home.
Dorothy “Big Mamma” Gilbert and her family pack in the regulars with daily plate lunches featuring luscious Southern vegetable dishes like real butter and cream mashed potatoes, butter beans studded with ham, stewed chicken and dumplings, candied yams, mustard and turnip greens, stewed corn, and black eyed peas alongside their famous shatter-crisp fried chicken and heavenly smothered pork chops. The hot water cornbread belongs on everyone’s bucket list. “Don’t bring that plate back with food on it,” Daryl Gilbert recently said as she handed over a heaping $8 plate of glorious goodness. Huh? As if.
Doe’s Eat Place300 Washington St., Suite 108, Monroe
Big Momma’s Fine Foods1118 S. Second St., Monroe