Doe’s Eat Place is Little Rock holds a special place within the Arkansas food scene. It’s been lauded by many a food-lover as the best steak in Arkansas, frequented by the rich and powerful despite its humble settings, and continues to receive favorable reviews despite its age. But most know that our Doe’s is not the original Doe’s. The original resides just
a few hours from Little Rock, about 3 hours southeast near the Arkansas-Mississippi border in the small town of Greenville, MS. This original Doe’s opened its doors in 1941 and has become a destination dining spot for steak and tamale lovers from all over the world. It’s received high marks from distinguished publications such as Bon Appetit and Southern Living, and was even awarded a James Beard Award in 2007, recognized as one of their “American Classics.” I’d heard from several loyal Doe’s fans that, “If you like the Little Rock Doe’s, you’ve got to visit the original in Greenville…it’s even better.” An interesting claim, one which I, along with a small band of beef-loving brothers, decided needed to be put to the test. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, we made the day trip down to Greenville, hopping the mighty Mississippi River and baking in the hot summer sun to see for ourselves if this place was indeed a cut above its sister site in Little Rock. I thought it might be interesting to compare the two locations point-by-point. Here’s how they both fared:
Ambiance — Winner: Original Doe’s (Greenville). To be sure, the Little Rock Doe’s is full of charm and its rich history can be seen scattered across its walls. But walking into the Greenville Doe’s is an experience you will never forget. Upon entering the front door, you immediately find yourself in a small, ancient room with the fiery broiler at its center. In the summer, it feels like you’ve stepped foot onto the surface of the sun as you’re met with huge slabs of beef being thrown onto the heat before they’re whisked away to tables.
We actually arrived 30 minutes before opening without a reservation (be sure to get a reservation if you go). They almost didn’t let us it because they were expecting to be so busy, but luckily they seated us a little before they officially opening for dinner. We were placed at a small table essentially smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen. I’ve never seen anything like it. About a dozen women buzzed around us, hauling salad, frying potatoes, scooping up tamales…and we were right in the middle of it all. Note: not every customer is seated in the kitchen—there’s only about 5 or 6 tables in this space. There are several rooms just off the kitchen that hold larger groups. But everyone walks through the space in order to take their seat. It’s the ambiance alone that makes the original Doe’s worth a visit.
Soaked Salad — Winner: Little Rock Doe’s. The Greenville Doe’s provides a slightly larger bowl of salad with your meal, and it’s very similar to the Little Rock version, but there are some noticeable differences. Greenville’s salad is slightly “more soaked” and a bit heavier on dressing…almost excessively so. It also lacked the nice punch of garlic I’ve come to expect from the version you’ll find in Little Rock. For these reasons, we preferred the Arkansas version.
Fried Shrimp — Winner: Original Doe’s (Greenville). The Little Rock location’s shrimp offerings have never been more than mediocre, in my opinion. But the fried shrimp in Greenville still stands out in my mind as one of the finer crustacean experiences I’ve had in some time. They’re a bit smaller than those offered in Little Rock, but there are more to an order. Greenville’s shrimp are fresher, hotter, crunchier, and just plain delicious.
Hot Tamales — Winner: Original Doe’s (Greenville). The Mississippi Delta is widely known to be home to some of the best hot tamales in the country and this tradition is maintained at the original Doe’s. Greenville’s tamales are softer and less dry than what you’ll find in Little Rock. These are the tamales that made Doe’s famous and they continue to do so now. The differences may be subtle, but we all agreed that Greenville has the upper hand here.
3-lb. Porterhouse — Draw. Doe’s best beef offering is equally good at both locations. It’s served swimming in its own meat juice, cooked to a lovely medium rare, and full of rich, beefy flavor. The Greenville version, however, is not served sliced as you’ll find in Little Rock…perhaps this would be an issue for some, but it did not bother me in the least. There is, perhaps, a bit more salty crust on the Little Rock version, though I suspect that may vary from steak to steak. Regardless, both locations are a primal celebration of beautiful beef.
Some final notes…one of the more notable differences was the lack of buttered toast at the Greenville version. It may seem like a simple thing, but one of the small pleasures in devouring a Doe’s steak is sopping up meat drippings with toasty bread. Sadly, we were served none at the original.
A day trip to the Delta
a deserves a stop at the original Doe’s. There’s no question, it’s one of the most unique and interesting dining experiences I’ve been a part of. It’s put Greenville, MS on the map and has left its mark of generations of steak lovers. But truthfully, Little Rock’s Doe’s does a pretty darn good job of satisfying those carnivorous cravings that occasionally hit. We should be proud such a place exists in our fair city.
Original Doe’s Eat Place: 502 Nelson Street, Greenville, MS. Mon – Sat: 5pm – 9pm
Little Rock Doe’s Eat Place: 1023 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR. (Lunch) Mon – Fri: 11am – 2pm, (Dinner) Mon – Thur: 5:30pm – 9:30pm, Fri – Sat: 5:30pm – 10pm