One thing we struggle with while on the road competing in barbecue contests around the country, is enjoying our trip and actually doing more than drive and cook. So, in 2009 we've vowed to make small adventures out of these sometimes long and difficult excursions. This weekend we sought out a local dining establishment and toured the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.Before you correct me, I now know that Doe's Eat Place is not a local establishment, even though our waitress confirmed to me that it was. Rather, it's the first franchise of the original Greensville, Mississippi establishment. With Doe's having roots back to the early 1940's, the Little Rock location opened for business in the 80's in an area described as downscale, yet only blocks from the Arkansas state capitol. It was made famous when the Clinton campaign staff adopted it as their hang-out in 1992 and President Clinton counts it as one of his favorites.
We arrived at the end of the lunch rush on Friday. With few places to park and even fewer tables available, we found our way to a small table in the back of the shotgun style joint. Well worn and homey, the tables were covered with vinyl red checkered tablecloths and the floor, once a black and white vinyl tile, is now worn down to the concrete with a great patina in many places. Doe's is famous for their steaks, served in huge portions, sliced and designed to be shared. In fact, it's considered the Holy Grail of steaks to some. To our surprise, the lunch menu also offers more traditional lunch fare like hamburgers, chili-dogs, spaghetti and catfish. Another Doe's specialty is their tamales, served with a bowl of chili on the side. While all of this was tempting, we remained focused and ordered a Porterhouse. The waitress informed us they were out of the mother of all cuts of beef, so we settled for a two and a half pound T-bone. Doe's steaks are served with their marinated salad, house cut french fries and Texas toast.As you can see by my pictures, it took a little while for our lunch to make it's way out of the kitchen. As the crowd began exiting the restaurant a few at a time, our waitress brought out an order of Doe's famous tamales with a side of chili. She explained that she had just rejected our steak because she was not pleased with the way it was cooked and had requested that they start over. So, the tamales were on the house. I realize this sounds like a negative, but honestly it wasn't. When was the last time your restaurant waitstaff took it upon themselves to exercise quality control BEFORE you were served your meal? Yeah, my point exactly. We were in no hurry, actually enjoying our time out of the cold, damp Little Rock weather so this was absolutely no inconvenience.But let me cut directly to the chase . . . . . our steak was amazing. I mean, the fries and the Texas toast were great also, but our huge, pre-sliced T-bone was a site to behold and tasted even better than it looked. Perfect doneness, great texture and tenderness and wonderful flavor, this steak was perfect. In fact, it was the kind of perfect where you don't even think about how the meat was seasoned or cooked, you just enjoy it. Speaking of which, Doe's cooks their steaks in a unique way, using a gas broiler of sorts and heats from the top, allowing the natural juices of the steak to be caught from beneath and poured back over the meat just before serving. I can't tell you if this contributes to what makes Doe's so awesome, but I can tell you they are just that.I can whole-heartedly recommend Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock to anyone craving the ultimate carnivorous experience. We left feeling completely satisfied and even a little triumphant for finding this gem. The wait staff was friendly and accommodating, the atmosphere was casual and relaxing and the meal itself was nothing short of stellar. When in Little Rock, make your way to the corner of Ringo and Markham. But be warned, bring your appetite because Doe's Eat Place don't serve no girly steaks.