Maybe Shakespeare got it wrong.
A Doe’s by any other name probably wouldn’t be as big of a deal.
The restaurant did a very low profile opening last week but the fact that it was half full anyway is testament to the name of the steak and tamales restaurant that dates to 1941 in Greenville.
No advertising beyond the sign on the front of the former Beagle Bagel shop in The Promenade shopping center on east County Line Road in Ridgeland.
Inside the white facade that is the style of the center, the newest owners of a Doe’s franchise, Steve and Lisa Beagles (no relation to the bagel shop), warmed it up quite a bit – with floors and bar in dark wood.
They chose red-and-white checked tablecloths to match the original style.
Members of the founding Signa family were on hand the first Thursday night and also Friday and Saturday, double-checking to make sure everything was done right.
“They worked side-by-side with our cooks, shoulder-to-shoulder, showing them how the meat needed to be cut, everything from chili to spaghetti sauce to how to make a perfect meatball,” Steve Beagles said.
Four of the 26 employees journeyed to the Delta city on the Mississippi to be trained in the way that Dominick “Doe” Signa set 76 years ago in what had been the family’s store.
Things pretty much don’t change in the Signa world. Prices unavoidably do.
The steaks are still huge. All are two inches thick. We chose the sirloin, three and one-half to four pounds. The prices match the heft – seventy bucks for ours.
Medium rare is what we ordered, but somehow my wife’s half was closer to rare, and our server, Jeff, hustled it back to the kitchen and back to the table
It was perfect, my wife said. “This is the best steak I’ve ever eaten.”
I couldn’t stop eating to offer an assessment, but let me just say yes.
With our steaks came Doe’s original green salad, what I would call a “wet salad” with a distinct hint of lemon. I got the steak-cut fries and she opted for the baked potato.
The Beagles pride themselves in a six-ounce pours of wine, ranging from $7 to $10, past the halfway mark, rather than the common four ounces. My spouse chose her usual house chardonnay, I a satisfying red recommended by Jeff.
The tamales come wrapped in in a parchment-like paper. I cannot recall what they were wrapped in – I’m thinking corn husks – when I ate at the original Doe’s.
Tamales are made from the original Doe’s recipe, but a vendor rolls them out in a cost-prohibitive $25,000 machine, Steve Beagles said. A couple of shots of hot sauce unlock the flavor.
Nothing can replicate history, that’s for sure. But they’re trying to duplicate the experience. The Doe’s website shows a family-owned eat place in Paducah, Ky., with franchises in Little Rock, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Jonesboro in Arkansas, and others in Baton Rouge and Monroe, La., along with Biloxi.
The night I drove from Pine Bluff, Ark., to Greenville to dine at Doe’s, Greenville royalty was on hand.
Betty Carter, widow of famed newspaperman Hodding Carter II, publisher and editor the Delta Democrat-Times, was on hand to lend her charm to the atmosphere in the cinderblock edifice.
I was an editor at the Pulitzer-prize-winning Pine Bluff Commercial, owned by the Freeman brothers and I feel the equal of the DD-T, so I knew the name.
Someone pointed her out – and I hope introduced me to her, rather than I foisting myself on her – and she was smiling and gracious, just like the lady sitting across the table from me Monday night.
Reservations are accepted but the first night the doors were opened at 5 o’clock and 65 people entered before the kitchen was shut down.
Closing is 9 p.m., but Steve Beagles said that there will be no rush job on someone who shows up at 8:55. No mopping around your feet or spritzing tabletops.
Two-thirds of the customers that first night had Delta ties.
With the Signas on hand, “it was like a family reunion,” said Lisa Beagles, who shared her pecan pie from her own family repository of recipes.