On an unassuming little corner in a questionable part of town, Arkansas’s movers and shakers gather to chew the day’s news and heart-clogging steaks and tamales. With it’s faded and cracked linoleum and yellowed walls, Doe’s Eat Place seems an odd place for the political heart of Arkansas, but more deals have been made over beers and chili in Doe’s small dining room than in the halls of the state capital a few blocks away. Doe’s Eat Place gained a national reputation in 1992 when Rolling Stone magazine interviewed Bill Clinton over a plate of tamales. Intrigued by the little steakhouse, People Magazine profiled it’s owner and head chef that same year. With the presidential aspirations of Hope, Arkansas native Mike Huckabee, Doe’s is once again poised to reenter the national consciousness.
Doe’s features a limited dinner menu with steaks, tamales and salmon. Steaks are sold by the pound and range in size from a two pound T-bone to a six pound sirloin. They are served “family style,” sliced thin on a huge platter and surrounded by french fries, new potatoes in butter, Texas toast and a dinner salad loaded with garlic and oil dressing. The salmon is served with the same side dishes.
The lunch menu is only slightly more diverse, with hamburgers, cheeseburgers and chili dogs allowing for a quick bite, but Doe’s really means steaks.
On a recent dinner visit, the front room was packed with people, but my dinner companions and I were escorted to one of the smaller rooms reserved for parties. We ordered a 3 pound sirloin with all of the trimmings. Because of the large size of their steaks, Doe’s is able to cook steaks to two separate temperatures. Ours was ordered well done on one side and medium-well on the other.
Despite being busy, our server was prompt with our order and refilled our glasses before the were half-empty. Our salads arrived well ahead of our steak. Calling it a salad is generous as it consisted solely of lettuce, but the dressing was savory and highly seasoned with extra garlic.
The new potatoes were tender and drowning in butter, but they were overshadowed by the french fries. The french fries at Doe’s aren’t the golden brown, salt covered pretenders that you get at McDonald’s. These were the real deal- strips of hand sliced potato deep-fried until they are brown and crisp. The server forgot to bring us our Texas toast, but we were so full of carbohydrates and fat that we didn’t miss it.
The sides were tasty, but the real attraction was the sirloin. Our steak arrived fork-tender and tasty. The well-done side was cooked all the way through with no burnt spots. It’s hard to find a well-done steak that isn’t overcooked, but Doe’s has mastered the art. The medium-well portion of the steak was a little too pink in the middle, but it was only a minor let down in an otherwise great meal.