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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Get Your Steak On at Doe's Eat Place

This article has been published in the August 2010 issue of Town Favorites Magazine. You can visit the Town Favorites website at http://www.townfavorites.com/, follow them on Twitter @TownFavorites, and find their magazines at over 150 restaurants and businesses around Baton Rouge! Pick up a copy today!

Doe's Eat Place in the Maestri Home on Government Street
Get Your Steak On at Doe’s Eat Place

by Jay D. Ducote

As much as we love seafood in Louisiana, sometimes nothing beats sinking your teeth into a huge slab of beef. Instead of going into the treacheries of the oil spill and the lasting effects it is sure to have on our seafood industry, I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on our favorite bovine feast: steak! Baton Rouge has a casual, yet fantastic place to do just that. Doe’s Eat Place on Government Street does not try to be anything they are not. They don’t pretend to be fancy or high class. They’ll never turn up their nose at a customer or ask if they’d like sparkling or still water. They’ll just serve great cuts of beef, cooked properly and seasoned wonderfully.

Dominic “Doe” and Mamie Signa opened the original Doe’s in Greenville, Mississippi in 1941. The two were Italian immigrants who settled in Greenville. Delta style tamales were the original staple and then steaks followed as a back door trade. The first franchise (although it was more of a simple licensing agreement at the time) opened in Little Rock in 1988 and quickly became then Governor Bill Clinton’s favorite restaurant. Theresa Overby, owner of the Baton Rouge location with her husband Scott, worked at the Little Rock location for eight years and developed an operational knowledge of the brand. The Signas contacted Theresa (knowing that Scott was a Louisiana native) to see if they would be interested in owning a franchise. The couple said they might consider a Baton Rouge location at some point. Scott was working for a mortgage lender at the time and when they saw that industry start to free fall, they began to seriously consider the possibility.

Owners Scott and Theresa Overby Pose with Jay Ducote (Center) at Doe's
Not much time passed before they were sold on the idea. Theresa and Scott wanted to be true to the brand when finding their new location in Baton Rouge. Anyone who has been to the original location in Greenville understands the charm of the old house and the neighborhood. Doe’s in Baton Rouge finally landed at the Maestri home on Government Street. Theresa says the home “has been a perfect fit for what we do.” She went on to say, “The building has such lovely bones, so we ‘unadorned’ the space with earthy colors and pine plank floors to allow the natural warmth of the home to shine.”

Doe's Delta Style Tamales and Homemade Chili
The Capital Heights, Garden District and Glenmore neighborhoods have been great supporters of Doe’s Eat Place in Mid City. Theresa declared that they are “blessed to have a strong core clientele that appreciates the ability to get a really fine steak in a casual setting.” Doe’s niche is family business. According to Theresa, “there are a number of great steakhouses in Baton Rouge, but what sets us apart is the lack of white tablecloths and whispering. We are a great place to bring the family, meet for business or enjoy a sporting event downstairs in the bar area.” The bar area is a beautiful LSU themed room stocked with a full bar and HD televisions. It is a great place for adults to hang out while the kids create crayon embellished cows to hang on the walls.

Doe’s opened the first weekend of September 2007 and business soared for the first year. When Gustav hit in 2008, Doe’s spent their one year anniversary in the dark, waiting for electricity and health department clearance. Being down for three weeks created a challenge for Doe’s, just like it did for a number of restaurants and small businesses. The economic downturn finally hit Baton Rouge in 2009, and due to the higher price of choice and prime beef, they felt a 20-25% hit in business. After a roller coaster ride to start 2010 and dealing with some instability in seafood pricing, things now seem to be looking up again as the dog days of summer move on.

A Porterhouse (Right) and Ribeye (Left) sit Ready for the Broiler
The signature culinary treat at Doe’s is undoubtedly their steaks. Doe’s serves only Sterling Silver brand premium beef. The meat is graded and measured using set standards for marbling (the little flakes of fat mixed into the muscle tissue of a cow that cause it to be so juicy and delicious), color, maturity and texture. Doe’s only sells the top 12% of beef by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading standards. The top 12% is a mixture of USDA Prime and the top tier of USDA Choice beef. Only 2% of the beef in the country qualifies for the prime grading. Theresa and Scott buy whole loins of beef and cut all of the steaks in house to varying levels of thickness. The trend in the fine steak business has been moving away from steakhouses cutting their own beef, but fortunately Doe’s never serves precut steaks. Doe’s steaks are all cooked to order on ceramic broilers. The heat comes from above the meat at a temperature of 650 degrees. While this sounds very hot, especially compared to a typical home oven, many restaurants cook under the high heat of infrared ovens that reach temperatures of over 1600 degrees.

Steaks Cook in the 650 Degree Broiler
I dined at Doe’s with Eric Ducote of the Baton Rouge Beer Scene and Brent Broussard, a teacher and coach at Woodlawn High School. We began our meal with an order of a dozen tamales, the dish that started it all. They Mississippi Delta style tamales, a tribute to the culinary influences of a land that author David L. Cohn famously decribed "begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg." Rather than being steamed like traditional Mexican style tamales, they are wrapped in parchment paper and cooked in a brine. The chili that accompanies them is made in house at Doe’s with the ground trimmings of their steaks. As I unwrapped the tamale from the husk I caught a whiff of corn meal and brine, and the aroma started the salivation in my mouth. After topping the finger-sized tamale with chili, I broke a piece off with my fork and took a bite. While they are certainly not overly spicy, they have a tremendous flavor that is complemented nicely by the chili.

Happy Hour Grub: Sirloin Sliders
Theresa and Scott wanted to show me the newest addition to their cuisine. They recently started a happy hour menu that is available in the bar from 4:30-6:00 pm, so it’s great for an early dinner after work. Doe’s has also added tenderloin sliders, onion rings and their soon-to-be-famous Doe’s burger to their full menu. The burger, a favorite with their Friday lunch crowd, uses the prime and top choice steak trimmings, grinds them up twice, and forms them into half pound burger patties. While I didn’t get to try a burger, I did sneak a taste of the three sliders that Doe’s now offers. Each slider contains some thin, tender cuts of beef, but is dressed a little differently. One has a shrimp added to it while another is topped with crumbled bleu cheese.

Doe's Dough: Homemade Drop Biscuits
Every Doe’s steak comes with a salad, a side, and their homemade drop biscuits. The salad is a Doe’s staple. Aunt Florence has been making the same salad in Greenville since the restaurant opened. It’s a very simple “maw maw” salad with lettuce, tomatoes, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. But a word of caution, it seems to be a love it or hate it salad in Baton Rouge. Fortunately for some, they have added the option of ranch or bleu cheese dressing for the haters. Doe’s French fries are hand cut daily in-house and are definitely a crowd-pleaser. Also, the biscuits are worth noting. The fried balls of dough are delicious when drizzled with honey and are unique accompaniments at a restaurant with such amazing beef.

Speaking of beef, let’s get to the real reason I went to Doe’s… the steak! Since there were three of us we decided that it would make sense to get three different cuts of beef. This way we could try a variety of awesomeness. We ordered the two pound ribeye, the smaller of the two filet mignon options, and the largest porterhouse, weighing in at two and a half pounds. All of our steaks were ordered to a medium rare temperature, as good steak should be. We can debate that at another time, but just for the record, overcooking a prime steak cooks all the fat out of it. This seems irrational to me because you are paying for the steak’s marbling, which is purely fat content! I usually don’t know whether to laugh or cry at somebody that orders a beautiful cut of meat and gets it cooked well done. Oh well, I don’t have to eat it!

The Two-Pound Bone-In Ribeye with Fries
The quality of the steak at Doe’s Eat Place absolutely lives up to the hype. Each cut made its way straight from the broiler to a plate and then to our table, and they were all cooked just right. The juices poured out of the beef, and each steak appeared in front of us in its own way as a work of art. The cowboy cut, or bone-in, ribeye is a beautiful cut of meat. It perhaps marbles the most out of any of the cuts. The marbling gives it incredible flavor; exactly what a great steak should taste like.

Doe's Smallest Filet Mignon Cooked to a Beautiful Medium Rare
The filet mignon is typically the smallest cut of steak, but that’s not its only claim to fame. Of all steaks, the filet is both the leanest cut and the most tender. The steak comes from a strip of muscle that sits hidden underneath the ribs of a cow. Since the muscle is rarely used, it has low amounts of stress on it, and therefore remains tender despite the lower overall fat content. The filet at Doe’s was still a rather large steak despite being the smallest cut of beef on the menu. Each bite seemed to nearly melt in mouth.

Finally, the porterhouse is often considered the granddaddy of all steaks. To those unfamiliar or intimidated by a porterhouse, allow me to enlighten you. The porterhouse is known as the prize cut because it is indeed two steaks in one. On the larger side of the bone is a New York Strip. This flavorful cut of beef is second only to the ribeye in terms of marbling. The strip is usually thought of as the true beef-lover’s steak, as its meat really carries the taste of the steer. It can be succulent while actually requiring a slight amount of chewing. The bone is important for adding flavor and sealing in juices. Just on the other side of the bone comes your very own piece of tenderloin, also known as a filet mignon. Doe’s two and half pound porterhouse is one of the best I’ve ever had. The filet side oozed a very buttery flavor. The strip section made me work a little harder as I actually had to use a knife to cut it - but what’s a steak without a big steak knife?

The 2 1/2 Pound Porterhouse is One Huge Steak!
All in all I couldn’t have been much happier with my trip to Doe’s Eat Place. I got to hear a great story about a local restaurant with passionate owners. I filled my belly with terrific tamales, buttery biscuits, fresh fries, and truly indulgent steaks. I even got to dine with a couple friends and enjoy the LSU themed bar area that would be great for a private party or just watching a game. I’m going to make sure I hit up Doe’s again very soon. Perhaps they’ll do another #MeatUp Tweetup in the next couple months. Make sure to follow them on Twitter @BatonRougeSteak if you want to be included!


Jay D. Ducote is the author of the blog Bite and Booze, which chronicles his culinary and indulgent cultural experiences around Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, and the world. It can be found at www.biteandbooze.com. You can also reach him by email at jaydducote@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @biteandbooze.

Thanks to Eric Ducote of BRBeerScene.com for taking all the pictures for this article.

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