Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Could this be the worst “dining” experience in America, or… even worse?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, July 21, 2013

Does Eat Place, Greenville, Mississippi, front door - v6379

Does Eat Place, Greenville, Mississippi, front door

Torn between numerous thoughts, I struggled with the headline, and opening paragraph.

The headline “Public Food Establishment Not Fit For Human Consumption” would be adequate, I suppose, but I really like this lead as a headline much better: “I feel like I should’ve eaten a cucumber sandwich.”

That was actually a SMS which I’d sent a good friend of mine, who had mentioned that earlier in the day, he purchased some cucumbers at a local Farmer’s Market, was pondering how to prepare them, and was considering preparing cucumber sandwiches. Naturally, I gave him a fair amount of good-natured ribbing over the matter (suggesting perhaps that he should consider joining a ladies tea party group) particularly given that he has a penchant for sausages & “fair food,” sometimes aka “carnival food.”

How did I feel after that decidedly "ungastronomic" experience? A picture is worth a thousand words. Here is but one.

How did I feel after that decidedly “ungastronomic” experience?
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Here is but one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless…

Back to the Greenville, Mississippi fiasco.

It may be best to characterize the experience with a few terms:

Clip Joint

• Nasty

• Filthy

Overpriced

• Nickel and Dime

• Avoid at All Costs

Having read the reviews on UrbanSpoon.com, I was somewhat prepared – with strong emphasis upon the minimal aspect.

The following video is a promotional piece for the region in general, features Doe’s Eat Place, and is very carefully craftily presented so as to NOT show more of the interior than necessary. It was good they did that. I dare say, if most folks had seen the interior, they’d RUN LIKE HELL to get away from there. Never mind the horrific neighborhood in which it’s located.

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I am referring to Doe’s Eat Place, 502 Nelson St., Greenville, MS 38701.

Having earlier been on Nelson Street, which was once renown for it’s Blues Nightclubs, and having been a firsthand eyewitness to the general deterioration of the area, and the squalor in which the residents lived, when I noticed the Nelson Street address, I was immediately unimpressed.

When I saw the front of the place on Google Earth, I was underwhelmed, yet astutely reserved judgment. After all, I have been to a few dives, and on occasion, been enormously impressed with the food. To be so pleasantly surprised by food which is not merely good, but excellent is the pleasant surprise one hopes for when visiting a dive. However, this was one dive with which I was not impressed in the least – neither with the “atmosphere,” the service, or food.

.

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By the way, among other reasons, Greenville has a somewhat ignominious, or infamous – take your pick – reputation for their discolored public water, which is best characterized as slightly “brown tinged” water. The water, while phenomenally soft, safe to drink, and regularly tested nine ways to Sunday, is discolored by the presence of tannins, supposedly (according to widespread local lore) from the abundance of cypress trees which grow in the area. Tannins, of course, are a substance created from humus, which is produced from the decay of organic materials. Tannins are commonly found in surface water and shallow groundwater hydraulically connected to surface waters or wetlands. Because Greenville is on the Mississippi River – which itself is the heart of the Mississippi Delta region, a phenomenally rich area agriculturally & aquatically – it’s easy to understand why the water is slightly discolored. To give an idea of what the discolored water looks like, imagine rinsing out a coffee pot with water. It has just about that same color.

As I walked up to the front of the building, I was greeted by a floppy, weatherbeaten, old wooden screen door. A rusty “OPEN” sign was tucked in behind the mesh, and between a wooden board. The sign hung precariously, attached to a piece of string tied somewhere out of view on the screen door. Given the neighborhood in which it’s located, it was little wonder to see an armed security guard seated outside.

Grasping hold of the metal handle, I pulled open the door, stepped up, and walked directly into a kitchen. At that point, to describe the experience as an inglorious – even ignoble – greeting would be generous. To characterize it as less than civil would be diplomatic.

At first glance inside, the appearance was very dilapidated, decrepit and ramshackle. I wondered in which direction I should walk. To my right, was an open doorway. Straight ahead was a counter, behind which was another doorway.

Debris of almost every kind was strewn about everywhere, on tables, floors, and walls. Clutter was rampant, and painful evidence that I was in a significantly less-than appealing place. An overwhelming sense of confusion accompanied that impression, and I felt as if I wanted to escape, though I suppressed the urge. Glancing about, it was not clear to me exactly where a clean food preparation ware was located.

Does front kitchen pan IMG_6428 copy

Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, MS – front kitchen panorama #1

Proceeding ahead, I walked around and past the counter in front of me, and entered directly the heart of another area where food was being prepared, and where other kitchen & food preparation activities were occurring. While there can be a certain “charm” associated with Southern agrarian history – imagine the decor a Cracker Barrel restaurant – this was decidedly unclean, unkempt, unhygienic and unappealing. Frankly, the “decor” was one of utter filth.

An older lady asked me, “Do you have reservations?”

I almost said, “Yes, I have many… but I’ll eat here anyway,” though I did not.

Perhaps I should have.

She led me to a table placed against the wall, which was on a slanting part of the floor, and rhetorically asked, “How’s this?” When I write “slanting,” I mean the floor was literally pitched downward from level at least by 10°. The table was directly in the midst of the kitchen & food preparation activities, and I could see the staff go about their business. To some, that might be a romantic ideal – and, in principle, I would not necessarily object. However, because the entire area was tottering, decrepit, dilapidated and deteriorated, it automatically set the bar very, very high for the expectations for the food.

Does interior kitchen 2 panorama IMG_6404 copy copy

Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, MS – interior kitchen #2 panorama

Above the doorway through which I walked was an obviously ancient stuffed duck, which was mounted upon the wall. It undoubtedly had years of collected dust and grease upon it. And yet, there it was… in the kitchen. But then, such a level of unsanitary practice would seem to be par for the course.

I simply couldn’t imagine that the Mississippi Department of Health would have allowed the business to prepare food for sale and public consumption, so I checked with their website, and found that the latest inspection revealed no serious problems. I can report that I saw at least two kitchen staff drinking and storing their personal beverages in the food preparation area. The MS DoH inspection reports are located here: http://msdh.ms.gov/food/FacilityRecord.aspx?PimsID=3935341

Does Ribeye IMG_6422

Ribeye steak, bone-in, Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, Mississippi

If by now it’s not clear enough already, let me be more bluntly succinct: I’ve seen cleaner horse stalls.

As a waitress approached my table, she asked, “Do you know what you want?” Apparently, that’s a common inquiry, because of their limited menu. Their website lists the few items they serve, which are, Ribeye, Porterhouse/T-Bone, Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Fried or Broiled Shrimp, Hot Tamales, Chili, Garlic Bread, and House Salad.

The House Salad is made with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes & seasoned  with salt & pepper (I suppose), upon which a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil is applied. Such a composition is hardly worth writing about, much less eating.

Doe’s Eat Place has no menu, per se. That is, there is no printed menu with prices, no bulletin board, no placard, no chalk board… there is NOTHING with any prices listed anywhere inside or outside the entire building. The strange irony of the matter is that there’s also a joke which goes like this: “Prices subject to change depending upon customer’s attitude.” While I imagine that most everyone understands the significant importance of one’s attitude, it’s not just a joke at Doe’s Eat Place. After I had paid, and was walking through the first kitchen, I paused briefly to photograph what I was seeing. Behind me, I heard one of the wait staff ask the cook whom was preparing the steaks (whom I also strongly suspect was the owner), “Do you want to charge extra for this one?” What does it say when there is no established price for anything one purchases?

While there, I saw some patrons arrive clutching unopened beer bottles. While Doe’s also sells beer & wine, it is also a BYOB facility. Knowing their prices were outrageously exorbitant, I asked for sweet tea, but was told their tea was not sweet. So, I ordered water.

I ordered the bone-in Ribeye steak, rare. All meals come with large-sized French fries. Everything else is a la carte, and extra. The cost of my meal was $48. With a gratuity, I rounded it up to $55. Honestly, that was the WORST $55 I have ever spent. On numerous occasions I have put $55 of gasoline in my vehicle and gotten better service.

So, while waiting, I sipped Greenville’s infamous water, on ice, and my order arrived within a few minutes. I first photographed it, then moved the fries aside, and cut into the center to examine the color, and level of doneness. It was red, and and felt warm in my mouth. A rare steak should be cool and red on the inside. While the interior was red, it was not cool. It made me wonder if the steaks were left out of the refrigerator and allowed to rise to room temperature before being cooked.

Although the steak was cooked in a top-fired gas grill/oven, it was also quite greasy. The reason why was evident. The cook places a drip pan below the steaks, and deliberately pours the drippings back over the steak before serving it.

Ribeye, interior cut, Doe's Eat Place, Greenville, Mississippi - h6423

Ribeye steak, interior cut, Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, Mississippi

By no means am I a finicky eater, and I enjoy au jus (which is sometimes commonly referred to as “pot likker”) – having made, and consumed it countless times. And, I can even stomach a certain amount of grease, oil or fat in food. However, a proper au jus should have the fat skimmed off. That was quite obviously not the case in this instance. Consequently, the flavor of the beef was almost entirely masked by by dousing with fat, which made it a decidedly unpalatable experience.

The French fried potatoes were not fried in a deep fat fryer – though there was one present – and were instead fried in a large iron skillet. Based upon their texture, flavor and “mouth feel,” I seriously question if the grease was hot enough. Properly fried food – even deep fried food – is not greasy. If the grease is not hot enough, the food soaks up grease, and produces a greasy, inferior product.

Overall, this was a most detestable and unpleasant experience on many accounts, at numerous levels, not the least of which was related to the food. The environment was filthy and atrocious to the point of being condemned. I repeat – it was so disgusting in every respect, that I am almost dumbstruck that it has been allowed, or continued to be allowed to serve the public.

Ironically, there are other locations throughout the Southeast – which, according to their website DoesEatPlace.com, are franchised locations. I would imagine, and highly suspect they are not as filthy.

While eating in dives at one time or another, has some novelty, perhaps even romantic appeal, the entire experience at Doe’s Eat House, in Greenville, Mississippi is neither trifling, nor trivial. Instead, it is one of utter revulsion on every level, and is a wholehearted failure in every aspect of considered measurement.

My recommendation: Save your money, time and effort, and STAY AWAY!

Doe's Eat Place on Urbanspoon

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5 Responses to “Could this be the worst “dining” experience in America, or… even worse?”

  1. Jay Croft said

    So, why did you eat in this place anyway? Seems that it has everything wrong with it that possibly could be wrong.

    I would walk out after one glance around the interior of the building.

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi Jay! Thanks for reading. I reckon I’d have to respond by reiterating this: “I have been to a few dives, and on occasion, been enormously impressed with the food. To be so pleasantly surprised by food which is not merely good, but excellent, is the pleasant surprise one hopes for when visiting a dive.” I was hoping for such a pleasant surprise. There are other locations – most which are franchise – and I would imagine that they are held to a significantly higher standard. While I will NOT return to this one, I would be willing to retry the fare at a franchise unit.

  2. Maybe you would be more comfortable at a Chunky Cheese or McD’s in their cookie cutter strip mall uniformity.

    You don’t eat at Doe’s if you want all that. You eat at Doe’s because your family has eaten there for generations. That’s where great-granddaddy took the twins John and James in 1944 and put them on a train to Camp Lejunne. That’s where we all went when William came back from Vietnam and after Nina’s funeral in ’96.

    Sure it’s not pretty but c’est la famille. It’s our place and our heritage and I’ll thank you to to be a good guest and not wear out your welcome.

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi James! Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. Over the course of my life, I’ve eaten in several hundreds – perhaps even thousands – of places throughout our great United States. Naturally, not all have been pleasant. And on the whole, I’ve had more positive experiences than not.

      To be certain, I am NOT knocking the community’s “heritage.” As you write, “that’s where great-granddaddy took the twins…” and “that’s where we all went when…” is probably the best reason to continuously strive for improvement, rather than wallow in historical mire. Historical significance should inspire continual improvement, rather than stagnation. And yet, “we used to be” and “we were” are all in the past. And no one lives in the past. ‘Was’ ain’t ‘is.’ To merely hold fast to a thing as it once was simply because it’s a fond memory is unwise. That’d be like longing for the horse & buggy days. And at this stage, Doe’s is probably just that… a fond memory.

      Yes, I am aware that in 2007, Doe’s owner Shug Signa was a 2007 winner of the James Beard “America’s Classics” award. And that’s one of many reasons I stopped by to sample the fare and sample the experience. Is it possible that in the past 6 years that quality could have declined? Yes, it is.

      As I shared with another reader, I think it’s important to re-emphasize that, ““I have been to a few dives, and on occasion, been enormously impressed with the food. To be so pleasantly surprised by food which is not merely good, but excellent, is the pleasant surprise one hopes for when visiting a dive.” I was hoping for such a pleasant surprise. There are other locations – most which are franchise – and I would imagine that they are held to a significantly higher standard. While I will NOT return to this one, I would be willing to retry the fare at a franchise unit.”

  3. Anthony Craven said

    I have not eaten at the original Doe’s, but did go to one of its franchise locations in Starkville, MS. My experience there was very good except for the price. I imagine that’s why it went out of business in a college town where half the population is between 18-28 years old.

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