David S. Rust is a Senior CNN Photojournalist
One of the most acclaimed steakhouses in America, Doe's Eat Place might not even have been a restaurant if it hadn't been for the devastating flood of 1927.
Located in the sleepy southern town of Greenville, Mississippi, the restaurant traces its roots to a grocery store opened by the Signa family when it moved to Greenville in 1903.
According to Charles Signa, Jr, one of four family members who co-own Doe's, the grocery store did very well until the massive Mississippi Flood of 1927.
The store was inundated with six feet of water, and Carmel Signa, the family patriarch, had to swim out of a window in what is now the kitchen of Doe's Eat Place.
Around 1941 the family started to dabble in the food business. Mamie Signa, Does’ wife , started working on a recipe for hot tamales. Once the recipe was perfected she began selling them. That was the start of the restaurant.
Their neighborhood was predominantly African-American. To increase business, Doe started a honky tonk strictly for "blacks" in the front of the building providing tamales, fried fish and chili to the patrons. As the business in the front became more popular, "white" friends of the family would come around to the back and were treated to home cooked meals. The Signa family likened it to "segregation in reverse".
Eventually, a friend who was a doctor offered to have a meat broiler built in Memphis for Doe for free, with just one condition - that Doe would not charge him for steaks cooked on the broiler. Both men lived up to that agreement.
As the steaks became more popular, Doe shut down the honky tonk and expanded the restaurant to serve the more profitable steaks. The family kept the menu simple, and the steaks became legendary.
Today the restaurant is still located a few blocks from the levee that keeps the Mississippi River from spilling over into the town. As newspaper headlines talk about the biggest flood since 1927, the Signa family quietly goes about the business of preparing steaks for their crowded restaurant using the same stove built for "Big Doe" in 1941.
The restaurant has been recognized by many national publications and featured on the Food Network for their steaks and tamales. There are several other Doe's Eat Place in the Southern United States, including Little Rock where President Bill Clinton used to be a regular, but the Greenville location is the original and according to Charles Jr, the best.
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