We got an early start for our “See the Delta” trip – we’re always a little concerned about allowing enough time for all the side trips we want to take. As it turned out, we were in Greenwood by 10:00 a.m. because there wasn’t anything enticing along the way. There were plenty of enticements in Greenwood, however. There is a nice little shopping strip downtown (Howard Street), with cute stores that all seemed to be having sales. Add to that the fact that it was “no tax day” there, and the buys got even better.
Greenwood’s Alluvian Hotel is on the same street, and I must say, it’s snazzy. It’s also pricey, but for folks coming to do business with Viking (which is right across the street), the hotel has to be a wonderful surprise. The lobby is striking in a very contemporary/almost-minimalist-modern sort of way, and the ladies’ room is gorgeous – really beautiful. The Viking Spa is also across the street. While that wasn’t on our agenda, it must come as another wonderful surprise to travelers.
We had wanted to tour Florewood River Plantation, but sadly, it’s closed – apparently due to some disagreement between the owners and the state or something like that. It’s a shame, as it got great recommendations and looked really interesting. We had to appease the tourist in us with a trip to Cottonlandia Museum. It was interesting, but in a school field trip kind of way. Nice stop, but once is enough unless you have little ones with you.
From Greenwood we moved on to Indianola for lunch. We were looking forward to eating at The Crown, Evelyn Roughton’s downtown restaurant. She catered Amy May’s wedding in 1994 (Amy is my goddaughter, the daughter of Karen Cooper and Robert May), and I still remember the food because this woman is so fabulous. She makes a catfish pate that is out of this world. I used to buy it at a specialty store here (that, sadly, went out of business) and I’ve really missed being able to serve it at parties – the look on people’s faces when you tell them that they haven’t been eating smoked salmon, they’ve been eating catfish is priceless. (People from other parts of the country, especially the east coast, are afraid of catfish, you know. A friend in Chicago actually thought they were poisonous. Despite that, I’ve been told that her catfish pate has won national awards at some of the big food shows. I guess food critics are more savvy.)
Anyway, we had a wonderful lunch and it’s a charming place. The restaurant exhibits the work of local artists, and has a small toy store and book store. They prepare catfish every way but fried, serve yummy beer breads with the meal, and they had a dessert table (for $2!) that contained no less than 6 pies, a trifle, and a pavlova. They serve prepared versions of the prepackaged mixes they sell (Taste of Gourmet), so it’s kind of a tasting. Also, Evelyn is the hostess-with-the-mostess that every restaurateur should be.
We walked around downtown Indianola and saw BB King’s hand and foot prints on the sidewalk at the spot where he first played for locals when he was just 17.
Then we took Evelyn’s advice and drove along the bayou. What a surprise! We didn’t really know what we were looking for, but we certainly weren’t looking for a swamp in a nice neighborhood. That’s what is it though. It’s just off the downtown area, and it is a long body of standing water with cypress trees and their knees sticking up out of the water. (Did you know that the knees rise above water to take in oxygen? I read that in a tourist brochure.) There are also bird houses planted on long sticks in the water (gotta be to lure mosquito eaters). The water is covered with some of the loveliest slime I believe I’ve ever seen – a beautiful shade of bright, light green, and as gross as it sounds, it’s very appealing. (Karen says that it is probably duck weed, a real problem, so I guess it’s not always green.) But it’s just so unexpected to come upon a sight like that! I couldn’t help worrying about mosquitoes though, what with all that standing water.Marian -- This picture of the Bayou can be taken anywhere down Main Street in Indianola. You can see the bird/duck houses on stilts in the water. The light green is slime, the dark green is lush grass...beautiful, but, also unsettling. Something made a ripple in the lime green slime just as we got out of the car. I choose to believe that it was a frog -- Kermit?
Next stop was Leland, Mississippi, and the Kermit the Frog/Jim Henson museum. Marian’s got a thing for Kermit; I’m a Miss Piggy fan myself. The nice woman at the museum was incredibly knowledgeable; she knew a lot about Jim, and she really knew her muppets. We had our photo made with a giant Kermit, bought a couple tee shirts and were on our way.
We got to Greenville about 4:30 and checked into a new Hampton Inn near the country club. What a nice hotel! We dropped off our stuff and then headed across the Mississippi River to Lake Village, Arkansas, to a store that is supposed to offer fabulous shopping. Sadly, it was a mecca for “Made in China” housewares, so we soon came back across the bridge.
Speaking of the bridge, it’s very old and doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but there is a new bridge being built that is spectacular. I imagine the Mississippi is hard on its bridges, what with the current and all.
On the way home, we stopped at Warfield Park Landing and climbed the lookout tower to get an incredible view of the Mississippi. Now, all things are relative and this is the Delta, so the “tower” is really only three or four stories high. Still, it doesn’t need to be any higher – we could see for miles! There was also an old, rusting paddlewheel boat parked not far from the “tower.” It was built in 1924, and had a full and busy life before being purchased for $1.00 and brought here. Hopefully, they will come up with the money to restore it while there’s still time. It would be a shame to lose it.
By this time, it was nearly 6:00, and we had 6:30 reservations at Doe’s Eat Place. For years (decades, maybe) we have both heard how wonderful Doe’s is, how it has the best steaks in the world, blah, blah, blah. Seldom does anyplace that gets such hype live up to it, so we were wary, but determined to eat there and put an end to thinking about it. I do believe that Doe’s is all it’s cracked up to be though. I’ve never had a better steak. Ever. It was incredible. Marian had fried shrimp (the only way I don’t like shrimp) and her shrimp was delicious. So light and flavorful, I could hardly believe it.
That said, the place gave us a fright. It’s rumored to be a dump, but that’s almost flattering. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where I would eat their food, yet didn’t want to use their bathroom. You enter through a kitchen – a really hot kitchen – with stoves going and supplies piled up everywhere. Then they seat you. There are several rooms: the side room, which you can find because the wood sign over the door says “side room,” the back room (same thing), a main room, and a few tables along a wall in a second kitchen. That’s where we sat, in the second kitchen. Our table was right on the dividing line between the kitchen and the main room, and it sloped down toward the main room. I sat on the kitchen side, but Marian sat on the main room side and she looked about two feet tall. The table came way up her chest.
The waitress came to us with a pitcher of water, and then stood there holding her tablet and pencil and looking at us. We looked back, but we didn’t know what to do. Finally, we told her we hadn’t gotten a menu, and she said that was because they didn’t have menus. She reeled off a few things and I ordered a filet and Marian ordered shrimp. I have no idea what all our choices were, but from my handy-dandy kitchen seat, I did see spaghetti, shrimp pasta, tamales and a few other things go out.We were right by the big stove where this woman cooked batch after batch of fries that had obviously been hand-cut. She had a cast iron skillet going, and that’s pretty much all she did. They were wonderful. Another woman dipped and fried shrimp. Other people buttered bread and toasted it, etc., so we had some entertainment with our dinner.
We also got a good look at their pans, and they aren’t for the faint of heart. There is so much grease cooked/caked on the outside that I don’t believe it is even possible to clean them. Seriously. I’m glad I couldn’t see the inside. What I could see was everything under and behind the stove (I’m looking into hypnosis to help me forget what I saw), and the walls and ceiling, which had electric cords running all along them. Some were in metal tubes, others just painted over. I don’t know how the place has stood so long (the sign says since 1941) without burning to the ground. It’s a miracle, a real miracle, but so was that steak. I can’t get over it.
Marian here...I have to second Susan's assessment of Doe's. To all of those who told me that Doe's has "gone down" since their heyday....obviously you were speaking of the building...NOT the food! The shrimp was better than I've ever had on the coast...any coast, any where, any time. I tasted Susan's filet. WOW....melt in your mouth, no seasoning to mask anything, 3" high and fork-tender, filet. The food definitely was fabulous. The building is still etched in my mind. The two are not a match! The wall we sat next to leaned toward the street ....the outside of the building appeared to have had a new coat of paint...maybe the paint will keep that place together -- this place needs to be preserved!
Marian and I headed back to the Hampton Inn then, fat and happy, and slept like logs despite the fact that – lucky us – we had gotten to town in time for a Little League baseball tournament and the hotel was full of 9 year olds!