Shooting right through the Mississippi Delta, U.S. 82 leads to more than the birthplace of the blues. It's the pathway to some of the best steaks in the world.

Food Finds: Mississippi Delta
Frank Leflore (left) and David Ferris carry on Giardina's tradition of exceptional food and gracious hospitality.

A Steak-Lover's Paradise
At these three Southern gems, the broiled seafood and hot tamales are worth mentioning; however, it's the steaks that will bring you back.

Giardina's, one of the area's oldest and most historic restaurants, relocated to the fashionable Alluvian hotel in downtown Greenwood last June. Under the watchful eye of proprietor Frank Leflore and executive chef David Ferris, guests are treated to a food-and-wine experience with a decidedly Delta feel. Be sure to request one of the 14 private booths; once the curtain is drawn, you'll dine in an intimate atmosphere.

Like most steaks in this region, Giardina's are lightly seasoned and broiled under intense heat, which creates a flavorful crust and a juicy interior and allows the beef to do the talking. Steaks range from a filet mignon right up to a hearty porterhouse. For a couple of bucks more, steaks can be topped with lump crab, shrimp, or crawfish tails. Sides are extra, but necessary to complete the food pyramid. The extensive wine list, featuring gems from all over the world and in all price ranges, is perfectly tailored to suit the restaurant's menu. 314 Howard Street, Greenwood; (662) 455-4227. Entrées: $9-$30.

Doe's Eat Place
To say that Doe's, a bona fide Greenville landmark, is a one-of-a-kind steak house is a true understatement. For starters, you enter the austere, cinder block grocery store-turned-steak house through the kitchen--literally. There's no menu, and you'll eat at folding tables covered with vinyl tablecloths. On any given night, you just might find yourself dining right next to a Hollywood starlet or former President. The steaks are that good (and that legendary).

The Signas family chooses to focus their energy on the steaks, which range from a 2- to 3-pound T-bone all the way up to the almost-surreal 3-pound porterhouse. All of Doe's steaks are broiled to perfection and continuously basted with the drippings. Garlic lovers can request that a layer of finely minced garlic be spread over the steak before cooking. The result is unimaginably good.

If you're looking for something other than steak, try Doe's hot tamales, which are almost as famous as the steaks. These steamed treats pack a punch and, for the more adventurous, can be ordered topped with chili and cheese. Doe's serves beer but not wine or liquor; however, you're welcome to bring your own. 502 Nelson Street, Greenville; (662) 334-3315. Entrées: $14-$45.

The Bourbon Mall
Tucked into the rural hamlet of Bourbon (equidistant from Greenwood and Greenville) and just off of State 82, sits one of the real undiscovered beauties of The Delta (that is, unless you're a local). Don't let the back road locale or clapboard interior fool you--there's nothing but expertly prepared food awaiting each and every customer.

Unlike most area steak houses, this converted 1920s-era commissary marinates its beef in a secret seasoning blend before grilling it over a mesquite-fueled flame, resulting in a flavorful steak with a subtle hint of smoke. You'll find a variety of cuts and sizes beginning with the 8-ounce fillet and working all the way up to the 2-pound porterhouse. You will not leave this restaurant hungry.

In addition to red meat, The Bourbon Mall serves up an impressive rendition of the classic Catfish Lafette. The broiled or deep-fried fillets are topped with a creamy, shrimp-filled garlic sauce, which gives any of the steaks a run for their money.

If you're looking for live music to help digest your supper, there's top-notch blues on Friday and Saturday nights. 105 Dean Road, Bourbon; (662) 686-4389. Entrées: $13-$36.

This article is from the May 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.