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Brothers dish up family favorites at Bel's Diner in Longview

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
May 8, 2012 at 11 p.m.


Brothers Harvel and Tommy Davis have been serving up down home cooking - or food good for the body and soul - for years at Bel's Diner, 2600 MLK Blvd. Harvel got into the restaurant business at the location 20 years ago and was joined by Tommy about five years later.

For Harvel Davis, spokesman for the dining duo, Bel's Diner serves up dishes that the brothers grew up on and those that keep their customers coming back.

"We grew up in a family that loved food, and we all had to cook," he said. "There were 13 kids in our house - six boys and seven girls - and we all took our turns in the kitchen."In the Davis household, that kitchen time was not an option.

"We all had to do it," Davis said.

At the South Longview eatery, he said the brothers peg their business on the basics.

"We more or less have stuck with what works," he said. Smothered chicken, fried catfish, liver and onions, smothered beef steak, grilled pork steak, chicken spaghetti, pigs feet, hamburger steak and neck bone are among the main dishes served up between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Those entrees are supplemented by side dishes like turnip greens, black-eyed peas, candied yams, collard greens, okra and tomatoes and more.

"Just about every plate that leaves the kitchen has turnip or collard greens or candied yams," he said. All three of those sides are the most popular, Davis said.

"It's all made fresh daily by the two of us - we're the whole staff," Davis said. On the breakfast menu, served from opening until 10:30 a.m., are grits, eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage and ham.

"Tommy does a hell of an omelet - meat lovers, Western, whatever you want on it - he does it," Davis said.

Long-time customer Bill Flowers said he has been coming to Bel's Diner since soon after Davis opened it.

"I come at least a couple of times a week, mostly for breakfast - bacon, eggs and pancakes," Flowers said. "They serve up good food and good fellowship. I just enjoy coming here."

Sandwiches, including hamburgers, round out the main course on the menu.

"Our burgers are pretty popular - if you're not full when you eat one of those then you have a tapeworm," Davis said. He wasn't sure how the burgers compare on the scale.

"We don't measure, but it's a good handful of hamburger meat, and we hand pat all the patties," Davis said.

To finish off the meal, Bel's Diner offers a variety of desserts, from pound cake and German chocolate cake to pies like buttermilk or sweet potato. Davis said they all have their fans. Peach cobbler is not available daily, but when the Davis guys bring it out of the oven, it usually goes fast.

"Our dough for peach cobbler is made from scratch, and it's pretty popular," Davis said. Bel's Diner does takeout orders and has catered for crowds as large as 300, he said.

<strong>Bel's Diner collard greens</strong>

<ul> <li>Bunch of fresh collard greens, washed and cut up</li> <li>Diced onions, bell pepper and jalepeno peppers to taste</li> <li>Salt jowl</li> <li>Dash of sugar</li> <li>Dash of salt</li> <li>Oil</li> </ul>

Put oil in pot of water, bring to a boil and add all ingredients with greens. Punch greens down down to get them all cooked. After they soften up, they can be stirred. Boil for about an hour - until tender.

<strong>Grilled pork steak</strong>

<ul> <li>Pork steaks</li> <li>Garlic powder</li> <li>Lemon pepper seasoning</li> </ul>

Season both sides of steak with blend of garlic powder, lemon pepper and seasoned salt.

Place on grill, heated to 350 degrees and cook until thoroughly done.

"Some like it right off the grill, some like it smothered in gravy," Davis said.

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