Tompkinsville: A Dovie’s Burger at Dovie’s Cafe is Worth the Drive
Tucked away in Monroe County is Tompkinsville’s legendary Dovie’s Cafe, widely known for its burgers, considered by many to be the best you will find anywhere. Backing that high opinion is a listing on Garden & Gun’s list of best hamburgers in the South.
I decided to take the backroads recently from Nashville, approaching Tompkinsville from the south as General John Hunt Morgan had done a century and a half before (I, however, did not burn anything nor take any local mules). Though mightily tempted by a series of local barbecue joints along the way, particularly in the wonderfully named town of Gamaliel, Kentucky, I held my resolve for a burger, vowing to return for a barbecue tour at a later date.
Dovie’s closes mid-afternoon, and I was able to slide in before closing, entering an empty restaurant well past the lunch bustle. The Dovie’s building is nondescript, but the interior maintains a wonderful vintage vibe. There’s nothing pretentious about Dovie’s, just a place to sling beef and buns.
Unlike the standard local burger stop with a counter and a wall mounted griddle, Dovie’s has a U-shaped counter with the griddle in the center. It’s clearly designed to serve a lot of hungry folks efficiently. Burgers sat at the ready in a deep sea of grease.
I’ve watched my burger fried to order at Pat’s and Walker’s, patiently waiting for the fresh hot burger to be delivered to my seat. But at Dovie’s you may get whiplash your order is in front of you so fast. Friendly ladies in long skirts deliver a burger with their special Dovie’s dressing, your onions and pickles riding on top of the bun in a signature touch.
The sheer softness of the burger is what struck me at first. I think the fact that the beef has spent much of its life in a pool of cooking oil has a lot to do with that. (You may want to wait until at least the second week of the year when resolutions are long forgotten before eating at Dovie’s.) But the oil isn’t the only reason for the mouth melting experience. (You can, by the way, have your burger “squeezed”, but why would you want to do that?)
Dovie’s isn’t simply making a burger well; Dovie’s is making a Dovie’s burger. Crucial to this is the mysterious Dovie’s dressing, which I would fail to describe well, but don’t bypass it for the real taste experience. To get a Dovie’s, then, you must go to Dovie’s.
Certainly, Dovie’s deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of Kentucky cheeseburgers. If you’ve not engaged in food tourism before, making the drive to Tompkinsville for a Dovie’s is a good place to start.
107 W 4th Street