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Lovie Dovie’s

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You probably think that’s a misplaced my apostrophe in my title, don’t you?

And well you might!


You hail from Tompkinsville, Kentucky.

In which case, I bet you lovie Dovie’s, too.

For the uninitiated among us, let me give you the scoop on exactly why I lovie Dovie’s.

Some of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember back in November, when I lost both my aunt and my uncle  in the space of about four days. It was a time of going back to My Old Kentucky Home and re-discovering some of my roots.

Well, when the extended family was eating together after my Uncle A.J.’s funeral, I had a chance to ask my cousin Charlene if there were some good places to eat around Tompkinsville, unique to it. Charlene and her husband mentioned that there was a restaurant called Dovie’s, that had been around forever, that was favored by the locals. (As it turns out, Dovie’s has been serving hamburgers for 60 years, and was even named Best Hamburger in the State by Kentucky Living Magazine in 2005.) She told me that people would buy Dovie Burgers by the sackful, and actually buy a dozen at a time and freeze them, they were so fond of them.

The Old Mulkey Meeting House: that’s Daniel Boone’s sister’s gravestone on the right.

We mentioned to each other on the drive home that it would be fun to go check out the burgers at Dovie’s sometime. And, sadly, due to my aunt’s death that very night, we returned to Tompkinsville just four days later. We left early enough to go visit a historical site there called The Old Mulkey Meeting House, where I remember going for family picnics when I a small child.

While we were there, we talked with the lady who keeps the visitor’s center, who knew members of my Mom’s family. She very kindly gave me a copy of a page from the county’s genealogical records that contained a bit of history in regard to my Mom’s ancestors.

And then, it was on to lunch at Dovie’s.

Dovie’s: the exterior

It was a bleak, overcast day that day, with just enough gloominess to fit my mood, A smattering of snowflakes swirled through the air, blown about by the bitter wind that chilled any morsel of exposed flesh, as we made our way into the restaurant. Well, you could call it a restaurant – but it’s more like a snack bar, really.  The exterior of the building was somewhat tired looking, and I knew before we ever walked in the door that this was either going to be really good, or really, really bad.

Dovie’s: the interior.

The waitresses and cook were congregated in the middle of the room in the cooking area, which is surrounded by a U-shaped counter. The place was practically devoid of customers as we entered, but it was slightly before noon, so the lunch crowd hadn’t begun to come in yet. I hate to say it, but although our waitress greeted us kindly, I felt myself and my family being coolly assessed by every other set of eyes in the place. You know that song they used to sing on Sesame Street , about “One of these things is not like the other? Which one is different. Do you know?”  Well, we were the different things, for sure. We were sort of dressed up: we were, after all, about to attend my aunt’s funeral. And most of the folks who began filtering in for lunch had on overalls and baseball caps under their heavy coats. They looked to be farmers, taking a few minutes to grab a bite before getting back to their hard day of toil, and man, oh, man! We did NOT fit in.

I decided the thing to do was to establish my right to be here, so I asked our waitress if she knew anyone by my aunt’s last name. She said, “Yes, I know two folks with that name, but they both died this week.” “Yes! I said, that’s my Uncle A.J. and my Aunt Juanita!” Well, when she found out that they were my family, we were in like Flynn. Accepted and welcomed into the fold of Dovie’s, were we. In fact, she began introducing us to all the other waitresses as “Miss Juanita’s niece”. And then, she filled me in on a piece of family history of which I was unaware. It seems Aunt Juanita actually WORKED for a while at Dovie’s. So the stories about my aunt and uncle began to flow from various waitresses, as our Dovie Burgers were cooked.

Which gets me to my very important restaurant review.

What burgers they were!

I really don’t think I can emphasize enough how…um…very remarkable they were.

In the center of the snack bar are four troughs of grease. (You may have noticed them in the second picture.) I mean grease. I wonder how often they change that coffee colored grease? I suspect I really don’t want to know the answer to that question.  To prepare a burger at Dovie’s, they plop a burger into the first trough of grease, to kinda knock the chill off it (as it was explained to me by the waitress). Then, it gets fished out of the first trough, and dunked into the second, hotter trough of grease, where it is fried till it screams. If you want cheese on it, they plop the cheese on the burger while it’s still in the trough, bobbing around like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic in the frigid waters of the the North Atlantic. Only the temperature in the trough is  a bit different. The temperature in the trough being more like the temperature of the lava that flowed from Mt. Vesuvius.

And now, we come to the really crucial part of the recipe. This is the part that separates the men from the boys. The living from the emergent cardiac cases. At Dovie’s, you can get your grease bomb hamburger “squoze” or “unsquoze”. Reckon you can figure that one out?

Squoze: you really gotta click on this picture to get the full horror.

 If you order it “squoze”, the fine ladies who cook will gather it up lovingly between two metal spatulas and mash it a bit, so that about a half a pint of grease pours out, back into the trough.

Unsquoze: the Full Monty of Fat.

   “Unsquoze” means they plop that bad boy down on your white bread bun, and start dialing 911, just to give the paramedics a head start. My husband and son are both gamblers at heart, so they ordered their burgers “unsquoze” and the grease had completely soaked through the bun by the time they were only halfway done with eating it. Initially, I noted that my burger had a lovely crisp exterior to the beef patty, and then my mouth was filled with the delicious flavor of beef, and then, a pool of fat poured out on my tongue, all in one little nibble. I managed two bites, and gave the rest to my Big Bison of a husband, to help speed him on his way to meet the Lord.

As I recall, my Dovie Burger only cost like $1.80, which to a city girl like me seemed like a bargain. We thanked our kind hostesses, who kept us regaled with stories of Dovie’s and Aunt Juanita and Uncle A.J. throughout the lunch. (It was a lot like having dinner and a show, in fact.) We needed to get on over to the funeral home, as the time for the funeral was approaching. And as we entered the funeral home, I saw the funniest thing. Somebody was entering right in front of us, carrying a sack full of Dovie’s, that they lovingly carried to the kitchen, to feed any poor soul who might be in need of what Tompkinsville thinks of as true comfort food. You see, in Tompkinsville, they lovie Dovie’s. And now we do, too.


Thursday 9th of February 2012

Haha, yes! I went to high school a stone's throw from the Kentucky border, and when I was a senior we used to make Dovie's runs for lunch. I haven't eaten there in more than a decade, but I do clearly remember that grease pit... the white paper bags for to-go orders were always dripping with grease, even if you ordered them squoze.

These days I'm a city girl who doesn't eat fast food burgers (just those of the Burger Up, etc. variety), but when anyone discusses the best dive burger, Dovie's sticks out in my memory. Juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, delicious. Thanks for sharing your post!


Sunday 20th of February 2011

:shiver: I just cannot imagine eating a Dovie burger, squozed or not! Thea

Susan in the Boonies

Wednesday 9th of February 2011

You mean it gave you heartburn?


Wednesday 9th of February 2011

That warmed my heart!

Susan in the Boonies

Wednesday 9th of February 2011

MG, that was a really cool link, to a really good story, and his chicken was world famous. Dovie's is for the select few, who are "in the know". And that includes YOU. And now that you KNOW, you can use that knowledge to go...or stay the case may be. :-D