The Weekly Dish: Doug Nelson Cafe
By Brandi Haskett
and Lauren Dodd
Finding good eateries past the Beaumont sign can be a challenge for locals seeking a quick lunch. If delicious food and a great atmosphere is what you are seeking, come take a break from the mundane workday at Doug Nelson Café. When walking in, friendly staff will greet you at the front counter and take your order. The meal usually arrives at your table before you do, as the café prides itself on fast service.
Still fine to dine since 1969
Friendly smiles and the smell of fresh fried fish fill the air when the doors open on the quaint café just outside Beaumont’s city limits. Since 1969, Doug Nelson Café has been serving some of the best barbecue and fried fish in the area. Beginnings were humble for Nelson when he opened the original location, Little Barn on 11th Street.
“We only had a cigar box for a register,” said Nelson. “A lot of times the line of people wanting to order would be wrapped around the building!”
The Nelsons moved their business to its current location on Fannett Road (Highway 124) more than 25 years ago and have been serving up the same great food customers love.
Cozy, unique atmosphere
According to employees, the café is located in a former holding building for Jefferson County, before the current jail was built. Concrete walls and iron bars suggest some truth to the interesting rumor. A beautiful airbrushed mural of how the inside used to look like as a country store back in the ’30s continues to add to the nostalgia and offers patrons something to admire while they enjoy their lunch. The building, built in 1933, is a perfect location for the café, further enforcing Nelson’s mantra “nothing fancy, just good food.”
What we ate
First timers cannot leave Doug Nelson’s without sampling the fish! Although a grilled option is available, the real treat is the crunchy fried catfish. The fried fish and shrimp plate comes with bed of french fries and hushpuppies topped with a filet of the juiciest catfish, and nine large, succulent shrimp battered in Nelson’s own fry mix and fried to perfection. Each plate comes with a choice of two side orders; pinto beans, green beans, jambalaya, potato salad, french fries, coleslaw, and butter-boiled new potatoes are the homemade options. Another must-try item is the barbecue beef-link combo. Several ounces of smoked, sliced brisket are paired with a Beasley sausage link and drizzled in Doug’s famous homemade tangy barbecue sauce.
The food is wonderful, and the people are even better. Mrs. Cheryl Lamar’s warm personality brightened the day. She took the time to handwrite a special grilled shrimp recipe for us to try along with samples of their fish fry batter and steak seasoning. It’s little personal touches like this that make small hometown diners worth their weight in gold. Take a drive and visit the Nelsons. You won’t regret it.
Brandi: I loved the big, thick pieces of fish, and the crunchy shrimp. The homemade tartar sauce was a wonderful dipping sauce. I thought the flavorful coleslaw and pinto beans were a great combination as well (mix them together). I also enjoyed the creamy potato salad and thought the barbecue was finger-lickin’ good. The people in the back sure know what they are doing!
Lauren:First of all, service at this diner cannot be beat. Our dishes of brisket and catfish made it to our table before we did, making it a great spot for a quick bite during the work week. The generous portions of catfish and shrimp were flavorful and perfectly crispy. Never one to shy away from carbs, I love a good hushpuppy, and Doug Nelson’s definitely delivered. Overall — great comfort food in a very comfortable environment.
Doug Nelson Food Products
Invite Doug Nelson to your dinner table! Doug Nelson Food products are now available at most of your local neighborhood grocery stores. Doug Nelson Steak Seasoning and Rub spice can be found in two different sizes, a 12 or 6.4 ounce shaker bottle. The seasoning isn’t just for steaks either. It can be used to flavor beef, pork, poultry and fish.
“We use is on our fish fry, in our barbecue sauce, and on our hamburgers,” said Nelson. “Heck you can use it for anything, even to shine your shoes
The “DN seasoning,” as it’s referred to by fans, is one of the lowest sodium rub spices on the shelves and has no MSG. Doug Nelson Fish Fry Mix is also in stores.
The fry mix can be used on oysters and other seafood as well as fish and shrimp. It’s also great for frying or baking veggies to give the crunch an added kick. Having already have been placed in Market Basket, Brookshire Brothers and other local shops, H-E-B picked up Doug Nelson Food Products a few years ago and added more than 20 stores to the growing distribution around Texas and Louisiana. The “Texas Style” products are shipped all over the world to individual buyers who have either heard about the great flavor, or tried it for themselves. If you would like to try any of Doug Nelson Food Products, stop by the cafe and they will be happy to give you a sample!